Culture of Hoops

Phil Jackson: The Knicks’ salt shaker of hope

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

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Phil Jackson is an astute individual so it’s somewhat perplexing to understand why he agreed to be the president of the New York Knicks’ basketball operations. One of the key factors for strategy in any industry or game is realistically assessing the assets at your disposal. At present, the Knicks have few. Perhaps more precisely, none that anyone with sense is interested in. No first round picks for the next three years. No cap room for the upcoming offseason. It would take multiple lopsided trades even more ridiculous than the Kevin Garnett to Boston deal or the Pau Gasol to Memphis deal for Knicks to contend within two years. The only other chess move pundits have discussed is using the massive cap room from the 2015 offseason to convince worthwhile players that Madison Square Garden is the place to be. Weirder things have happened.

The first order of business is signing Carmelo Anthony who is saying all the right things in public, but is not guaranteed to stay after his contract expires this season.

These reports are contradictory and could be completely made up for all we know; however, they do strike the heart of Anthony’s dilemma. The core of the Knicks’ roster next season will be the same as the dilapidated squad from this year. Ironically, it’s same one that won 54 games in the 2012-2013 season, a less talented group than what the Knicks had assembled at the start of this season considering the additions of Metta World Peace (release), Andrea Bargnani (out for the season), and Tim Hardaway Jr. The master plan can not be executed until the 2015-2016 when Anthony will be 31 years old in his 13th season. Michael Jordan won his six title in his 13th season. Surely Anthony thinks about this. The clock is ticking. At this rate, he will be doing the sequel to Finish Line on Howard Beach in a few years.


Phil Jackson’s presence in the organization is a huge morale booster. He fills up the salt shaker of hope for fans and immediately attracts the attention of free agents. What can we expect from the coaching side of things?

Mike Woodson is likely out as head coach for a multitude of reasons including losing control of the locker room and running an offense that relies on isolation and picks. The Knicks have been leaking rumors about trading for Bulls’ head coach Tom Thibodeau, but the Bulls’ front office is not interested in doing Phil Jackson a favor after their frosty parting. Mark Jackson was considered a frontrunner for the job before Phil Jackson became the Knicks’ president, but his unfamiliarity with the triangle makes him an unlikely candidate. Brian Shaw would’ve been in great shape because he has knows the triangle offense from playing under Phil Jackson with the Lakers, but is obviously kicking himself now for taking the Denver Nuggets’ gig this season. Steve Kerr has been the guy everyone thinks will replace Woodson; another former player under Phil Jackson but he has zero coaching experience so it’s hard to say what to expect if he was chosen to be the head coach. Finally, there’s Phil Jackson himself who some Knicks’ fans imagine will replace Mike Woodson at the start of the playoffs to defeat the Indiana Pacers in the sequel to The Greatest Story Ever Told.

The Knicks signed Phil Jackson now to convince Carmelo Anthony to stay with the Knicks, and to establish an attractive foundation for free agents in the 2015 offseason. It might not be enough to establish a contender in a couple of years. At least we will be entertained with plenty of headlines and hilarity no matter which direction this enigma blows.

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