Another year, another trainwreck. We are used to it and we expect it. After acquiring Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee, I thought the Knicks could claw their way to a 6 seed in the East. Yet here we are at the end of the regular season, 31-51, a team that can’t even tank correctly. I’m not even that disappointed; this is how it’s supposed to be. To quote Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, “Time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again.” The New York Knicks are supposed to be a trainwreck. As long as James Dolan owns the Knicks, his ineptitude will handicap the organization from ever becoming the gold standard of NBA teams they so desperately want to be known for (speaking for their performance on the court; financially, they are the highest valued team in the league, so congrats Jim). Expectations of success are futile when the team is owned by a man widely regarded as the worst owner in the league, if not all sports. It is difficult to envision a successful rebuild with Dolan as the overseer since all history and evidence points to another debacle waiting to happen.
Yet here I am, still believing that there has to be at least a glimmer of hope somewhere. There has to be a silver lining to grab onto. Kristaps Porzingis is one, as his limitless potential is the main reason fans still attend and watch the games nowadays. James Dolan had the opportunity to give Knicks fans another silver lining with a simple, necessary action: Fire Phil Jackson. That didn’t happen. He opted into Jackson’s final 2 years.
The Zen Master’s ability of handling premium talent doesn’t seem to carry over from coaching to president of basketball operations as he continues to slander Carmelo Anthony in the media, a player that he decided to sign to a 5 year max contract with a no trade clause. Say what you want about Carmelo, but he has done more for New York than Phil has the past 7 years. He signed Joakim Noah to a $72 million contract over 4 years. Not even a full season in and this is ready to go down as one of the worst contracts of the decade. He traded Tyson Chandler with an expiring contract for Jose Calderon (with 2 years left on his deal), Samuel Dalembert, and 2nd round picks, a trade that makes no sense for a team whether you are rebuilding or trying to become contenders. He gave up Iman Shumpert and JR Smith for 2nd round picks in a 3 team trade where the Cavs and Thunder obtained much more value. Jackson should have denied that trade until Reggie Jackson or a 1st round pick was forced in, and if the Thunder refused, walk away from the deal entirely. His 11 rings are not bringing in the star talent that he was expected to. Where are the star players that he was supposed to influence with his shiny rings? He hired Derek Fisher as a head coach, an inexperienced and unqualified candidate and proceeded to fire him after a year and a half. He considered hiring Kurt Rambis as head coach, a man with a 70-172 record. 172 losses. He forced new hire Jeff Hornacek, a hire that I actually like, to keep Kurt Rambis as an assistant coach. Jackson also forced a dated Triangle offense that only worked in the past because he had elite players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, etc. He never built a team in the past, and that lack of experience in building rosters has come to bite the Knicks in the ass these first 3 years.
Yes, he drafted Porzingis, a great pick that will be the center of this franchise for at least the next decade; however, even that spectacular move was made with problematic ideology. While claiming to be a win-now team, he drafted a player that he did not expect to contribute for 2 years, showing he is not quite sure what it means to create a win-now roster. Jackson himself admitted this was supposed to be a project, but fine, we can give him credit for the selection (though he is already adding to Porzingis’ frustration, shown by Kristaps skipping the exit meetings). The signing of Kyle O’Quinn and the acquisition a couple years ago for the rights to Willy Hernangomez also look like stellar moves at the moment. Other players such as Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Ron Baker seem like they can be decent bench players. Jeff Hornacek needs to figure something out about the troubling defense, but with a better roster I believe he can replicate the success he had his first year with the Phoenix Suns. Good moves have been made under Jackson’s watch, but the bad transactions mentioned before far outweigh the good. The team is losing and handicapped for the foreseeable future because of Phil Jackson and his inflated ego.