While the big free agent has yet to come to the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson is slowly and steadily acquiring all the right talent.
By Robby Sabo
Except for the one colossal mistake that was the re-signing Carmelo Anthony last season to that 5-year, $124 million deal, Phil Jackson has been making all the correct moves for his New York Knicks.
Honestly, what did you expect?
This was a franchise firmly planted in negativity. NBA players aren’t dumb. They see what happens around The Association and realize how poorly an organization the Knicks have been in recent years.
Therefore, when Greg Monroe spurned the Knicks for the Milwaukee Bucks, headlines of “nobody wanting to play in New York” came fast and furious.
No matter though. Monroe’s a solid player, not a guy worthy of a max-deal. His decision to reject New York could turn out to be a phenomenal blessing in disguise.
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In recent days Jackson brought on Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez and most recently Kyle O’Quinn. Are these guys that’ll get Knicks fans all silly with championship aspirations in 2016? Of course not. They are, however, the right pieces for a winning team.
Prior to Jackson coming aboard, the type of player this organization went after had everything to do with style, not substance. The Andrea Bargnani’s of the world make for a great headline, but when critical attributes are needed on the floor, they fail to meet expectations.
Lopez was signed to a 4-year, $54 million contract. Admittedly the contract is a little pricey, but with the salary cap about to explode next offseason, it fits the mold.
The other Lopez is a guy that serves that tough role of Mr. Everything. He’s tough, he rebounds, he cleans up the trash, and he hustles his brains out. The worst thing a fan can do right now is mistake Lopez as a cornerstone piece of a championship squad. He’s simply not that.
What he is though, is that all important tough, physical big body every quality team needs. Once the Knicks front-men are identified or established, then the Lopez signing will look a lot shinier as he’ll then be able to fade behind those star players.
The same could be said for Afflalo and O’Quinn. These are all guys who are tough-minded ballers who come to play on the defensive end every night. Defense is now the correct direction this front office is looking for, and it’ll serve them better in the end.
What Jackson also did to prove his worth came during the NBA Draft.
Many of us called for the drafting of Justise Winslow. He seems to be a ready-made NBA player who serves many purposes on the floor. Instead, Jackson went with the upside in Kristaps Porzingis. A gutsy move that completely goes against the best wishes of Anthony – contradicting that signing from the get-go.
Jerian Grant was another solid move. He’s yet another gritty basketball player acquired by Jackson.
Since Jackson took the helm over a year ago, he’s slowly but surely removed the malcontents and soft talent from the squad while replacing it with tough, gritty players.
The only issue with this build for the future plan is that it spits in the face of conventional wisdom as it relates to Melo. Why even sign Melo if the long-term, correct building plan was the method from the get-go?
Nobody believes Phil will even stay Knicks boss through the entirety of his five-year deal. He’s even made mention of the fact that he’d be OK leaving the keys to Steve Mills once the time is right.
Despite his eventual departure, what he’s done is identify the correct player for this front office to seek after he’s gone and kicking back on the beach with Jeanie Buss.
Nobody is mistaking this squad for something to be reckoned with next season, but there are now key pieces in place that’ll come handy once the lead guys are identified by next summer.
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