Although many started to worry for the man, boss Phil Jackson seems to have finally gotten the New York Knicks on the right path.

By Skylar Darel

It isn’t easy to bounce back from a 17-65 season. It is especially difficult to do so when you are the New York Knicks, a respected franchise in the biggest market in the United States.

Regardless, after posting a franchise worst in wins during the 2014-15 season, President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson has done an admirable job in rebuilding from the debris he created when he took the job a year and half ago.

After tearing down the roster, shipping away starters Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, and Amar’e Stoudemire, as well as former sixth man of the year JR Smith, Phil Jackson was left with a group of misfits and bench-warmers to surround his hobbled superstar, Carmelo Anthony.

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The result was a season so bad that many of us Knick fans try to forget it ever happened, a season so bad that a two game win streak in April dented the Knicks chances at the top overall pick in the upcoming draft. Yes, the Knicks were so bad that they couldn’t even tank correctly.

Yet, here we are, five months later. The Knicks, in the first 19 games of the season, have nine wins, (it took them 46 games to win eight a year ago) including victories against Houston, Oklahoma City, Washington, Toronto, and Milwaukee, four of five of which were playoff teams a year ago, and all five coming on the road. They have battled with the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers, each time coming devastatingly short of victory.

And, above all, they are playing a respectable brand of basketball, something we haven’t seen in New York since the Knicks crashed out of the playoffs in the spring of 2013.

The reason? Well, for the most part, the moves of none other than Phil Jackson.

Everyone immediately attributes the Knicks “revival” to one man: Kristaps Porzignis.

That isn’t an unreasonable conclusion. Porzingis is averaging close to 14 points and nine rebounds a game, has already recorded nine double doubles (the second best mark in the NBA) and has a PER of 19.23, which is higher than big men such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and Marc Gasol, all of whom have recorded multiple All-Star appearances.

But to look at Porzingis as the only reason the Knicks have succeeded would be a bit presumptuous.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign about Jackson’s new look Knicks is the room they have to grow.

There are many reasons why the team has succeeded. For one, a healthy Jose Calderon has provided stability to the Knicks offense. Other reasons include Arron Afflalo‘s contributions on the offensive side of the ball, his stingy perimeter defense, and the leadership he has provided in the locker room.

Or the play of Langston Galloway, who played so well in the first few weeks of the season that he garnered attention as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

How about the rest of the bench? While they’ve struggled during the Knicks recent four game skid, the group of Galloway, Jerian Grant, Derrick Williams, Lance Thomas, Kevin Seraphin, Lou Amundson, and Kyle O’Quinn have given the Knicks depth and insurance, especially when Afflalo and Anthony have been sidelined, and when Porzingis has gotten into foul trouble.

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Perhaps the most encouraging sign about Jackson’s new look Knicks is the room they have to grow.

Porzingis is only scratching the surface of his potential. Carmelo Anthony is still getting his legs back from under him after major offseason knee surgery. Robin Lopez and Afflalo’s defense will only improve as they grow more accustomed to their new teammates. Jerian Grant’s maturation will occur over time. And head coach Derek Fisher will continue to grow from a leader on the court to a leader on the sidelines.

This team has struggled shooting the ball. They’ve struggled to close out games. They’ve blown double digit leads on numerous occasions. And they currently sit under .500, on the heels of a four game losing streak.

But the Knicks have returned to being respected, and not a shoe-in victory on opposing teams schedules. And for a ball club that sat 4-15 exactly a year ago today, one has to say that Phil Jackson has done a pretty good job with his rebuild so far.

The question remains: can he sustain his success? We’ll have to see how the rest of the season plays out to get our answer.

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Staff Writer at Elite Sports New York. Lead Writer at New York Sports Hub and My Weekly Sports. Twitter, instagram: @skylardarel. Avid fan of the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, New York City FC, FC Barcelona, and Arsenal FC. Sophomore at the College of New Jersey, studying Communication. Aspiring play-by-play commentator. Grew up in Manhattan, and proud to know how to work the Subway system.