Despite the negative emotions surrounding the Joakim Noah signing, New York Knicks boss Phil Jackson may be showing his true genius.In my 24 years of life, I’ve seen more changes, ebbs and flows and ups and downs in the New York Knicks organization than any other franchise in sports.
The 90s were great to the Knickerbockers and their diehards, but I was, unfortunately, too young for those days.
I remember Isiah Thomas and his ridiculous actions both on and off the court. I remember enjoying the Donnie Walsh Era and his ability to build an enjoyable and decent team. I remember wanting to wait for Carmelo Anthony to hit free agency so he could have a core of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields and Raymond Felton surround him. I also remember the days when Linsanity wasn’t only the star of New York, but the talk of the country.
Some highs, some lows, but the Knicks were always in the news. That trend continued with the hiring of Phil Jackson.
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Sure, he never cut his chops as an executive, but his championship pedigree as a player and, more so, a coach, was something desperately needed in the Knicks organization. And sure, his five-year, $60 million contract was a ton for someone with no job-related skills on his resume, but James Dolan’s pockets are deep enough, so who cares?
Jackson had the Garden buzzing — again. Just another false hope? Maybe, but the risk was worth the reward.
The Knicks never had any basketball related selling points when talking to superstars. Playing 41 games in the Mecca of basketball? Check. Live under the bright lights of New York City? Check. Get endless amounts of opportunities off of the court? Check.
That’s as far as it went. Now with Jackson in the meeting room, he can throw down his eleven championship rings, talk about his past and even pitch the – sigh – triangle offense. It was a start.
Unfortunately Jackson has been criticized more times than he’s been praised.
You can’t deny that he has made some positive contributions. Not only did he help the Knicks gain 15 additional wins after the 17-win 2014-15 season, but he also helped shed cap space in trades.
At the same time, he doesn’t seem too savvy on the trade market. Despite having valuable trade chips on the roster, Jackson turned Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert into one long term piece, Lance Thomas. And there’s always the chance he may depart during free agency.
His questionable decision making has continued into this offseason. Although he didn’t trade away any future picks, Jackson sent Robin Lopez and his reasonable contract, second-year guard Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon to the Chicago Bulls for former MVP and injury prone Derrick Rose. And continuing the theme of bringing the Windy City to the Big Apple, reports are out that the Knicks and Joakim Noah agreed on a contract in the neighborhood of four years and $70 million.
These moves scream Knicks. Acquire an over-the-hill point guard who can’t stay off of the injury list while signing an aging and also injury prone big man to a long-term deal.
Is Jackson joining the long list of failed front office personnel?
Or is he actually a genius?
Let’s face it: Knicks fans know the truth. If Phil Jackson was solely running the show, Anthony would’ve been traded by now. Hell, he wouldn’t have even been re-signed. Just remember, Dolan has to have a say in some things.
But that’s in the past. Anthony is on the roster and he wants to win. By the early signs of this offseason, Jackson is doing his best to help.
Again, the Rose trade is the textbook definition of high risk, high reward. The risk is always there, as the lightning quick point guard can wear his suit more times than his Knicks jersey and his entourage will only be a distraction. But keep in mind that Rose’s most healthy season since winning MVP was last year, and he will be motivated to both prove critics wrong and to earn a boatload of cash next offseason.
Albeit on a smaller scale, Noah also has the risk/reward factor. If he stays healthy, he will be a great compliment next to Kristaps Porzingis both on and off the court and will fill the hole of veteran leadership. But like his former teammate, Noah can also run into some health issues.
But with these moves, combined with the rumored free agents Jackson is interested in (Courtney Lee, Jamal Crawford) shows that he is committed to giving Anthony a playoff-caliber team.
That’s not the only bird Jackson is killing with his stone.
When it’s also said and done, the Zen Master’s legacy in orange and blue will be tied to Porzingis. And while it would be nice to blow everything up and build around the second year big man, is he really ready for that?
There’s no denying that Porzingis proved he has what it takes to succeed. Not only did he finish second in the Rookie of the Year race, but he had the right work ethic, demeanor and attitude to make it in a city like New York. But at the same time, he’s 12 months removed from living in another part of the world and can’t have a legal drink in SoHo.
With putting someone like Noah next to him, Jackson is giving Porinzgis all the knowledge to help him be a force on the court, be a leader in the locker room and be a professional outside of basketball. Surrounding Porzingis with veterans will only be beneficial for the big man, and when it’s his time to take the keys of the franchise, he will be well prepared.
While a majority of the roster has yet to be filled out, there Knicks may very well not be good next season. Rose and Noah could get bitten by the injury bug, and the team would resemble that of last year’s version.
But they can also look like the 2012-13 Knicks. A team that has the right pieces in place to take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference and to potentially make some noise in the playoffs.
Phil Jackson always said to judge him after the five-year plan is up.
It’s only year three.