Phil Jackson’s interview with CBS Sports Network broached two of the New York Knicks most common topics Carmelo Anthony and the triangle.
Phil Jackson’s grand opening as President of Basketball Operations of the New York Knicks brought more questions than answers. One was so popular it’s remained a recurring theme during Jackson’s two and a half years in the Big Apple.
What would Carmelo Anthony‘s role be in the famed triangle offense? Jackson learned the unique style that he was forcing onto his new team from his mentor Tex Winter and perfected it with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Even after going outside of his comfort zone and hiring Jeff Hornacek to be the new head coach Jackson was and still is determined to make the triangle work.
The Knicks are running less of it than usual (according to Hornacek the team is running it “much less” than 50% of the time) but reports of Jackson appearing in practice means the dreaded offense is not going away that easy.
One of the biggest criticisms during Jackson’s tenure has been his seemingly forcing his players into an antiquated offense that doesn’t suit the modern NBA.
During an interview with CBS Sports Network, Jackson was predictably asked about the triangle.
Phil addressed the perceived resistance to his system in the modern NBA.
“I think there are two reasons. One is it’s always a little bit of a pie-in-your-face type of thing to say that this [the triangle offense] has been the reason for winning. The reason for winning, obviously, is good players. And when good players want to play together and they join in a form or a format to play together, then really good things happen.”
“I think the other thing is, simply, it becomes something to attack. And I think it’s easy to attack it because it doesn’t promote basic basketball that’s being played now in the NBA, which is an open floor. Keep the lane open, allow the opportunity of guard play, screen roll play … big men rolling the lane, and then 3-point shooting. But there’s a place for it. It doesn’t matter. It’s still basketball and there’s still a place for it.”
It’s only natural given the lack of success the Knicks have had since they began running Jackson’s unique brand of basketball.
Carmelo Anthony went so far as to flat out say he’s sick of “hearing about the triangle.” Sorry Melo. It just won’t die.
Jackson wasn’t just asked about his system, but also Anthony’s role in it.
“Carmelo a lot of times wants to hold the ball longer than — we have a rule: If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop. That is one of the things we work with. But he’s adjusted to [the triangle], he knows what he can do and he’s willing to see its success.”
Jackson, in the most polite way possible, called Melo a ball hog. Not his finest moment, but also not the first time he’s criticized Melo in a strange way.
Back in April, Jackson told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that the team played some of their best games in 2015-16 without Melo.
“Some of our best games we played were when Carmelo didn’t play and we didn’t win but we had great games,” Jackson said. “Oklahoma, I could maybe name four games that we probably should have won and short of the thing that Carmelo can help you, we didn’t have but we played better as a basketball club and in some strange ways…”
As a rational human being, Melo had no answer for Jackson’s typically outlandish comments.
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) April 28, 2016
Talking to CBS Sports, the Zen Master attempted to redeem himself by paying Melo the ultimate compliment.
“He can play that role that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played. It’s a perfect spot for him to be in that isolated position on the weak side, because it’s an overload offense and there’s a weakside man that always has an advantage if the ball is swung.”
Melo’s critics will find comparisons to Jordan and Bryant laughable, but he does have one thing in common with both. He’s a lethal isolation player. When he catches the ball alone of the elbow there’s no one better.
Anthony tied a season-high with 35-points against the Miami Heat in Tuesday night’s win at the American Airlines center.
He’ll need to carry all of that momentum over into tonight’s game at MSG against LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Last, but certainly not least, Jackson bragged about his favorite: Kristaps Porzingis.
“He’s a unicorn. He’s just a standout guy. You don’t see people like this playing basketball with the grace, speed and athleticism that he has. And the ability to shoot the ball as well as he can shoot the ball,” Jackson said.
“Kristaps turned out to be that unique player, that one that has things you just don’t see on the basketball court,” Jackson said. “He does things that are unique almost in every game. His size is defining. Defensively, he changes the game a little bit. He’s still not a great strength player, post player. Offensively, he shoots 2-pointers, he can run the court; there’s a lot of things he’s still learning what he can do.”
KP’s shooting has been down in his last few games but he had such a hot start that his field goal percentage (46.7%) and three point (37.8%) are still impressive. He’s second on the team in points (20.2) and the 7-foot-3 goliath definitely worked on his defense this summer because he’s been a dominant rim protector.
The Knicks take on the Cavs at home at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.