New York Knicks: Shaquille O'Neal Blames Players for Failing Triangle Offense
Mar 10, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; NBA former player Shaquille O'Neal watches a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have struggled in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, but according to Shaquille O’Neal, that’s on the team.

The New York Knicks are bungling their way through Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. The same offense that Shaquille O’Neal used to win three NBA Championships playing alongside Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. None of that success would’ve happened without O’Neal buying into the vision of head coach Phil Jackson.

After New York’s loss to the Clippers on Monday, O’Neal told Al Iannazzone of Newsday that the failures could be linked back to the “stubborn players.”

“When you’re a player and you’re used to doing something one way and then you bring in the system, a lot of guys don’t like to give up their habits,” O’Neal said after serving as a TNT analyst for the Knicks’ loss Monday night in Los Angeles to the Clippers. “With the triangle, the ball can’t stop.

“If you look at how the [Knicks’] second team runs the triangle, guys that don’t have a lot of experience in the game or have a lot of habits, they run with a lot of force. There, late in the fourth quarter, they got a couple of back-door plays. It definitely does work.”

When O’Neal says “the ball can’t stop” and praises the second unit it instantly calls to mind the common criticisms of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. The stars are easily the most ball-dominant players on the squad. They’re first and second in touches, time of possession, FGA, and usage percentage.

O’Neal says there is hope for things to change. He was “probably one of the main problems” when Jackson took over in Los Angeles because he didn’t want to change. Then he admitted the triangle made things easier for him.

O’Neal defended his old coach, saying this rough stretch in New York won’t hurt his legacy as some have suggested.

“I don’t think it does,” he said. “Just another chapter in his life, just another challenge in his life. When you’re dealing with certain people everybody has to be on the same page.”

The main criticism of Jackson’s offense is that it has only ever worked with legendary players like O’Neal and Bryant, and Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before them. Shaq attacked that popular opinion by rattling off some of the role players who helped him win titles.

“You always hear people say, of course the triangle worked with Mike and Scottie, Shaq and Kobe, which is true,” O’Neal said. “But if you look at all our games it was the others that propelled us to that next level.

“I have three championships because of the triangle and also because of Derek Fisher, Big Shot Bob [Robert Horry], Rick Fox, guys that because of the triangle were able to be involved in the offense. When you’ve got a guy that holds the ball, nobody is really involved, everything is out of whack.”

Shaq can talk all he wants about how the triangle works because of others, but we’ve never seen it be successful without two Hall of Famers. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, and Kristaps Porzingis.

A star player in a bizarre public feud with the architect of this offense, a point guard who isn’t suited for any offense that doesn’t revolve around him, and a kid who is still getting a feel for the NBA game.

Maybe they’re not triangle material.

I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.