It’s not been easy to be a Knicks fan, not these days and not for nearly 45 years. You’d be hard pressed to find a better salesman than James Dolan who’s been selling hope to the team’s legions of loyal fans like candy, always preaching patience and meanwhile using millions of dollars to patch up gaping holes.
From the giant mess that was the Isaiah Thomas years, to the Carmelo gamble and now the Phil Jackson ‘reconstruction’ era–when will the repair work translate to actual wins on the court?
Maybe the Knicks should take a page from the Magic Johnson book of stating the obvious–whoever scores the most points will win the game. The Knicks can put all the bells and whistles on their product they want, but if it’s not resulting in wins than no amount of front and back page glory is going to matter.
The Phil Jackson acquisition as their Head of Basketball Operations sounds like a plot from a Hollywood movie. Here comes Bruce Wayne (albeit an older one) back to save Gotham with his myriad of wisdom ready to spill out to the team’s troubled star Carmelo Anthony. Phil Jackson coming in on his proverbial white horse to save the Knicks is a fairy tale that James Dolan wishes he could make true. At the end of the day, the only one who can save the Knicks are the Knicks.
Maybe that’s just too hard a concept to understand, despite its sheer simplicity. The Knicks are a poorly constructed team, millions of dollars over the salary cap and harboring way too many men who have a chronic allergic reaction to defense. Injuries are apart of any sport, but for the Knicks they are downright snakebitten and this 2013-2014 season has been a microcosm of everything that was wrong with the Knicks’ foundation as they poured every penny and resource into snatching up Carmelo Anthony.
As it currently stands the Knicks have a woeful 27-40 record, which because of the awfulness that is the Eastern Conference, has them sitting pretty. This is not a team that is contending for a Title anytime soon; which is sad when you look at the promise they showed just two years ago, and when you now see formerly fledgling teams like the Pacers and Rockets having taken leaps forward, while the Knicks rest in neutral.
It’s easy to say James Dolan has had too much of a ‘hands on’ approach in messing with the team, but as I stated earlier, the product on the court is only as good as the amount of wins they have. If the team isn’t winning then you need to address that–the Knicks could have Red Auerbach as coach and it still wouldn’t fix the root of the problem–the Knicks team isn’t any good.
The intent of this article however, isn’t to address the Knicks’ weaknesses–we know that Tyson Chandler has the intensity of of an awkward deer, we know that Carmelo is one more struggle face away from packing his bags and we know that star players come into the Garden and have their best performances of their careers routinely. We know. But the intent of this article is to discuss what the Phil Jackson era can bring to the franchise.
Just as with the war-torn South in the late 1800’s the Knicks too, are in the process of reconstruction–one can make the argument that it’s been going on for 15 years now, but I digress. At its heart James Dolan isn’t fooling anyone, this is his check to the Miami Heat’s ‘check mate’ in Pat Riley. The blueprint the Miami Heat laid out makes sense for the Knicks to adopt–and goodness knows they’re in the right city for it.
This harkens back to my Batman comparison from earlier–specifically Batman Beyond, youngings should remember this cartoon from their Saturday mornings. In short, the plot was simple, an older and battle scared Bruce Wayne has shutdown the Batcave after realizing he’s too old to continue being the hero and in short helps mold a young Terry McGinnis into his protege to save Gotham. Not so much saying that Carmelo needs to be taken under Jackson’s wing, as that’s essentially what the Knicks are attempting to do. Phil Jackson has the great skill of tapping into his players and making them want to play hard for him. Jackson sparks an intensity in his players, and maybe that’s just what the doctor ordered for a star player in Carmelo who is seemingly bored out of his mind.
Jackson is a stark contrast to the personality of James Dolan, and it’s hard to envision Dolan willingly taking a backseat to let Jackson take the reigns. This is a task that is new and challenging for Jackson, who has always had the fortune of stepping into fundamentally sound teams–never the circus that is the Knicks. A brief hiatus from the NBA may have left a void in the accomplished coach and he’s desperately seeking that last hurrah before riding out to the sunset for good.
I lack the ability to predict the future, and the Knicks have so many question marks from here until July to answer. The longterm effects of Phil Jackson to the Knicks very much are make or break, even with 11 rings under his belt. For tired Knicks fans the experiments and gambles are getting old $12 million a year for the privilege of having Phil Jackson’s name on an office door just isn’t going to cut it in New York. This is a team that needs tangible results, not pep talk speeches and zen sessions. The Knicks diehards need to channel that signature cynicism and tell Phil Jackson to show me what you got. Expect some accountability in this acquisition and maybe, just maybe this won’t be another bust move.