Phil Jackson isn’t saving the Knicks
Will the Zen Master ever replace Captain Chaos?
This must be what it was like to see Willie Mays fall down in the New York Mets outfield at 42 years old. This must be what it was like to see Frank Sinatra slurring his words and forgetting his lyrics on stage at the end.
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson is losing it. Or, when it came to building teams instead of coaching them, perhaps he never had it.
How did the greatest coach of his era, and one of the most accomplished of all time in any sport, morph into one of the most god-awful NBA executives of all time?
Having covered Jackson at his zenith, it’s painful to see him playing mind games with Kristaps Porzingis and reiterating that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t belong in the only NBA city he’s really ever wanted to play and live in, alienating the franchise’s most valuable employees as if they’d signed 10-day contracts and smelled bad.
And then came Thursday night at the NBA draft, when a ready-to-play-now point guard was there for the Knicks’ taking: North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., at No. 8. But then the words tumbled from NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s mouth: “Frank Ntilikina.” He is 18 years old. He averaged five points per game in the French league.
Some said he was chosen over Smith because he would be a better fit in the triangle offense. The triangle worked great when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal ran it with Robert Horry or Steve Kerr on the wing. But it did not work so well when Smush Parker was on the floor.
Memo to Phil: How about getting someone to play in the pentagon — a five-man offense that actually wins some games and makes Madison Square Garden roar its New York roar again? By the time Ntilikina starts and announcer Mike Breen learns to pronounce his name, Jackson will be gone and the triangle will be basketball history.
You keep waiting for there to be some method to Jackson’s madness, like when he would sit there on the sideline with his arms folded as his champion Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers were outscored 12-0. Remember? Jackson wouldn’t call time. He let Michael and Scottie or Shaq and Kobe figure it out on their own, and we’d all call him brilliant weeks later when the confetti came down.
You keep waiting for Captain Chaos to transform back into the all-knowing Zen Master.
You keep waiting for him to restore the Knicks to their glory of the 1970s, when Action Phil Jackson got off the bench and gave them the adrenaline needed to win the franchise’s last championship.
But instead, ESPN analyst Jay Williams reported that he was told by a draft pick who worked out for the Knicks that Jackson fell asleep during the player’s private workout with the club.
Instead, Jackson says he would trade Porzingis for the right deal and that Anthony needs to think about playing somewhere else.
This can’t be all about $12 million per year, can it? There’s got to be more to Jackson’s NBA twilight than just being owner James Dolan’s personal shield.
Say it ain’t so, Phil. Say you can still work your burning-sage, book-club magic. Say you know how to build a team and win instead of what the late Red Auerbach said, that you’re only good at taking players acquired by someone else and making them play together.
Tell us Frank Ntilikina can also play in the pentagon offense.