Phil Jackson’s first move in New York?

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com




VIDEO: The Knicks have won a season-high six straight games

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The New York Knicks’ optimists would tell you that the mere prospect of Phil Jackson joining their beloved team as the president of basketball operations has inspired a season-high six-game win streak.

Who knows? There might be something to that … the power of Zen is strong in Jackson.

In reality, the Knicks are just riding the ebb and flow of completely predictable season of unpredictability. When we assume these Knicks are ready for a dirt bath, they rise up and surprise us. And just when we’re ready to assume that they’re poised to give serious chase for that eighth and final spot (currently occupied by the Atlanta Hawks and their 3.5 game lead over the Knicks) in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, they’ll crash and burn in the coming days.

That’s why the focus in New York has to be on Phil and his first move(s) as boss of the Knicks. I know Mike Woodson has his heart and mind set on grinding to the finish and stealing that playoff spot from the Hawks. But it’s of little consequence to just about everyone else involved.

Jackson, of course, has more important matters to consider. He has Carmelo Anthony‘s future with the franchise to consider. He has Woodson’s future to consider as well. My suggestion, cut bait with one and build with the other. And I think it’s safe to assume that it’s easier to build around Anthony, something that wasn’t done strategically with this current Knicks team, than it is to mold and shape the philosophy of a proud coach like Woodson, who is a branch of the Larry Brown coaching tree.

Gauging the general mood of the Knicks, there seems to be genuine excitement about Jackson taking over. Melo called it a “power move” and lauded the Knicks for going after and landing the greatest winner the game has seen, coach or player, since Bill Russell.

“I’m a chess player. That was a power move right there. You know what I mean?” a smiling Anthony told reporters after a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. “So, now we’re going to see what’s the next move, but that was a great power move.”

Getting a buy-in from Anthony is the first order of business for Jackson. And he shouldn’t have a hard time convincing Anthony to get on board with the plan (provided there is one already mapped out), what with the $30-$34 million more the Knicks can pay him than he could stand to make in free agency.

As for future plans, this will be the most challenging endeavor in Jackson’s career. He had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as foundation pieces in Chicago, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. Finding a competent and quality supporting cast for future Hall of Famers isn’t necessarily easy to do, but it is decidedly different challenge compared to crafting a championship roster around Anthony.

Is Anthony’s Horace Grant or Brian Shaw or Rick Fox or Ron Harper already on the roster? It’s hard to tell. I could see Tyson Chandler being a player Jackson would like to keep around, but Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and some of the other current high-dollar Knicks don’t seem to be good fits. We know that second superstar is not on the Knicks’ roster right now, so that’s already a huge void that must be filled by Jackson.

Jackson’s presence, in theory, has already led to that mini-surge mentioned earlier. Anthony swears by it, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com pointed out:

“Phil knows what to do, how to build teams, and how to win,” Anthony said. “That’s the most important thing. When you know how to win — whether you’re a coach, whether you’re in the front office — that stands out.”

Anthony said all of the speculation surrounding Jackson helped the Knicks focus in recent days. New York has won a season-high six in a row, including a 115-94 rout of the Bucks earlier Saturday.

“It’s not a distraction at all,” he said. “If anything, it made us come together more as a team, as a unit, to really kind of keep that on the outside. We’re excited and happy that it got done, instead of all the speculation that’s been going on. So finally, it’s signed, sealed and delivered.”

Jackson, one of the most brilliant basketball minds of all-time, has every reason to be cautious in his approach to reshaping the Knicls. But I would suggest that he be as aggressive as possible in taking this current roster apart. This group clearly does not operate with the same chemistry and synergy that it did a year ago, albeit with seven new faces added to the mix this time around.

Woodson didn’t suddenly become a bad coach during training camp this season. And Anthony, who was lauded for his relentless work a season ago, didn’t wake up this season with selective amnesia about his role.

That said, there is a chance Jackson will want to go in a different direction in both instances. He might want one of his own in that crucial position he knows so well. Woodson, of course, is saying all the right things …

“Anytime you can get a great basketball mind that comes into your organization, I mean, it can’t do nothing but help,” Woodson said. “I mean, Phil’s been through the ringer. He’s won titles. He’s dealt with players individually. He’s dealt with players as a team. I mean, there’s probably not a lot he hasn’t seen from a basketball standpoint, so I think it’s got to be a plus.”

Woodson’s words of praise might not matter. He’s under contract next season, but there was rampant speculation before Jackson came on board that his job security was dwindling and that he might be replaced at season’s end.

Anthony is the sort of high-scoring anchor Jackson-coached teams have been built around in the past. But no one will confuse Anthony for MJ or Kobe. He’s a great scorer and an extremely hard worker but not the sort of dynamic alpha dog that Shaq or those other guys were and, in Kobe’s case, still are.

It requires an exquisitely manicured plan, but letting Anthony test the free agent waters might be just the sort of escape hatch Jackson needs to restart the Knicks in a different image.

No one knows for sure what his plans are. But it’s safe to say Phil Jackson’s first move or series of moves with the Knicks will be telling. We’ll know much more about Front Office Phil after he starts chipping away than we do now.



VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses Phil Jackson and the Knicks

32 Comments

  1. andrew says:

    First of all, I’m very surprised by this move. The Knicks have been one of the most dysfunctional teams this season n its mainly because of the bad decisions over several seasons. I’m not gonna lie, I was blown away to hear that the zen master chose the Knicks to restart his career.

    That said, I’m not sure he even wants to keep melo around. He’s obviously a volume scorer but he is most definitely not the kind of player who can lead n will your team to victory. Unless melo wants to take less money n a reduced role which is what will have to happen, I can’t see Phil keeping him there.

    And as a side note, Im liking melo less n less all the time. A chess player? Somehow I doubt that. And what if they hadn’t brought Phil in? Bringing melo to NY in the first place was a power move. I know he’s a good player n I’m sure he’s a future hof but damn, I wish he would take a page from lebron n Kobe n just shut up until he has something he can lean on…like a ring?

  2. dwllist says:

    Firstly, a head coaching personnel decision will be on the horizon as something that Phil will closely probe. Viscerally, my belief is that Phil indispensably values the existing connection between a coach and a star player. Consequently, he will attempt to lure Camelo Anthony back to NY. However, with the permutations that can possibly surface within the foreseeable future, it should not—and does not connote—an immediate reversal of fortunes. Rather, this is going to be a process that even the widely proclaimed “master” will have to protract in effort to rectify, and put in kilter, what has vitiated.

  3. wow pj says:

    actually the rockets can afford lebron if they just get rid of Omer Asik & Jermey Lin

  4. marlon green says:

    With Phil Jackson taking over you dont really know what is going to happen. All I know is that is a very smart man and has had tremendous success throughout his entire affiliation with the NBA. Phil has the ability to draw players in, and who knows maybe his presence in New York could bring in some top level free agents. And as far as the salary cap I’m sure he could work out some trades with some other teams to get some players. Anything is possible with Phil. And you never know, he just might talk Melo into taking less money and staying with the Knicks. Either way it goes I think its a good deal for the Knicks. If Melo leaves they have more money to work with and if he stays then they will still have at least at top 15 player in the league.

  5. Dan says:

    yeah why not just take JBR, Chris bosh, Ray Allen, Chris Anderson, Greg Orden trades to new York next season for Amare, Melo, JR Smith, Felton etc… and then heat waive them all next season… though I did not mentioned Dwayne Wade cos he likely thinking of retiring…. if he not retiring… move to NYK too then…. so they trio again….since Heat wont able to afford trio next season …

  6. lbj says:

    his first move in New york should be to move to miami and join our King “Lebron” we will trade Pat Riley and a first round pick

    • andrew says:

      Wow really? Boot the guy who brought you a championship, then boot the guy who built the team into a dynasty…does the word loyalty even exist in Miami? Why not just cheer for a different team?

  7. carmelool says:

    i hope jr smith carmelo anthony and felton OUT of new york, cmon phil send carmelo to europe

  8. jdub455 says:

    great acquisition… but a lot of work to do…

  9. bballjunkie1 says:

    Forget 2014 Championships let the decsions began. Kevin Love, Tyreke Evans, Stevenson, Lebron, theres to many to wait to see. Lebron has already proved money can’t buy championships. So it will interesting to see who comes to win or who needs to go cause they need the money, whatever don’t hate. In Phils case I think it will be a matter of if your game fits his vision. Still can’t believe the Busses messed up a organization and let the best thing that happened to it after “show time” get away!! Dumb. Happy 4 u Phil its where you learned from Red and won your own rings its going home full circle.

    • allaroundballer says:

      Actually knicks combination of forwards already make jackson laugh (amare-melo-bargnani)

  10. Unbelievable. says:

    All this talk about what Phil Jackson could do, or could not do, amazes me. Especially coming from the so called ‘experts’.

    I can not imagine Phil Jackson walking into that situation without a ‘plan’. I can not imagine Mr. Dolan handing him the keys to MSG without first knowing what he is going to do with them.

    And this myth about the KNICKS so bogged down with the current contract that nothing could be done, to me is just that … a myth.

    If you are daring enough to envision a completely new roster for the next season … not just any roster, a star studded roster, I promise you it is well within the realm of possibilities. You just have to think outside the box.

    Personally, I think that is exactly what Phil Jackson would do – a complete makeover. Anthony is a good player, but he is not a Jackson fit. The only player that might be retained would probably be Chandler. Woodson may be a good coach … be prepared to see Kurt Rambis running the floor in New York.

    It can be done. And if anyone can do it, Phil Jackson can.

    • Christian says:

      I see Melo in the picture like Phil Comment in the interviwe and also I see Brian Shaw been the coach

  11. Drago says:

    The Kniks are a team that had great players but due to injuries and problems in the lockerroom lack of real leadership they are now in position that is laughable cosidering the talent on the roster.They really need a big change in team philosopy and aproach.In Greg Popovic’s San Antonio evrybody knows their place and how they can improve on the team that always goes for the gold and constantly makes the playoffs.

  12. dustydreamnz says:

    I agree with okc2014, Melo should leave regardless.

  13. Unkle Daddy says:

    Here’s my issues, if Anthony resigns with the Knicks for a max contract they still have no money to rebuild a good team around him. Also, the Knicks need to realize Anthony isn’t a max level player (we got two many players who think they are max guys, there is two LJ and maybe KD, anybody else is laughable, a max guy is a face of the league not just a team). He has to be the second best player on that team, not scorer, but player.

  14. Jeff says:

    There is absolutely nothing to lose with this situation. Knicks needed a culture change… or a culture at all. Phil needed a challenge. 68 isn’t what it used to be… especially when you’re rich and can afford constant treatments. And the Knicks can spend as much as they want on GMs and scouts. In two years the Knicks will finally have a team that New York can be proud of. Melo will stay and play out next year, then in 2015… bonanza!! Championships don’t matter yet. NY just needs a team that contends. First things first.

  15. Bryant24 says:

    Phil will tell Kobe to join the New York…. just look at it

    point guard : Felton
    S-guard : Kobe
    S-forward : Melo
    P-forward : S.M
    Center : Chand.

    • DRAGONFORMVP says:

      Worst possible line up i’ve ever seen with the exception of Chandler they all love the ball in their hands, and to shot. Melo and SM will step over each other toes. kobe is old, Melo isn’t hard working to Kobe’s level. Good luck seeing that work

    • Apex Predator says:

      @Bryant24. Looks to me you will never be a coach or GM. That has got to be the worst line up I have seen so far. I was hoping you would put “joking” at the end.

      Felton is going to jail or I should say may be going to jail. Kobe’s time is up and he will be a Laker when he retires. Melo is 100% offense, 0% defense and needs to leave NY regardless of Phil Jackson. Chandler is probably the only piece worth it cause you need a defensive anchor.

    • Christian says:

      that will never happen Kobe is the face of the Lakers and he will stay faiht full to his lakers

  16. elfan says:

    I hear so many people doubting Phil and the knicks. Phil is the ultimate winning coach in history, not by standing up and screaming at players, but by being the most succesful in bringing guys to buy into his team philosophy (those of you who forgot shaq and Kobe won 3 out of four finals, and had been swept by the spurs in the second round in 1999, by the jazz in WCF in 1998, and again in the second round by the jazz in 1997–fisher, horry, fox, eddie jones, and van exel were part of those teams. clearly the lakers had good teams, but they needed a coach which brought them to believe and buy into a system in which they could make each other better–and phil did that). people keep forgetting that this knick team won 54 games last year. it is just a matter of phil flicking his fingers and let his zen mystique do everything. If the knicks don’t get a superstar next year, this current roster may be good enough to present a threat to miami and indiana–should their rosters remain as strong as they are this season. what I mean is phil will get these guys to buy into playing together. I am only sorry for the lakers.

    • DRAGONFORMVP says:

      Whatever your on; I want. The Knicks were streaky last season. They don’t have the old leadership guys like Kidd anymore. And they had alot of 3-point threat last season but this one not so much. They were a small threat to those top 5 in the east last season (Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn) this season they aren’t by any stretch.

  17. okc2014 says:

    Shaka laka ding dog: If Jackson’s thought is to dump contacts, and wait for 2015 free agency, why would Melo stick around and wait for that? I don’t think his motivation is to make more money (in New York). I really think this guy wants to win a championship like right now. He will not sign up that! So I beg to differ w/ you…

  18. JimboJJM says:

    It doesn’t really matter what Phil does this or next season. The Knicks are stuck with several high dollar low talent contracts that must be ended before he can rebuild. You can’t just cut the likes of Stoudemire and nobody else really wants him for what his agent will be asking. It will be 2016 beore any changes can kick in that will reverse the bad management trends the Knicks have suffered through over the past few years. Brooklyn has a similar problem in that they just through $$$ to obtain stars without giving much thought toward how well the players will blend together. Miami was lucky when they did it, but look at what happened to the Lakers when they offered big cash to Howard. No this is one time that Jackson may have bitten off more than he can chew.

  19. Shaka laka ding dog says:

    i think he will dump contracts wait for 2015 keep melo on pay cut and take 2016 championship.

  20. LRF, Esq. says:

    What about Lebron in free agency joins Anthony. The better fit for Lebron is the Rockets with Howard and Harden. But the Big Apple commends the attention and put Lebron under the brightest light a city can bring. I hope he stays in Miami and retires in South Beach. But MSG would not be a bad place to call home.

    • htown says:

      where on earth would houston get the money to sign lebron?

      • Apex Predator says:

        How did you come up that LBJ will fit in HOU? Sorry not going to work with ball required Harden and the sometimes whinning Howard. They have a established starting line up with their main 3 being Howard, Parsons, and Harden. They need a bench upgrade not star power. Just because you have stars doesn’t guarantee a ring.

      • Heats says:

        If they got rid of Asik and Lin it could possibly be done…but I dont think LBJ would be happy with less money then Howard or Harden lol…