Jackson rightly owns Knicks’ woes


VIDEO: Phil Jackson discusses Derek Fisher’s patience with team’s struggles

It’s not Derek Fisher‘s fault. It’s not Carmelo Anthony‘s fault. It’s not the other players’ fault, and it certainly isn’t the New York Knicks’ fans’ fault.

Phil Jackson, in a session with reporters Saturday, said the Knicks’ miserable season is his fault, throwing himself in front of the locomotive of crankiness and criticism over New York’s 5-34 record, 14-game losing streak and consistently feeble offensive and defensive performances. From the way he took the blame, you’d think he was the team’s president or something. Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com was on hand prior to the Knicks’ matinee game vs. Charlotte at Madison Square Garden (in which they fell behind 62-31 by halftime):

“This is a mea culpa. I take responsibility for it,” Jackson said

Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he thought the Knicks would be a playoff team this season. Instead, things have gone horribly wrong for Jackson and the Knicks.

Actually, Jackson set himself up for this when he accepted the job (and his five-year, $60 million contract) last spring. There was no way he, Red Auerbach or David Copperfield was going to wave a wand and magically transform the team’s thin talent base and bloated payroll in the span of a few months. That’s what he inherited from chairman James Dolan and the Knicks administrations that preceded Jackson’s arrival by, oh, a couple decades.

When the most successful head coach in NBA history, in one of his early acts as a team architect, doubled down on New York’s commitment to Anthony – signing him to a five-year, maximum salary contract despite ample evidence Anthony isn’t up to the task as a cornerstone, No. 1 franchise guy for a true contender – Jackson became complicit in the problems facing that club.

He didn’t help himself, either, trading away Tyson Chandler with Raymond Felton as first serious move – as far as players, after hiring Fisher as head coach – to “change the culture.” Chandler is a higher-character guy than Jackson realized, dragged down by the losing and drama in 2013-14.

Shedding J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, while waiving what came back in the three-team trade along with center Samuel Dalembert were solid moves, both for payroll flexibility and for addition-by-subtraction. But like the old joke about 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, it’s merely a good start.

As for asking fans not to let Fisher hear the brunt of their frustration or in covering for the players’ slowness in executing his triangle offense, Jackson basically was stating the obvious. Whether “blame” was the right word or not, this all had to be – or should have been – part of Jackson’s vision. Getting worse to get better was the only viable option for the Knicks. It was unrealistic for anyone, least of all Jackson, to think that tweaking last season’s 37-45 team would get New York into contention (even in the East).

Was 5-34 in the cards? Or shutting down Anthony for a majority of the season due to his sore left knee, which remains a possibility? No one should have expected that. Playing below even the meager expectations for this group, some of that certainly is on the players and Fisher. The Knicks turn over the ball too much, get beaten on the boards too often and get to the foul line too seldom. They settle for jump shots, frequently from the wrong shooters.

But this job requires sutures and rehab, not Band-Aids. That means another offseason for draft choice, trade acquisition and (with $25 million or more in cap space) free agents. That came up Saturday too:

Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he is concerned that the team’s record will make it an unattractive destination for free agents.

“We’re all worried about the fact that money is not going to just be able to buy you necessary talent. You’re going to have to have places where people want to come and play,” said Jackson. … “But I do think that New York situation holds a high regard in players and agents that have contacted us. We have no lack of agents that have contacted us for their players. We still think that we have a really good chance to develop a team.”

Finally, in the closest thing to news in Jackson’s chin-wag with the media, he said that surgery might be an option for Anthony, who hasn’t played since New Year’s Eve in L.A. due to his aching knee:

“I think for ‘Melo the last resort is surgery, as it should be for anybody,” Jackson said. “Surgery is basically to repair and to correct. He’s got a situation that could exacerbate, could get difficult, could be better with the surgery, but he wants to really try it again and see where he’s going to be at. The next period of time we’ll assess that and we’ll sit down and talk to him about it. I know the All-Star game (at Madison Square Garden) is important for him down the road in February. I know this trip to London (for the Knicks game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan .15) will be important for him to play. He sees possibilities of helping the team get back and be better.”

15 Comments

  1. sv says:

    Why anytime Phil Jackson’s words about “change of a culture” said about Dallas trade pop up everybody say that they were concerning Tyson Chandler? I think that Dallas trade was all about getting rid of Raymond Felton in the first place because he had a player option in his contract for 2015-2016, so it was absolutely necessary to include Tyson Chandler in trade to make it work. New York wanted to get rid of Raymond Felton and his gun problems. Dallas wanted Chandler so they swallowed Raymond Felton contract (he played 15 minutes for Dallas this season and last year played 31 min. per game for New York). Why anybody talks about it? The same logic of getting rid of long contracts was shown by Jackson in a trade with Cleveland that was basically orchestrated to get rid of J.R. Smith and his 6 mil. player option for 2015-2016 and his basketball culture as well

  2. Emerson Mathias says:

    I may disagree on blame calls to Phil Jackson and point to the fact that Knicks made a bad decision when it became Melo-based team, what is the same curse around Kobe-based Lakers team and Durant-based OKC. Now, it got worse without Melo, but no NBA roaster will be enough to win playoffs if no bench players are there and no coach and technical support are there to develop healthy and team-oriented players. Get a trade for Stoudemire is the next logical step. Phil Jackson is the solution for the Knicks and blame on him seems premature and immature. I have no doubt that Knicks will become a East powerhouse on next season. Now is matter of adjustment inside and outside the court.

  3. Jill says:

    Finally Jackson is speaking and making excuses for the team’s catastrophic performance. His fault as he says correctly, but also did not recognize that experimenting with a new and young coach, who does not have the support or respect from players, with his triangle system that he should carry on himself. I believe in RIGHTS to be earned. Becoming a General after being a private does not make in sense to me. There is a long way to go and learn before you earn your rank. It is time for Jackson to take over coaching NY and not hide behind his puppet to do a job that he is competent to do because of his experience and record. If he can’t do that maybe it is time to let somebody else do the job and not experiment at the fans expenses. NY’s talented roster at the beginning of the season was promising and full of expectations. Now fans have to endure fiasco after fiasco. Knicks need new leadership and not wait till next season. Please rebuild now!!!!!!

    • alleighoops says:

      What the hell do you think he is doing Jill…
      From the outside looking in, you epitomise everthing that has BEEN wrong with the Knicks for 2 decades. You are already calling for new leadership and a rebuild after 35 games…open your eyes, that’s exactly what the NEW leadership is doing.

  4. Byron says:

    Melo could help the Knicks in 2 ways:
    1. Play some defense
    2. Select his shots more wisely
    Players that shoot 11 for 29 dont win, especially if they are lax at the defensive end.
    NBA free agents know that, and despite the lure of the garden and the endorsement opportunities, you probably won’t see A level free agents joining the clown Knicks soon

  5. harriethehawk says:

    Carmello Anthony will only step back on the basketball court so he will be eligible to play in the all-star. That makes me sick to my stomach. He is being selfish. And he wastes peoples time. Why did he do all those tours last year (Dallas, Chicago, LA) if he really wanted to stay in NY? I just don’t believe him when he looks sad and disgusted after losing a game. What is his purpose?

  6. JStew says:

    Carmelo Anthony makes teams worse.

  7. Jose says:

    Maybe the Players could not really play the Triangle… what if Fish use some system from Coach Scott Brooks??? this could work.. but If they really want the Triangle… Phil I suggest should get some of his former players to visit the Practice & give advice

  8. ciugaz says:

    Current Knicks worst team ever?

  9. TheKush says:

    Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’neal, Pau Gasol, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, a lot of coaches could win a championship with those players in their primes. Jackson often walks into a good situation and makes it better, this situation is different and I’m interested to see if he can fix the Knicks or abandon the GM position! I think he’s on the right track but only time will tell!

  10. dustydreamnz says:

    It’s not Jackson’s responsibility, he’s just walked into the shambles. Him saying that is part of the job. I was surprised they hired Derek Fisher but he could be an ok coach. They have a poor squad but not only that, they have no Anthony, Stoudemire, Bargnani. I’m not a Knicks fan but things can only get better and they probably won’t until next season.

    • JJ says:

      Stoudemire and Bargnani aren’t helpful. They are part of the problem too. They are two one-dimensional big men that don’t play good defense or rebound well.

      Amare and Bargnani coming off the books this summer will be very helpful to the knicks. They’ll have the cap space to go after complete players that will defend and play good offense.

    • boba says:

      It is his fault, he could have been coach

    • Dieter says:

      He is responsible for letting Chandler go, he is responsible for hiring Fisher, he is responsible for that ridiculous Melo contract and he is responsible for the triangle which just doesn’t work with their current roster. It’s not because he’s one of the best coaches in Nba history, that he’s gonna be one of the best in his current job… the same goes for Jordan. Because of his last moves, which were in fact not bad.. I’d give him an E-grade instead of an F. If they don’t get Okafor in next draft, than this will be a lost season, and that will be mostly on Phil.