HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You knew the finger-pointing was coming in New York. We all did.
But it was supposed to be aimed at the usual suspects … Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, the coach (in this case Derek Fisher), J.R. Smith and, of course, owner James Dolan.
Phil Jackson was supposed to be immune from this stuff, his championship rings protecting him from the blowback of what most level-headed observers expected to be a struggle of a season for the Knicks.
But things are playing out in unexpected ways these days in the big city. The Zen master is being singled out for not impacting things the way many expected when he took over the daily basketball operations in New York.
Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News takes aim with some pointed criticisms of the way the Jackson regime is conducting business, thus far:
Phil Jackson was going to come in and shed light into every dark corner of the organization, use his wit and his wiles to turn the Garden into a brighter, smarter place. The world’s most paranoid arena was going to become something less afraid of the truth.
But a quarter of the way through the season, the Knicks have dropped eight straight games and stand at 4-18, and Jackson has been about as big a presence as a one-off halftime show. He sits in his seat above midcourt, watching the Knicks blow one after another. They lost another one down the stretch on Sunday, falling 103-99, to the faster, younger Trail Blazers. How Jackson feels about this mess remains a mystery. Jackson might as well be Glen Grunwald or Steve Mills, for all we hear from him.
He was charming enough in his introductory press conference back in March, though some reporters weren’t permitted to ask him questions. He’s spoken only once to the assembled media since the season started, when he said that decisions would be made on players sometime around Thanksgiving or Christmas. We’re well past that first holiday, steaming downhill toward the second, and the only glimpse we get of Jackson is if he’s shown on camera near a security guard. When reporters had the nerve to ask him questions after opening night, and when Jackson had the audacity to answer, Garden officials changed the postgame route taken by those writers to make certain the media would not intersect with him again.
So Jackson hasn’t altered the Garden culture, and from the look of things he hasn’t changed the team in a good way, either. When he sent Tyson Chandler packing, he dumped the sharpest, toughest player of the bunch. Now Derek Fisher is left trying to teach a system to players who don’t own the skill sets to play it. As Hubie Brown once said of his 23-59 Knicks, “They’re trying. They’re just not good enough.”
The Knicks this season aren’t nearly good enough, which for some reason is surprising a lot of people. Is it surprising Jackson? Who knows? Let’s face it. Fans don’t care a bit what a team president says or believes, as long as the team is winning. But the loyalists pouring money into the Garden coffers certainly deserve some hint now at a blueprint.
Having visited the Knicks and PJax during training camp on the Hang Time Podcast Road Trip, it was clear to me that this would be an extensive “work in progress.” So I wasn’t expecting any miracles.
But I also didn’t expect things to come apart as quickly as they have for the new regime. The Knicks have better talent than their record indicates but lack the chemistry and understanding of the system to put things together in an Eastern Conference that has played musical chairs with the top spot through the first six weeks of the season.
It’s already a mirage for the Knicks. They’re just trying to salvage what they can from this season and it’s not even Christmas. So maybe the honeymoon really is over for Phil in New York …