By Jason Keidel
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If you’re a New York sports fiend with the quid for cable, chances are you saw the “Real Sports” piece on Phil Jackson – the laconic, iconic Zen Master of geometric shapes, most notably the triangle.
Andrea Kremer interviewed Jackson at his colossal crib in Montana, replete with the perfunctory, pastoral adjuncts: endless skies, mountains that tickled the clouds, and a glassy lake on which Jackson cast a way longer shadow. And as long as he has a pulse, Jackson’s visage will hover over some team believed to be one or two life lessons from a championship.
Jackson, like all men in general but coaching lifers in particular, is bubbling with contradictions. He’s got more rings than digits, more digits in the bank than he can spend, replaced hips and knees (yes, plural), yet he refused to rule out the idea of coaching again. The rigors of NBA life, even on a coach, would coax a young man into retirement. But everything about Jackson doubles as a billboard for boredom. He oozes the fidgety refrain of a lifer about to return to The Life.
Adding caveats as only he can, Jackson said he prefers the West Coast, which eliminated Orlando from the equation. Suffice it to say two stints with the Lakers are enough. But I can’t be the only one who thinks Jackson is made for the other Disney area team – the Clippers, with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul still most malleable student-stars waiting for the right teacher to appear.
But Jackson also made it clear he would not have coached the Knicks, this year or next. And only the most ardent Carmelo Anthony apologist doesn’t see why. It’s easy to ignore me, using my lack of NBA experience as a pretext to dismiss the argument – the truth, really – that Carmelo and Amar’e don’t work well together.
But what do you tell Phil Jackson? He’s only got 11 more rings than you do – 13 if you include your beloved Knickerbockers. The symmetry is seamless – ending the hoop journey where it began – yet he wants no part of New York, to bite the Big Apple, where he made his bones as a player and professor as the protégé of Red Holzman, his hero. Now, he Jackson calls the Knicks, “Clumsy,” and he wasn’t referring to the roster only.
Of ‘Melo and Amar’e? “Well, they don’t fit together well,” Jackson told HBO. “Stoudemire doesn’t fit well with Carmelo. Stoudemire’s a really good player. But he’s got to play in a certain system and a way. Carmelo has to be a better passer, and the ball can’t stop every time it hits his hands.”
I’ve only been saying that since the day of the trade that brought ‘Melo to Manhattan.
And only could the Knicks – more specifically, Jim Dolan – be such a deterrent. Ownership isn’t the first thing a coach ponders when picking a gig. Talent, of course, comes first. Jackson would scan the hardihood on the hardwood before anything, and he hates what he sees. Just about everything Dolan does is wrong. Isiah Thomas, anyone?
But it must be more than that. There’s a hex and a hoax on the five boroughs. Once cable baron Charles Dolan surrendered the remote to his clueless kid, the Knicks became too toxic for the winners. Sure, LeBron’s “Decision,” while grotesque in its presentation, was the smart play in terms of players. The Knicks had nothing like Bosh and Wade to wiggle before James’s eyes, and lord knows there’s a titanic state income tax in New York, as opposed to Florida, which has none.
While not even Dolan needn’t defend his decision to hire Mike Woodson, who did a divine job, he didn’t even call Phil Jackson. Perhaps so much success would spoil the splendid tradition the Knicks have manicured. Indeed, no need to get all dynastic and what not when you can spend the most money and win the fewest games per dollar.
No doubt I pick fights with pockets of our populous: especially the Kool-Aid guzzlers of all makes and means. The Carmelo Kool-Aid devotee is rather quiet these days, because he (or she) can’t answer one simple question: whom has Anthony made better (besides Anthony) since he joined the Knicks?
You’ll recall Linsanity became volcanic when Carmelo was hurt and watching from the bench. Indeed, there’s no way someone of Anthony’s appetites (see: ball hog) could share the ball enough for Jeremy Lin to win our hearts.
Between the HBO piece and listening to Tony Paige this morning, a fair question was raised: Is the Carmelo Experiment already a failure? There’s no indication that the Knicks are getting much better, despite two trips to the playoffs (for a combined 1-8 record). With LeBron laminating his ticket to the top, what hope do you have that the Knicks can even challenge the Miami (much less beat the Heat)?
Maybe that was rhetorical. Since we’ve gone 40 years since our last title, why not another 40? Double-down on the Dolans, who have shown us that there are myriad ways to ruin a good thing. We’ve heard for years that MSG is bad for us. And it says here the Knicks will prove it until the final ‘Melo maniac finally waves his white flag.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com