By John Schmeelk
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Despite the waiting and suspense, Knicks fans should be far more encouraged than nervous that the organizations’ negotiations with Phil Jackson are taking so long. The feeling of waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath their hopes and dreams is natural for Knicks fans, but this process taking some time is invariably a good thing. It shows that both the Knicks and Jackson are looking at all the possible pitfalls in this marriage and figuring out a way to make them work.
For the betterment of the organization, the Knicks should be willing to give Jackson more or less anything he wants. If he is going to be the president and director of basketball operations, he needs to be able to run that side of things any way he wants. He gets to pick his coach. He gets to hire the people who work underneath him in scouting on both the pro and college level. He can go tell CAA to suck it if he wants to, and can use the Knicks’ new D-League affiliate any way he wants.
Most importantly, Jackson needs to have freedom in all player-personnel decisions, including free agency and the draft. That freedom includes an option of letting Carmelo Anthony walk after the season if he thinks that’s best for the franchise. Or perhaps he wants Anthony back, but wants to play hardball on the contract numbers. That needs to be fine, too.
If Jackson thinks the Knicks are better off completely bottoming out next year, getting a great draft pick and starting from scratch in 2015, that needs to be his choice with no pressure from the Knicks’ owner. That type of freedom has to be spelled out in the contract, and I’m sure those are the types of things that he and the Knicks are ironing out.
Jackson is no fool. He has talked to people around the league and has to know what is awaiting him at MSG. He is going to want to protect himself, which in turn protects the franchise from its owner.
He’s going to want to do everything he can to make it hard for James Dolan to pull his power away, like was done to Donnie Walsh. His exorbitant salary might help, since it might make it hard even for Dolan to pay him to go away. But he might also refuse to sign a non-disclosure agreement, since we all know how much Jackson likes to write books. Would Dolan really want all the dirt that Jackson acquires made public some day? I doubt it. These are all protections that Jackson could be trying to put in place to make this work for him.
But this will not be a one-sided deal. The Knicks need to be adamant that Jackson can’t run the Knicks by remote from some horse ranch or from a California Beach. He needs to be in New York during the season, directing his lieutenants and keeping an eye on the franchise. It isn’t essential that he travels to scout every potential second-round pick in person (a lieutenant can do that), but Jackson needs to be at the heart of every move the Knicks make, and that happens in New York.
He needs to be there. It is Dolan’s job to make sure that Jackson isn’t just seeing dollar signs, signing a big check to do limited work. The “Zen Master” must understand that this is a really big job that will take a lot of work. He needs to be engaged and understand that a true righting of the ship might take some patience and a substantial amount of losing.
The details ARE important, and that’s why it is taking so long to make this deal official. It’s a good thing that both sides aren’t just jumping into the pool eyes wide shut. There needs to be a mutual understanding from both sides about what expectations are.
Without that, this will end in a disaster, which is something the Knicks can’t afford.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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