By John Schmeelk
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As I watched the Knicks hold on to a win over the Indiana Pacers at home on Wednesday night, I started thinking.
Obviously, the fans are very excited their team has finally put it together and is making a run for the playoffs. But at the same time there has to be frustration as well. This group always had the type of talent for a run, as evidenced by last season’s 54 wins.
Why the heck did it take this long for the team to put things together? As Phil Jackson and James Dolan stated at the Tuesday press conference, there really isn’t a good reason why the team has fallen off the cliff the way it has.
We’ll know more in a few weeks, but this team might have waited too long to put together this run. Despite winning seven straight, the Knicks are still five games behind the Atlanta Hawks in the loss column, and four behind the Charlotte Bobcats.
It’s infuriating that this team waited so long to start winning. Whether that goes on the coach or the players doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that it happened. Once that truth settled in, a quick flash of the camera to Jackson made my mind jump back to something Dolan said on Tuesday. I’ll paraphrase as best I can: “If the team played better this year, we probably would not be here today.”
As bad as this season has been, and as good as another 50-win season would have been to experience, there is no contest as to which would have benefited the Knicks franchise more in the long run. Trading a 50-win season and a likely second-round playoff defeat is a small price to pay to get Jackson to run the franchise with what appears to be full autonomy. I understand the Knicks don’t have their first-round pick in the upcoming draft. I also understand that this kind of season makes it less likely that Carmelo Anthony will come back.
But I’ll still take Jackson, and here’s why:
If the Knicks won 50 games this season and lost to the Miami Heat or Pacers in the second round, odds are both Mike Woodson and Steve Mills would be back for the 2015 season. The next trade Mills orchestrates for the Knicks will be the first of his career. He has never built an NBA roster, nor even worked in the player personnel department of a front office. Does anyone think that Mills was really the guy that was going to build the Knicks into a championship contender with or without Anthony?
It’s also fairly obvious that Dolan would have continued to meddle in basketball affairs, something that would not have been good for the franchise.
As for Mike Woodson, he has proven over the course of his NBA career that he is not a championship-caliber coach. His offense is based on too much isolation, and does not lend itself to creativity late in games. His defensive system is flawed, and his constant switching causes even more issues in the playoffs than in the regular season due to the additional film work done by opposing teams. After seeing Woodson for a couple games in a row it is extremely easy to diagnose what he has his players do offensively and defensively.
In other words, in a seriously twisted way, Knicks fans should be thrilled they were terrible for the first four months of the season. If this run had come in January, there would not have been any meaningful change at Madison Square Garden. They now have someone with 13 rings making the decisions instead of Dolan, Mills, and Woodson. That’s a bigger win than anything the Knicks could have done this season.
Making the situation even better is that this group of players is far more talented than its record, so a better head coach next season might mean making a little noise in the playoffs heading into a rebuild in 2015. A one-year setback is worth putting the franchise on its first truly good trajectory in a long time.
Knicks fans are used to saying their team stinks, but there are very few times they could say it with a smile, knowing it got them someone like Jackson.
You can follow Jon on Twitter at @Schmeelk for everything Knicks and Giants
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