By John Schmeelk
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When a boxer is simply getting pounded so badly that his health becomes endangered, his corner will throw the white towel into the ring to stop the fight. If Phil Jackson could have chucked a towel from his luxury box at Staples Center on Tuesday night, he would have.
The moment probably would have come at some point during that 51-point Lakers third quarter, the worst defensive quarter in the history of Knicks basketball. The Knicks had given up on themselves, their coach, their fans and their season. It was over. They laid down and gave up. Worst of all, their new boss was there to witness every gruesome blow in person in the same building he led teams to championships in.
In what was one of the most embarrassing nights of the season and of the last decade, the Knicks decided that it wasn’t worth trying to secure a playoff spot anymore. The Midwood High School JV basketball team could have put up 100 on the Knicks on Tuesday night, as New York was completely indifferent on defense. The effort simply wasn’t there. Despite the fact that the team is still alive in the playoff chase, the Knicks decided it wasn’t important to try hard enough to give themselves a realistic chance to win a basketball game on national TV. It speaks volumes as to how much this group must change for the Knicks to become a winning franchise again.
We saw the results of the Knicks giving up on Tuesday night, but the moment of their ultimate defeat really came on Sunday night against the Cavaliers when they blew a 15-point halftime lead and fell apart in the fourth quarter.
That loss sucked whatever life was left in this group of players. It shows the lack of resiliency and fortitude in these players that one bad loss could have such a domino effect on a game two days later. A performance like that also shows how Mike Woodson has simply lost the pulse of the team and no longer has ways of motivating it.
There’s little chance that Jackson needed a performance like that to show exactly how bad the Knicks are, but he got it anyway. He knows how much things have to change for the Knicks, and that he is in charge of those changes. If there was ever evidence that the franchise is better off tearing down for 2014-2015 with all eyes on the 2015 offseason, Tuesday night was it. If there was ever any doubt (there shouldn’t have been) that Woodson was a dead man walking, there isn’t anymore.
The Zen Master will bring in one of his disciples to run this team with his principles, which in many ways runs counter to everything Woodson does on both ends of the floor.
The triangle offense lends itself towards all five players on the floor touching the ball, and a lot of cutting and movement off the basketball. It’s a system based around teamwork. Woodson’s offense depends upon isolation plays, two-man games in the pick-and-roll and very few set plays. Jackson’s defenses have always been fairly simple with man-to-man principles, while Woodson’s complicated system depends upon endless switching and rotation.
It would have been priceless to get a look inside Jackson’s head during that 51-point third quarter. Without a doubt there was disgust, but probably also a little bit of wonder about how a team could be so bad against a group of backups and D-League players.
He probably laughed a little bit as well, knowing that he didn’t build this group. And after every game like that, James Dolan will view him as even more of a savior and will be even less likely to interfere with his work.
Jackson has a lot of work to do, and after watching that game on Tuesday night, he knows it.
– Tuesday probably wasn’t a good day for the Knicks to send me an email reminding me to secure my playoff tickets. Just saying. That, my friend, is what you call bad timing.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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