By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks reached a new crisis point after their loss to the Nets on Sunday.
No, it wasn’t the defeat itself, which over the long term could be a very good thing since it gives the team a better chance to get a good pick in June’s draft. It was Kristaps Porzingis’ reaction after the game.
It’s one thing for complaints to come from guys like Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, given how much both have not been shy about airing their discontent (about the triangle offense mostly) during the season. It is quite another for Porzingis, who is the Knicks’ future, to complain about the franchise being in disarray.
Here is what Porzingis had to say about the confusion that has infected the team.
“From top to bottom, everybody,” Porzingis said. “So it’s hard to play like that.”
“We’ve been switching things up. Never at any point in this season (have) we played like we wanted to. So it was always like, ‘Maybe this will work. Maybe this will work,'” Porzingis added. “So we were kind of looking for stuff and coaches, they obviously try to do the best job they can and giving us as much as they can so we have the information. But we never really got it together and were able to execute the way we should have. It’s been a lot of confusion.”
Then, finally, Porzingis spoke about the triangle.
“First of all, we don’t really know the triangle that well. We’re really basic with what we do,” he said. “So a lot of times, it’s basically one-on-one. Whoever it is. Me, Carmelo, Derrick, Courtney … we just try to make something happen. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be. It’s very random.”
To be clear, at this point there shouldn’t be any legitimate fear that Porzingis will not sign a second (or even a third) contract with the Knicks, especially given the collective bargaining agreement. But it should be disconcerting that their typically positive and optimistic franchise cornerstone is feeling the same things as his veteran teammates and the fan base.
It is hard not to pin this on Phil Jackson. For Porzingis to make these points within a week of Jackson holding his triangle offense seminars with the guards is telling. It is unclear how much more the Knicks are running the triangle now than earlier in the season, despite there being an apparent renewed focus on of the offensive system. What is clear is that since coach Jeff Hornacek spoke about the team re-emphasizing the triangle, there have been complaints from Rose, Anthony, and now Porzingis.
One reason given for employing the triangle more is to provide better defensive balance. But the Knicks are coming off two of their worst defensive performances of the year, against the Nets and Pistons. The offense has often broken down into isolation plays with little ball movement.
This is Jackson’s fault. I could literally cut and paste an article from last year about how Jackson can’t coach the Knicks from the front office. The Daily News headline and article by Stefan Bondy was exactly right: Jackson needs to either coach the team or get out of the way.
There can only be one coach of a NBA team. It’s Hornacek. It isn’t Jackson. Having the team president run offensive seminars without the head coach out there breeds the exact type of confusion Porzingis is talking about.
What makes Jackson’s obsession even more infuriating is that the Knicks’ offense is not the problem. It continues to be the defense. It is awful because Jackson continues to bring in bad defensive players. He needs to be far more concerned with making the roster better than forcing the players to run his preferred offense.
That’s the team president’s job, not being on the floor with players teaching an archaic offense that no one seems to like. He needs to go watch a college game so the team selects the right player with their top-10 pick in the upcoming draft. Go watch a D-League game and try to find a future piece that’s better than Sasha Vujacic or Marshall Plumlee. Don’t try to coach the team.
Porzingis was absolutely right. When confusion reigns throughout an organization, there is one place to point: the top. It starts there. This is Jackson’s responsibility and he needs to fix it.
Knicks Tank-athon Update
- The loss to the Nets on Sunday was a big step in the right direction for the 2017 Tank-athon. Only five teams have more losses than the Knicks, and only six teams have more wins. Only two games separate the Knicks from the seventh spot in the draft lottery and the third-worst record in the league.
- Some separation is appearing between the eight worst teams in the league and the rest of the NBA. It doesn’t look like the Knicks will be any worse than eighth when all is said and done, barring any huge losing streaks by teams ahead of them in the standings.
- The Knicks have two home games left, against the Pacers and Nets, before they set out on a four-game road trip. Asking them to lose both those games might be unrealistic, but splitting them would be fine, given the high probability they won’t win any games on the trip against tough opponents (Clippers, Jazz, Trailblazers, Spurs). If they win just one of their next six games that should place them anywhere between the third and fifth spot in lottery odds by the time they return. That’s not a bad place to be in.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk