By John Schmeelk
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Phil Jackson didn’t talk to the media all season, so it was no surprise that he made a lot of news when he addressed reporters on Friday.
The Knicks’ president said a lot during a press conference that lasted just under an hour and here’s what mattered the most:
On Carmelo Anthony
I won’t go as far as others who think Jackson blamed all the Knicks’ losing on Anthony, but Phil certainly indicated Melo was part of the problem. Jackson was right when he said the Knicks haven’t won with Anthony here the last three years and that both sides would be better off with him on another team. Jackson finally committed completely to dealing Anthony this offseason, which will be a good thing because the franchise can finally turn the page on what has been a toxic relationship.
Jackson took two more shots at Anthony’s play, calling him a ball stopper, and later questioning his ability to be active on both ends of the floor on a consistent basis. Anthony responded with a cryptic Instagram post indicating he disagreed with Jackson and found the president’s points hilarious.
The bottom line is Anthony is still unlikely to significantly expand the number of teams he would want to be traded to. Jackson said he wants a significant return for Anthony, which will be very hard to find. That said, I would be shocked if Jackson doesn’t move Anthony this offseason.
On Kristaps Porzingis
The only thing Jackson said about Porzingis was that he was not ready to be the number one guy at the age of 21. That’s probably true and there’s nothing wrong with that. Porzingis still has a lot of growing to do. More significant is the fact that Porzingis blew off his season wrap-up meeting with Jackson because he is frustrated with how the franchise is being run.
He is probably upset with how Jackson is treating his friend Anthony, but there’s no doubt he also sees what fans see: that Jackson has no true plan or direction to make the Knicks respectable again. He keeps switching paths. The fact Porzingis is already this frustrated with the Knicks after just two seasons should be terrifying to fans. Even though the collective bargaining agreement makes it hard for him to leave after his rookie season, the possibility is the worst-case scenario for the Knicks.
On Derrick Rose
Jackson praised Rose’s attitude in their exit interview when he said that he wanted to “redeem himself.” Phil also said Rose wanted to return and didn’t dispute that. He did say later in his presser, however, that Rose is a scoring guard, but not a lead point guard. Jackson also indicated the team needed guards that can defend the pick and roll well. Jackson has to know that Rose is not that type of guard. He also doesn’t fit in the type of “ball moving, player moving” offense Jackson described. Despite Jackson’s kind words, I would still be surprised if Rose returns.
On His Own Performance
Phil said the “buck stops here,” but only after saying “I never took a jump shot, never made a substitution,” which basically put the entire blame for the season on the players and head coach Jeff Hornacek. It is important to note that Jackson chose those players and that coach. He blamed the poor season on a lack of chemistry more than anything else. He pointed at Rose’s preseason trial, Joakim Noah’s injury and “resistance” to the triangle.
He did not mention defense until he was asked about it specifically. He also didn’t admit the team was put together poorly or that he made any significant mistakes by adding Rose and Noah. He actually defended the logic behind the Noah signing. He also had the gaul to say the Knicks were in a rebound a year after trading young assets and spending salary cap space on injury-prone veterans.
On The Defense
As I mentioned earlier, Jackson didn’t bring up the team’s atrocious defense until prompted. He pointed out (accurately in my opinion) that the coaches spend most of their time game planning before games. He pointed out accurately that the key to defense in the modern NBA is playing the pick and roll correctly. He again accurately pointed out that the Knicks’ guards never bodied up opponents until Ron Baker did it late in the season. It’s comforting that Jackson at least understands the problems with the defense and how to fix it.
On Jeff Hornacek
Jackson said he was comfortable with his young head coach, but that Hornacek had trouble getting the players to do what he wanted them to do. Phil also insinuated that Hornacek was too amenable to the players. Trapped under Jackson’s heavy hand, Hornacek’s tenure in New York is unlikely to end well.
On The Triangle
It should be no surprise that Jackson embraced the triangle and defended it by saying all he wants to do is have the Knicks play team basketball by sharing and moving the ball. He also basically admitted that modern day NBA players don’t know the triangle, so the Knicks have to teach it to them. Jackson failed to mention that teams like the Warriors and Spurs move the ball really well and play their own brand of team basketball without having to teach a whole new way of playing. The triangle is here to stay, like it or not.
On The Future
Jackson said he wants to be more involved with the coaches and players next season in terms of teaching and game planning, even though he admitted it would appear he would be undercutting the coach. He wants to coach the team from the president’s office and has finally admitted it. He even pointed out how Steve Mills handling the business side of things allows him to do it. It is impossible for any coach to reach his players when they don’t believe he is the one in charge.
Phil also said the team is rebuilding, which is rich given his moves last offseason. He didn’t give any hint as to his plans for the draft or free agency. Jackson has two years left on his contract, and the Knicks will be in his hands for better or worse.
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