Schmeelk: Is Phil Jackson Losing The Game Of Thrones?

'King' Of The Knicks Doesn't Appear To Have Many Allies Left, Which Is A Recipe For Disaster

By John Schmeelk
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As the Knicks embark on their offseason, team president Phil Jackson feels a lot like a king without any loyal subjects.

Sure, people are still going to indulge him and obey to the smallest extent possible because he wears the crown and wields the scepter, but no one wants to follow him.

Do you know what normally happens to a king like that? When his castle is surrounded and under siege, one of his “loyal” subjects will raise the portcullis rather than risk being starved or killed by the enemy. That’s not leadership. There is no way an NBA team can succeed when there isn’t faith in the team’s leader and philosophy.

Things go wrong during an NBA season, whether it’s injuries, a losing streak or some other unique controversy. It’s at times like those that teams need to come together and persevere. If Adrian Wojnarowski’s reporting is correct (when is it not?), the Knicks’ entire organization is done with Jackson. If they are, the team will likely crumble at the first sign of trouble. It’s nearly impossible to have a successful season in that scenario.

MORE: Schmeelk: Jackson’s Stubbornness Will Define Knicks One Way Or Another

Coach Jeff Hornacek has clearly acquiesced to Jackson to keep his job, understanding that few NBA coaches get a third chance to be a head coach. He has abandoned his offense and fully embraced the triangle. Jackson criticized his ability to connect to his players at his season-ending news conference. Jackson also reaped praise on assistant coach Kurt Rambis’ knowledge, even though Woj and others have reported that players can’t stand him. It has never been more obvious that Jackson prefers Rambis to his actual head coach.

Jackson also admitted that he will spend more time on the court at practice next year, even though he recognizes that will undermine Hornacek’s ability to coach the team. He wants to coach the team from the president’s box. It will never, ever work.

The players, meanwhile, if Woj’s and Frank Isola’s reporting is correct, have little use for the triangle, either. Carmelo Anthony’s feelings on the subject are well known, though he will likely be gone next year. Derrick Rose, also unlikely to be back, has been negative about the triangle as well.

MORE: Lichtenstein: Marks’ Patient Plan For Nets Will Trump Jackson’s Knicks Fantasy

Kristaps Porzingis’ decision to skip his exit interview speaks volumes about his opinion of Jackson’s regime. Willy Hernangomez is Porzingis’ best friend, so if it comes down to a choice between Jackson and Porzingis, you know which camp Hernangomez will be in.

If a team’s best players aren’t buying into the system, the role players and youngsters won’t, either. Those same players will also know the coach is a powerless puppet of the president, leaving them no one to follow or play hard for. There’s no way for this to end well for Hornacek, Jackson and this set of players. It’s a recipe for failure.

It’s probably hyperbole to say next season has no chance of any real success, but barring a complete organizational overhaul or finding the next LeBron James in the draft or free agency, it’s probably true. The current organizational construct just isn’t workable.

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That’s how far Jackson has fallen down the rabbit hole. He isn’t quite in the Isiah Thomas neighborhood yet because he has only ruined the Knicks’ present and not their long-term future. The Knicks did draft Porzingis and trade for Hernangomez and do have all their future first-round picks. They aren’t positioned terribly.

Jackson is still king because he has the backing of Emperor James Dolan. Rambis sits at his right hand as a loyal counselor. Everyone else is a subject looking for the first chance to rebel.

The Knicks’ kingdom is full of tumult. And when there’s chaos, the king is in danger.

For everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk

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