By John Schmeelk
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I haven’t written anything about the Knicks in a month. Why, you ask? There simply hasn’t been anything meaningful to say. The team continues to lose, which is the most beneficial thing for them to do. The players on the floor either won’t be here next season or won’t have an especially meaningful role when this team is rebuilt.
Derek Fisher doesn’t have the talent necessary to win. This is the definition of playing out the string.
But most people who cover the Knicks for a living don’t have the luxury of choosing not to write, or covering something else. They have to find things to write about, and that’s why all the bogus non-controversies have popped up over the last month. Knicks fans have argued about them on Twitter, because until the NBA draft lottery on May 19, there won’t be anything new to discuss.
This season will go on Phil Jackson’s ledger as a failure, whether he intended to tank or not. Arguing whether it was part of his plan from the beginning (it wasn’t, in my opinion) is irrelevant and a waste of time. The bottom line is that the team is in a better position to improve quickly as a 14-win team than it would have been as a 32-win team desperately trying to make it into the playoffs. Jackson’s tenure will be decided by what the Knicks do the next two offseasons, and where they are when the NBA season tips off in 2017.
If the team is championship caliber, no one will care about his first year. If the team is still struggling to make the playoffs, Jackson will be rightfully criticized and could be out of a job.
In truth, two years is the smallest window this team should be judged on. Building a winner in the NBA takes time. Establishing a culture and strategy that can carry the franchise for a decade should be the first objective, and that should center on whomever the Knicks pick in the first round of the draft. The most encouraging thing about Jackson’s rookie season as president is that it seems James Dolan has kept to his word and stayed out of Knicks affairs. There is nothing more important than that.
Why does anyone care what Charley Rosen has to say? The last time he was involved in basketball he was in the CBA (where one of his jobs was as an assistant to Jackson). Now he is simply a confidant of Jackson, with whom he has collaborated with on some books.
His comment that Karl-Anthony Towns does not have a big enough butt to fit the Knicks’ needs might have no reflection at all on what Jackson and his front office is thinking. In the same article, Rosen admitted he has barely watched Jahlil Okafor play this year.
Should anybody care what someone who hasn’t even watched Okafor play this year have to say? Nope, but they act like they care because there is nothing else to talk about. People are trying to judge Jackson’s ideas about how to build a team and who he wants to draft and sign in free agency before he even has a chance to do anything.
There has also been some hand-wringing over potentially bringing back players like Alexey Shved or Andrea Bargnani, and the valuable cap space they could take up. No moves would be made on either of those two players until the big fish have either been caught or landed elsewhere. Wasting any time worrying about those two players is also a pointless endeavor.
So is freaking out about the triangle. The way the narrative has flipped on the triangle is mind-boggling to me. Before the season, the triangle was going to save the Knicks’ isolation-heavy offense. I cautioned people then that the triangle was only as good as the players in it (and caught heat for it). Now that the triangle is apparently going to scare free agents away and is the bane of the Knicks’ offense, I will once again say that the triangle is only as good as the players in it.
To say that great players can’t be creative in the triangle and won’t be willing to come to the Knicks because it curbs spontaneity need to put on their memory caps. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant became two of the most dynamic scoring one-on-one players in NBA history in the triangle. There is plenty of room for creativity for the players who are good enough to take advantage of it. Shved has gone through stretches averaging nearly 20 a game in the triangle. If he can do it, so can the countless other backcourt players in the NBA who are far more skilled than Shved.
Once the Knicks are put out of their misery in the next two weeks, attention will finally completely shift to the players the Knicks can get in the draft and in free agency. Sadly, that is all that will matter between now and the start of next season. Jackson will build this team from scratch. He will get judged on the results.
For those of you that haven’t read them, Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal has done a great job breaking down some of the potential Knicks draft picks. I’ll try to do something similar — though likely not half as good — in this space, going through potential Knicks targets in both the draft and free agency.
I plan to write about overall strategy, how a ballooning camp might affect the Knicks’ offseason plans and everything else the Knicks need to consider this offseason.
The fun begins soon, and for Knicks fans the season can’t be over soon enough.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.