By John Schmeelk
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With their hope for the playoffs all but extinguished, the Knicks had a chance at the trade deadline to land some future assets.
They failed miserably.
Despite having useful veteran players, including Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings on expiring contracts, team president Phil Jackson was unable to land any draft picks or young talent.
There are multiple reports from good and trustworthy reporters about how the Rose-for-Rubio trade fell apart, and there seems to be a fairly clear picture if you put them all together. The Knicks resisted a straight-up trade of the two point guards when discussions started, demanding more assets, such as second-round picks and power forward Nemanja Bjelica.
The Timberwolves balked and wouldn’t budge. At the last moment, the Knicks agreed to trade Rose for Rubio, but the Timberwolves had moved off the deal by then, according to reports.
It’s unclear whether or not the Knicks could have ever actually had Rubio if they agreed to the one-for-one swap earlier. It seems like they could have, but without knowing exactly how the negotiation went, it’s unfair to kill Jackson for the result.
Not getting Rubio is far from a disaster. Both point guards departing this offseason will leave the Knicks with cap space. It’s an easy argument to make that Rubio’s current skills and contract would be preferable, and I detailed why here and here. But the Knicks will have another chance to spend that money this summer.
All that said, Jackson’s inability to consummate any deal is a continuation of the failures that put the Knicks in this position. It makes last summer’s moves look even more disastrous. Right now, Jackson looks incompetent and completely unable to work within the NBA framework to get the Knicks out of their current situation and on a path toward becoming a competitive team again.
Last summer, the Knicks traded Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant for win-now point guard Derrick Rose, who hasn’t helped the Knicks win enough games and will likely walk away this summer, leaving the Knicks with nothing to show for the trade. That deal also forced Jackson to sign center Joakim Noah, who is in the running for the worst free agent signing from last summer and owns one of the worst deals in the NBA.
The Rose deal and Noah signing were supposed to get the Knicks to the playoffs, but instead they are tied in the loss column for the fifth-worst record in the NBA. Now Jackson will have to reset the roster for the fourth time, and his past history lends little confidence that he can do it with any sort of confidence.
Other than his moves in the summer of 2015 (most of which were subsequently erased in 2016), Jackson has made the team worse. After drafting a generational talent in Kristaps Porzingis and finding a steal in Willy Hernangomez, the Knicks’ moves since have all fizzled. Carmelo Anthony intimated Thursday night that he doesn’t understand Jackson’s plan for the team. In other words, Anthony is on the same page as the rest of the fan base.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Thursday that opposing teams have trouble getting Jackson on the phone to discuss potential trades. The Knicks president has never made any significant moves at the trade deadline, and some blame his lack of relationships with other team executives for those failures.
The trades that he has made (spare the Tim Hardaway Jr. one) have been disasters. The trades of Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert netted the team nothing of value. It’s fair to wonder whether Jackson understands the type of player who can help a team win in the present-day NBA. The fact that he jumped at the chance to pay Noah $72 million should tell fans all they need to know.
Worse, if Jackson does understand the players that he needs, does he have the wherewithal to acquire them? It doesn’t appear he does.
The Knicks still have a way forward with a lottery pick in this year’s draft and a slew of talented guards available in the top 10. But until that time, all Knicks fans have left is hoping this team loses as many games as possible over the next two months to amass pingpong balls.
Unfortunately, Jackson will still be the man making decisions this offseason, and that understandably, does not make Knicks fans very confident.
It was good to see the Knicks pick up where they left off after the All-Star break, getting whacked by the Cavaliers. The more games they lose, the better. Porzingis left the game with an ankle injury. If it is anything relatively serious, he should be shut down for the year. There’s no more hiding it. It is time to tank.
For all things Knicks and Giants, please follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk