Phil Jackson is officially back with the New York Knicks. After having loads of success in his playing days decades ago as a Knick, Jackson will return to the team in a front office role as the team president. He’ll try and fix the mess that Knicks owner Jim Dolan has created over the last year or so.
And what a mess it’s become. The Knicks are fighting for the last playoff spot in the East, but when you’re pouring $87.7 million into a team, you expect that team to be competing for a title–at least for the division title. That couldn’t be farther from the case when it comes to these New York Knicks. Sitting four games back from the 30-35 Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks are on the outside looking in. Carmelo Anthony is having a career season, but that’s the lone bright spot shining in the big apple. Everything else has been completely disappointing.
So, with that in mind, change has to come. There really has to be at that point–there is no other option. I don’t know if such an extreme change with Phil Jackson as your team’s president, but there has to be some change. And maybe Phil Jackson is the right man to do it. I honestly can’t tell you if that’s the case or not, so I won’t pretend like I can. But something needed to happen.
The fact of the matter is, though, that Phil Jackson has no front office experience. He’s never been more than a mere consultant on the NBA level and he hasn’t been an official employee in anyone’s front office on that same level. So being a bit skeptical about this move is the right play for Knicks fans everywhere. A mere winning attitude and a bit of zen isn’t going to fix the Knicks.
If Phil can get the energy flow in Madison Square Garden going again, that’d be great. But first, he has to build this roster that has been torn down so eloquently that even Isaiah Thomas himself would have to give the Knicks’ brass a hand. They’re a team with $87 million committed in salary this season and $91 million committed in salary next season.
In other words, the Knicks made a commitment to their current roster years ago. They thought they’d be set to compete for titles over the next two to three years. After a few encouraging seasons with constant improvement, we should understand why. But making moves to throw away your draft picks until 2018 isn’t the proper way to go about building for the future and the present.
Now that he’s just building for the future, Jackson will have to deal with that lack of draft access. And even when Carmelo Anthony chooses not to opt in this offseason, the Knicks will still be just above the salary cap threshold. They won’t have much room to create a new roster, let alone sign additions that will help the current one win.With their first round pick gone this season, they can wave goodbye to any immediate contribution they were hoping to get from the draft.
Jackson has the blessing of Michael Jordan as a front office man. Jordan thinks that Jackson will be just fine because he knows how to manage personalities and win and (insert narrative here). But, at the same time, Jackson will be presented with problems that he’s never seen before and has no experience in dealing with. Carmelo Anthony is almost completely out of the door with the Knicks committing as much salary as they have to so many bad players. From J.R Smith to Raymond Felton to Andrea Bargnani, this team is awful. They’re not getting any younger and their chances of improving are slim to none.
It’ll take at least two years before this team has a clean slate unless Jackson can work miracles and dish off the bad deals that this team has taken on. He’ll need to exercise immense patience in order for this thing to work. If the way Jackson has coached throughout his career is any indication, that patience may not be there.
Jackson has always signed on to coach teams that are right on the cusp of winning a title. He’s always been the guy that pushed teams over that hump–not the one that got them there. He came to Jordan’s rescue in the middle of his career. He came to L.A just a bit after O’Neal did. He left the Lakers just after O’Neal was traded and returned a bit before they got Pau Gasol. Jackson isn’t a team builder, he’s a motivator–and that’s just fine. But for this job, that’ll need to change. This team is more than a work in progress; the work is really Jackson’s job to start.
We’ll see if Jackson has the patience to deal with a situation of this magnitude. If he does, the Knicks may be in good hands. If he doesn’t, the Knicks could be over $12 million short.