Travel for a few days. I’m back now.
It’s been depressing listening to Phil Jackson recently. He’s increasingly making a spectacle of himself. His comments about LeBron and the current state of the NBA are just stupid. His expressed wish for a mobile big man who can protect the rim and anchor the defense are baffling, given that he traded Tyson Chandler last off-season, who happened to be the Knicks best player by a wide margin and is a truly excellent version of that which Phil now says is a priority. He sounds delusional when he talks about what will attract players to New York, as if teams in Golden State and San Antonio, for instance, aren’t playing offense with a level of flow and movement that *no* Jackson team ever played with. He gave himself credit for clearing tons of cap space, which is a joke. Amar’e Stoudemire, who was traded during the season, was in the final year of his deal this anyway. So was Chandler (and Phil traded him for a player, Jose Calderon, whose contract runs for two more years). The only player of note with a contract beyond this year that Jackson got rid was JR Smith. And of course he signed the overvalued Carmelo Anthony to a max contract. Relative to the Knicks’ payroll position when Jackson came aboard, their current cap space, while ample, is not attributable to savvy moves. It was foreordained.
Having said all that, the Knicks *could* turn things around pretty quickly. Maybe they’ll get a very good player with the number four pick in the draft. Maybe one of the available free agent big men – Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan or Marc Gasol – comes to New York (not that I am holding my breath). And perhaps a top tier free agent signs with the Knicks next year. This won’t make Phil a genius (the Knicks, hard as it is to believe, did win 54 games just two years ago and no calls Glen Grunwald a genius, though perhaps we should). But while reversing their laughing-stock status in relatively short order is far from out of the question, none of this adds up to a championship team, the standard by which Jackson will be judged. And while one never knows, Jackson’s first season does not inspire confidence. It’s not that the team went 17-65. Instead, what’s so worrisome is how incoherent he seems. He’s never himself actually constructed a championship team and yet he appears to lack the barest shred of humility about the task ahead, a necessary prerequisite for actually learning what the new job requires. He seems proud of his obvious ignorance of the *meaning* of newer insights about what constitutes winning basketball, popularly referred to as analytics. His first moves – particularly signing Carmelo to a max deal and trading away Tyson Chandler – were worrisome in the extreme the moment he made them.
Nothing he’s said or done since makes me feel any better.