The Knicks are like.......
......Victor Newman's Journey to "find himself."
My ex-wife is a fan of the Young and the Restless. When you are dating or married to someone for a long time and it is a real relationship, you get roped into some of their passions, hobbies or habits. During one of the seasons that I followed Y&R, Victor Newman, the main protagonist of the daytime soap fodder decided to take a cross country journey to "find himself." This meant traveling and finding his former wives, girlfriends, lovers and flings, in hope of a better understanding of himself. Of course, par for course with most people's journey to "find themselves," Victor Newman's journey ended up nowhere and he found nothing of any significance. He returned to Genoa City the same ruthless, successful, mumbling and obnoxious person he was before the attempt to "find himself."
Phil Jackson's journey back to the Knicks to "complete the circle," will likely end up the same way as Victor Newman's. "Completing the circle" and "finding oneself" are usually journeys left to the rich and retired. Social workers and school teachers do not have the time or excess money to take these journeys. Although, Mr. Ferrer, a Spaniard, who taught the same grade as me in Lynwood Unified School District would take trips to either South America (Peru was his favorite) or Thailand every summer after the school year concluded. But I don't think he was looking to "find himself." He was looking for something else, which he usually found. I apologize for the digression, but it helps to be paid $12 million a year to "complete the circle."
This journey with the Knicks is all about Phil Jackson's ego. This is a vanity project. And vanity projects like vanity record labels, vanity license plates and Vanity's singing career do not end well. Phil Jackson is the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks. But this is not about basketball for Phil Jackson. This is about Phil Jackson. For someone who preaches Zen, meditation and calm, Jackson can be a prick and has a ruthless disposition. He wants to prove that he can win a Championship in New York with Carmelo Anthony and a bunch of role players. He wants to prove that the triangle can work without the Greatest Player of All Time, the best complimentary player of all time, the most dominant player of modern basketball and the second best player of his generation. I have not mentioned that Phil Jackson's teams included a Sixth Man of the Year winner, the best rebounder of his generation, one of the most skilled big man of the last twenty years and a one of the best defenders of the new millennium. Phil Jackson paid his dues coaching in the CBA and in Puerto Rico, but he was also in the perfect place at the perfect time during the Bulls and Lakers' Championship years. In 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, without O'Neal and before Gasol, Phil's Kobe led teams flamed out in the first round. Both teams contained interesting rosters, a mix of young players and shooters. Perhaps, if Phil changed his philosophy or style of play, these in-between years Lakers could have won one or two more rounds in the Playoffs that were without a truly dominant team.
The truth of the matter is that Phil Jackson won because he had great players, not because he was a great coach or had any incredible system or philosophy. The triangle is also an incredibly difficult system to implement You need a top 10 all time talent or two and a superstar complimentary player (Pippen or Gasol), who has length, court vision, and selflessness to make it work. The triangle is also archaic in the modern pick and roll/drive and kick, stretch four three point shooting NBA. Unless, you have pre-2011 Kobe, LeBron, Durant, or the Brow, the triangle offense will not win any Championships. Its time has come and gone like real relationship songs and the politically conscious singer/songwriter.
Perhaps, Phil Jackson understood Kobe Bryant because (even though he may never want to admit it, even to himself) he is a lot like Kobe. After paying his dues and coaching on professional basketball's periphery, one would think 11 Championships would be enough. One would think that 6 Championships and mocking the general manager who build the team for you would be enough. One would think that 5 Championships, sleeping with the boss's daughter while collecting a massive paycheck from the boss and winning a political battle with the Logo would be enough. It is not enough for Phil Jackson. His ego needs the power and another chapter added to his legacy. His mind needs more success and another massive payday. The problem is that he is not willing to do the work to attempt the accomplish his goals. There are no more books to write. He's done the endorsing game. And he probably is tired of spewing his own bullshit at corporate speeches. This carries over to basketball. He won't crunch numbers. He won't do most of the scouting. He probably won't watch too much film. He is hoping that hiring the right people, an archaic system, the allure of New York City and his own charisma will be enough to attach his persona to a third Championship city in his journey, "completing the circle." It will not be.
Just as it is an exercise in futility for the never satisfied Kobe Bryant to keep hoisting up shots, it will be the same with the Knicks. Replace Kobe's grimaces and sarcastic profanity filled mini-tirades with a calm but empty cold smugness and a meaningless smile and you will have Phil Jackson's tenure with the Knicks. Phil has always been there to take credit for the works of others. It is Tex Winter's triangle offense. MJ, Kobe, Shaq and Scottie made the plays. Jerry Krause, Jerry West, and Mitch Kupchak built the teams. This time, when the ending comes, Phil will make it look like he was not the reason for failure. The personnel was not right. The front office failed to do their job, and it is difficult to build a team in the modern NBA. It won't be Phil's fault when his tenure is over. Phil Jackson was once associated with a counterculture, but now he is Victor Newman, a corporate asshole who instead of speaking in technocratic mumbles speaks calmly by using Native American imagery and ridiculous metaphors. Good luck, Knicks fans, enjoy the Zen Master. My copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I bought at a flea market, sits in a box in my garage.
An Irreverant Roster Run Down
It is always entertaining to look at a roster of a bad team, so let's look at who is actually taking the court for the Knicks.
Quincy Acy: Not sure how can an "energy guy" be overrated but Acy is overrated as an energy guy. He is good for dunking theatrics.
Cole Aldrich: I didn't know he was from Minnesota. He always looked like an Iowan to me.
Carmelo Anthony: A good business man, but he's not just a businessman; he's a business, man.
Andrea Bargnani: He looks better in a suit than on the court.
Jose Calderon: Professional
Samuel Dalembert: Not sure if he does anything else besides protecting the rim.
Cleanthony Early: I knew that he is on this roster, but I don't think I have seen him play and the Knicks are on national TV a lot.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: He likes to shoot, and he's not all that accurate.
J.R. Smith: I can't lie. I like watching him play.
Shane Larkin: A backup point guard who plays crunch time minutes occasionally. And you wonder why the Knicks are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference
Pablo Prigioni: I wish he came to the NBA before he was 50 years old, that said, he looks pretty spry for a 50 year old.
Jason Smith: Jack Sikma without the hair and character.
Iman Shumpert: Not a very good shooter. Does not get to the free throw line much. Average to good defender, but not a true stopper. Some people love this guy though.
Amare Stoudemire: We will always have the Phoenix Suns version of Amare.
Knicks Watchability Essay
These are some thoughts when you are watching the Knicks: 1.) "Why are they on national TV again?" 2. "Wait, isn't there supposed to be ball movement and player movement in the Triangle Offense?" "Oh, the players are saying 'screw the triangle, I need to get my next contract.'" 3. "That's not how the Bulls or the Lakers ran it." 4. "Mid-range jumpers are fun." 5. "Shoot the ball, Pablo, damn it." 6. "Amare was great five years ago, really, he was." 7. "I think I'll go wash dishes and come back at the 5 minute mark in the 4th quarter."
Paul Tee's Prognosis
Nothing. Looking at this roster, there is absolutely nothing to get excited about. This Knicks are awful, but they are not awfully entertaining like the some of the early millennium Clippers teams, or the post-Championship Bulls teams. The Sixers are intentionally bad. The Knicks are/were trying, but somehow are still awful and that has to take the team's fan base to the depths of despair. Last year's Bucks were awful, but you still had the Greek Freak, and weird games of Zaza Pachulia and Ramon Sessions to keep you entertained. There is no redeeming quality on this Knicks roster. Phil Jackson and the front office are banking on the allure of New York and Madison Square Garden to bring in a superstar, but if you are an NBA superstar, would you want to play with Carmelo Anthony and a bunch of bench guys. In the era of social media, there is no need to play in a major market to push your brand or market yourself. Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard are featured in national commercial campaigns while playing in small markets and Championship contenders. The Knicks will have make some gross overpay to attract any worthwhile player, but money is something that the Knicks have in abundance, it just won't help them win.
The Knicks will miss the Playoffs this year and next year. Derek Fisher will be fired or asked to resigned by the middle of the 2016-2017 season, so he can spend more time with this family. Phil Jackson will come down from the front office to coach only in home games and games in LA. The Knicks make the Playoffs but lose in the first round. Then, Phil will look at his bank account and look around to see if there is an attractive owner's daughter to potentially fornicate with. The latter is not available in New York, so Phil resigns after the 2017 season, but works out a buyout agreement where he stays on as a "consultant," and still gets paid the remaining 12 million per season in his contract. Phil quotes Native American leaders, Che Guevara, Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa while wearing a dashiki and a dream catcher around his neck in his final press conference, and comments that it is the right thing to do and is never heard from again (until three years later where he uses the media to orchestrate a power move to become coach and GM of the Lakers, stating that he wants one more chance to complete the circle). Carmelo leads the league in scoring in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.