Even though New York, New York is so nice they named it twice, it has been 41 years and counting since the New York Knickerbockers brought an NBA title to the Big Apple; an astounding number considering the fact that they play in arguably the greatest city in the world with the largest media market. And for basketball fans in the five boroughs, hearing news of the Yankees winning titles year after year has become an almost sickening experience. However, it would appear that the savior has arrived in one Phil Jackson, the Zen Master and former successful coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. While Phil is coming in a different capacity then Knicks fans would prefer, he is still coming and if you talk to anyone on the streets of New York City, that means something.
The Knicks have represented nothing short of melodrama and failure for years, and this may be the move that will help the home team transition to one of success. While no one is running into the street in early celebration of an impending championship, it is clear that the city is a buzz of hope and anticipation that the man of many titles will be able to bring his leadership and maybe even a bit of magic to his alumni team, and put New York City back in the good graces of the basketball Gods. We have compiled a list of five reasons as to why the arrival of Phil Jackson may be the thing the Knicks need to finally turn things around.
5. Phil Jackson has the Pedigree to Make it Happen
Nothing speaks louder than championships and this is where Philip Douglas Jackson has made his bones, so to speak. As a young upstart coach, Jackson took over a Chicago Bulls team that had done nothing. He was assigned the task of bringing together an immensely talented group of players who had yet to reach their potential and he did this with avant-garde methods that were questioned every step of the way. While his time with the Bulls and a young Michael Jordan are remembered for an incredible record of winning, many are unaware that it took Jordan and the franchise six years to win their first of six titles. It wasn’t until Jackson was named coach for the 1989/90 season that the Bulls began to take on a personality of both unprecedented offense and righteous defense, leading to a decade-long dominance in the sport.
Jackson then took his show on the road out west to the City of Angels where he once again brought together a team of immense talent and giant egos who had yet to win anything. With the help of Shaquille O’Neal and a young guard named Kobe Bean Bryant, the coming years would bring five more titles for the Zen Master, cementing him into the annals of National Basketball Association history. If Jackson is able to carry over his success as a coach to his new role as team president, the Knicks win…
4. James L. Dolan has Finally Agreed to Give Up the Reigns, We Hope….
In the immortal words of the great Yogi Berra, is this deja vu all over again? It was a few short years ago that the Knicks introduced one Donnie Walsh as President of Basketball Operations. Walsh, the man who has a long track record of going against the grain with his selection of an unknown Reggie Miller to become part of the Indiana Pacers back in the late 1980’s, appeared to be the man to rescue a franchise in the midst of extreme dysfunction. The current roster was incapable of winning at bingo, no less an NBA contest, and this was made worse by the trials and tribulations of Isiah, I can’t pick a winner to save my life, Thomas.
Facing much adversity, the new Knicks president was able to pull off monster trades to acquire both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, and it wasn’t long before the blue and orange made the playoffs for the first time in six years, creating hope in a city where basketball has been; well, a has-been. However, the honeymoon was short lived due to the sage and eminent owner, James Dolan, who continued to make his presence felt where it was not welcomed.
He interfered and undermined Walsh at every step and it wasn’t long before the Knicks president decided that all was not what it was cracked up to be in the Big Apple. According to the New York Times, “Walsh bowed out himself that spring, having tired of James L. Dolan’s incessant meddling, departing before he could finish the job and enjoy the eventual payoff.” Even though he has vowed not to repeat his bad habits, it remains to be seen whether Mr. Dolan will keep his promise to stay away during the tenure of the 12-time champion Jackson. If he does, the Knicks win…
3. Carmelo Anthony Will Finally Learn to Play Defense
Even though the Knicks small forward and Olympic Gold Medal winner has proven himself as an offensive juggernaut, he still has the distinction of lacking in defensive prowess and refusing to play team-first ball. Anthony is currently holding down the second position in scoring behind the prodigal Kevin Durant for the NBA season, and he is well on his way to upholding his reputation as a clutch offensive player. However, times are a changing for the Syracuse alum as Jackson’s mantra has always been a team oriented game with a strong defensive mindset. Carmelo will more than likely have to learn a version of the triangle offense which means spreading the ball around, and he will have to finally figure out that the fewer points he allows his competition to score means more checks in the win column for the Knicks. One has to wonder if the adage, old dog new tricks, comes into play here. If Anthony gets on board, the Knicks win; it is as simple as that.
2. To Triangle or not to Triangle?
Phil Jackson has already stated that he has no desire to come down from the front office to the sidelines. While he still loves the idea of coaching, he is limited by the very vehicle that carried him through his two titles as a Knicks player, his body. Jackson’s knees are in such bad shape that he requires a modified high chair so he does not have to bend them while sitting down. There are those who have criticized this signing because they feel that Jackson will not be able to travel with the team due to his physical constraints. However, the legendary coach maintains that it is not his ability to travel with the team, but rather his inability to patrol the sidelines in order to communicate with his players during the game that is forcing his transition to the front office.
Many are also questioning as to why a man with no front office experience has been given such a large amount of money and power in one of the most storied franchises in the NBA. They believe that Phil’s true agenda is to coach from afar. Does the new coach that he will eventually put into place become a puppet of the Zen Master and apply his methods and strategies, hmm…Knicks fans should hope that the conspiracy theorists are right on this one. If they are, and Phil has a hands on approach, the Knicks win…
1. The Knicks Will Become a Team
Whether Phil Jackson stays in the front office, or pulls a Pat Riley mid-season and comes down to take the Knickerbockers to the promise land, one thing is for sure, the Knicks will learn the essence of team-first basketball. Jackson understands that while a winning group needs at least one great player, it also requires four others who will adhere to their roles appropriately. Jackson has always subscribed to this way of thinking which is why he employs the triangle offense in his coaching. The fundamental principle of the triangle is that every player will touch the ball during a play. According to Luke Walton, the small forward who played nine seasons under Phil Jackson’s triangle, “it’s really an offense that, whoever has the ball, the other four people are always an option. So you just have to have guys out there that are willing to keep it moving and not hold the ball for too long.”
The concern on everyone’s mind is whether or not Knicks franchise player, Carmelo Anthony, will have the ability or the willingness to adhere to a system that will take the ball out of his hands and place it in the hands of his teammates. He has stated publicly that Phil Jackson’s arrival means a new day in both Knickland and in his approach to the game. “I’m willing to do whatever,” Anthony said after practice Monday. “As long as it’s gonna put me in a position to win, I’m willing to do whatever. I’m not sold or stuck on my play.” If this talented player walks the walk, the Knicks win…
There remains many a question mark with the Knicks and their future under the Zen Master, Phil Jackson. Jackson has the resume to make anyone’s mother proud, but there are many things that would need to fall in line to raise the Knicks to the ranks of teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and San Antonio Spurs; teams that have proven year after year that they are championship caliber organizations. Dolan must understand his role as owner and not as general manager/coach, Anthony must find peace in fewer shots and more D, and the Knicks must become a team. If the stars align, New York might be witness to a title for the first time since ‘73’, and that will be a sight to see for the Big Apple.