ESPN reported earlier today that the Knicks and team president Phil Jackson re-upped for another two years. Coincidentally, a few hours later, Charley Rosen of FanRag Sports published a postmortem of the team’s terrible 2016-17 season.
Rosen was Jackson’s former assistant in the ‘80s and is a longtime friend. He was a fly on the wall during the 2014-15 campaign, relaying Jackson shitting on his own players to the world, and earlier this season his columns stirred up some trouble with Carmelo Anthony. With the history between the two, it’s not a stretch to believe that Rosen’s opinions about the Knicks frequently come directly from Jackson, and even when they don’t, they’re coming from somebody intimately familiar with his thinking.
Early on in his article, Rosen makes it clear that he doesn’t know much about the quality of various players:
How do we account for New York’s lack of success, despite having a probable future Hall of Famer (Carmelo Anthony), a one-time MVP (Derrick Rose), and a unicorn (Kristaps Porzingis)?
Not forgetting Joakim Noah, who has been the NBA’s most outstanding defender and also a past member of an All-NBA team (both in 2014).
Plus Courtney Lee, one of the league’s most highly regarded complementary players. And Brandon Jennings, who was touted as being a contender for Sixth Man of the Year.
Another way to write that: The Knicks have a probable Hall of Famer who’s declining (Carmelo Anthony), a promising young player (Kristaps Porzingis), three over-the-hill players who are barely NBA-quality (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings), and, uh, another guy (Courtney Lee).
Rosen goes through the list of who is to blame for the Knicks’ dismal season: Knicks fans, because they love Melo even when he stinks and supposedly won’t tolerate a rebuild; Melo, because of his ball-hogging ways and reluctance to embrace the triangle; head coach Jeff Hornacek, because he wasn’t ready for the bright lights of Broadway, is too nice to the media, and is caught in between two play styles; Noah and Rose, because they were bad and got hurt; and Porzingis—who was “poised to have an All-Star season”—because he never fully recovered from an injury.
He ends with the biggest source of blame for the Knicks’ struggles (setting aside owner James Dolan for a moment): Phil Jackson. Jackson “must assume the lion’s share of the blame,” Rosen writes. It’s true, but frankly somewhat of a surprise coming from Rosen. So why is Phil to blame?
While his decisions were made for worthy reasons, too many of them either simply backfired or were decimated by a perpetual series of injuries to key components of his squad.
Hmm. Noah has been declining and struggling with injuries for three years, yet was signed to a four-year, $72 million deal. Rose hasn’t been good since 2012, yet Jackson still traded useful players for him and his $20 million contract. Both ended the season injured, but weren’t particularly successful when healthy, an eventuality that wasn’t too hard to predict.
Knicks fans should take heart, however. According to Rosen, everything’s going to be better next year:
However, the Knicks’ fortunes could definitely improve next season. That’s because with Lee, Hernangomez, a stronger Porzingis, a healthier Lance Thomas, a valuable backup center in Kyle O’Quinn, and the continued development of Ron Baker, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Maurice Ndour, plus plenty of salary cap money available and a high first-round pick, the potential grounds for the first real steps on the team’s return to glory are already in place.
Ron Baker, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Maurice Ndour: These are the building blocks that will lead the Knicks to return to glory.