Phil Jackson and the Knicks have turned the mundane ritual of NBA exit interviews into the latest round of drama, highlighting a franchise that can’t get out of its own way right now.
That the Knicks want to trade Carmelo Anthony this summer is as big a secret as there is drug use at the Coachella Music Festival. Anthony might be good with a move if the Knicks and he worked quietly to find a new home for him that worked for both sides — remember Anthony has a no-trade clause — but then Jackson went tone deaf and said this.
“We have not been able to win with him on the court at this time, and I think that the direction of our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”
Anthony responded on Instagram, and Anthony’s nature in these situations is to dig in his heels, not run.
Then Michelle Roberts and the National Basketball Players’ Association (the players’ union) came out with this statement Saturday:
“We voiced with the Commissioner today our view on the inappropriate comments by Knicks President Phil Jackson. If players under contract cannot, under threat of league discipline, speak openly about their desire to be employed elsewhere, we expect management to adhere to the same standards. The door swings both ways when it comes to demonstrating loyalty and respect.”
She’s spot on. If NBA players get fined heavily for asking to be traded, then team executives should have the same restrictions. For Jackson to publicly suggest that Anthony should waive his no-trade clause – that Jackson gave him — merits discipline.
And that may not even be Jackson’s biggest problem.
Kristaps Porzingis skipped his exit interview due to his frustration with the front office and the dysfunction and direction of the team. He’s the team’s best player and the face of the franchise — and he’s far from the only player unhappy, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.
Porzingis isn’t alone. Players are privately fuming that they want no part of the organization’s summer slate of triangle offense regimen at the team’s suburban New York practice facility, league sources told The Vertical. In reality, there’s an open rebellion to the triangle – for the offense itself, and by extension, the discord and dysfunction that its implementation has burdened upon everyone….
Beyond moving Anthony out of town, Jackson sees the resolution of the franchise’s issues through the prism of an offense the coaches don’t want to teach and that the players don’t want to run.
“To Phil, the culture is the triangle,” a league source involved in the dynamic told The Vertical.
Even when Phil was winning rings in Los Angeles and Chicago, the culture was set not by the triangle but by the work ethic and drive of guys such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq. People set a culture, not an offense. Jackson certainly understands that, but his ego seems wrapped up in proving the triangle can still win in the NBA.
Players talk. Agents talk. And all of this going on in New York is not going to help recruit free agents this summer. The Knicks can still get guys, but it’s going to be because they are offering more money than anyone else, not because players are eager to be a part of this organization right now.
If you have read this far and thought “Phil Jackson has to go” remember the final two years of his contract just got picked up. He’s not going anywhere.
Which means the drama is far from over around this team.