Extra Pass: Phil Jackson and Knicks deserve each other

3 Comments

Phil Jackson shook hands with New York Knicks owner James Dolan, walked gingerly to the podium and comfortably lifted the microphones to fit his 6-foot-8 frame.

“I don’t have prepared remarks, as you can see,” Jackson said, practically bragging. “I’m shooting from the cuff.”

The skills Jackson showed yesterday – an ease with Dolan, a confidence that stems from winning 13 championships and an ability to speak publicly and persuasively – won him his introductory press conference. But today begins Jackson’s real term as the Knicks’ president, and a different set of skills – preparation and organization (though still an ability to work with Dolan) – will become essential now that the cameras are gone.

Dolan’s continued search for stars paid off in a big way. Yesterday. Today and beyond, this partnership exists at least one stage removed from the bright lights, in an area where the real work must be done.

Whatever happens from here, the Knicks and Jackson deserve each other.

Since he began overseeing the Knicks in 2001, Dolan’s defining move has been trading for Carmelo Anthony. Not content to wait for Melo in free agency the following summer, Dolan insisted the Knicks trade for him during the 2010-11 season. The result: The Knicks sent valuable assets to the Nuggets and, consequently, haven’t built a true contender around Melo.

At least Dolan got his star, the Knicks’ best player since Patrick Ewing.

Dolan has said the Knicks will often lead the NBA in payroll, because they play in the largest market. And kudos to Dolan for riding his advantage. But nothing precludes him from building balanced rosters rather than just chasing stars. Since Dolan took over, the Knicks have had more $10 million-salaried players than any franchise in the league:

image

Source: ESPN.com

And most of those Knicks players haven’t been worth their salary. Their cache inflated the perception of them in ways they didn’t back up on the court.

Jackson – whose salary is a reported $12 million, dwarfing his front-office counterparts around the league – is Dolan’s latest overhyped star.

Since retiring from coaching, Jackson has taken no significant formal steps to prepare for becoming a general manager. He hasn’t worked as a front-office assistant – his minimal contributions as a volunteer advisor for the Pistons hardly count – and he basically admitted to taking this job only because he’s too old to play and too limp to coach.

He doesn’t deserve a prime front-office position.

And with the exception of the pay, he doesn’t have one.

The Knicks risk losing their bester player this summer. Their roster is old, their cap space non-existent for next season. They have no first-round pick this year or 2016 and no second-round pick in any of the next four drafts.

This is a miserable situation only salvaged by New York’s drawing power.

That worked to get Jackson, but how much further that advantage extends depends entirely on the work Jackson puts in now.

Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, Jackson must plan to undertake the mundane tasks of scouting, analyzing and developing. As much as Dolan treats it differently, the job is not all glamor.

Jackson did what he was paid to do yesterday. But if he’s going to succeed with the Knicks, he must do more today while nobody is watching.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but they made enough defensive and hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

A post shared by NBA (@nba) on

Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

8 Comments

Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

Getty Images
5 Comments

Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.