One thing Phil Jackson has promised would change with him in charge of the Knicks has already come to fruition — he is a lot more open. Knicks GMs used to appear in public about as often as the giant squid, but Jackson has kept an open, running dialog with the New York media.
He’s even gone so far as to break down the Knicks roster.
He did it for ESPNNewYork.com, and while there are no shocking insights here I can’t remember another GM/president doing this publicly with their team.
A few highlights, starting with Carmelo Anthony:
“Carmelo Anthony is obviously the team’s only certified All-Star. It’s also no secret that Melo has to keep the ball moving, but he’s committed to doing this. Passing has never been a great strength of his, but in the triangle he’ll be able to have check-off reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third. There’ll be plenty of iso opportunities for Melo, and in the triangle it’ll be very difficult for defenses to double-team him.”
On Iman Shumpert:
“Even though Iman Shumpert was in [former Knicks coach] Mike Woodson’s dog house for much of last season, he’s one of my favorites because he’s simply our best on-ball defender at the 2 position and also against the bigger 1s.”
On J.R. Smith:
“The 2 position is our deepest, and J.R. Smith is easily the best athlete on the team. But J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot.”
On Samuel Dalembert:
“I’m encouraged by how well Dalembert played against the Spurs in the playoffs (with Dallas). However, throughout his career he’s been very susceptible to foul trouble, so his floor-time will most likely be limited to about 26 minutes. Even so, we’d like him to be a 10-and-10 player.”
That’s optimistic for Dalembert.
I love that Jackson did this, and he tried to be positive in his assessments. I don’t think by January Knicks fans are going to be as forgiving with these guys. Learning the triangle takes time, it takes trust of your teammates, and it takes the right kinds of players to fill roles. Players the Knicks are not exactly flush with.
If the Knicks are going to find their way into the playoffs in the East, it’s going to be because Derek Fisher got the team to play improved defense. Anthony will still put up points, the Knicks will score, but that is not the end of the floor where they really need to make strides.