Now that Carmelo Anthony is shutting it down for the season, the Knicks’ destiny as a bottom-of-the-barrel lottery team is complete. It’s not exactly a banner year for Phil Jackson in his first full season as President of Basketball Operations.
One person who saw this coming was Jerry Krause, the former general manager of the Chicago Bulls during the Jordan era, the architect of Jackson’s six championship teams in Chicago.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Krause said by phone Wednesday night. “I knew Phil had a bad ballclub. If [James] Dolan offered him $2 million a year or even $5 million, he wouldn’t have taken it. But $12 million is overwhelming. Phil didn’t take the job because he thought he had a playoff club. He took the job for the money.”
Granted, the $12 million salary Dolan gave to Jackson is hard to turn down. But it’s still far too early to write off Jackson’s tenure as a failure after one lost season. The team bought out Amar’e Stoudemire and has Andrea Bargnani coming off the books this summer, a likely top-five pick, and a ton of cap space. Just today, they picked up another second-round pick from the Rockets in exchange for Pablo Prigioni. It was always going to be a slow process, but Jackson is already doing a better job than any of his last several predecessors.
However, Anthony’s health in his age-30 season is concerning. He just signed a five-year, $122 million contract and already is ending his season prematurely due to knee surgery. Surgery he should have had sooner, but he wanted to play in this past Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. Management allowing him to do that was an oversight. The Knicks may have a brighter future than they have in recent years, but they’re not going to be good—truly good—anytime soon.