The Knicks were a flat out disaster on the court last season.
New York fans are not renown for their patience so rebuilding there would always lead to cries of pain, but the Knicks being terrible on the court was to be expected last season. The real question in Phil Jackson’s first season was not wins and losses but rather something more intangible:
Could he change the culture of the organization and start to lay a foundation for future success?
“I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Knicks since I left here. Love, because playing here was such a joy. Hate, because the Bulls always had to get past the Knicks in some very contentious series to advance in the playoffs. But I had to break up the team for us to move forward in the right direction. That means getting talented players that fit with each other on and off the court. Also getting players who understand that while playing basketball is fun, this is also a business. So we need guys who will ice after practice, watch what they eat, avoid having those three extra beers when they party, and get the rest they need. I think we succeeded in getting this particular cultural change.”
Guys such as Andrea Bargnani certainly did not get how to be professional, and they are gone. In their place come solid pros such as Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo. Those players should lead the way and set the example for Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, and Langston Galloway.
Throw in a healthy Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks should be improved on the court and better off it. Is that enough to make the playoffs in the East? If everything comes together they may be in the mix for a spot.
Is that enough to make the New York media and some fans happy? Certainly not.
But I’ve said this before: If Phil Jackson can keep owner James Dolan out of the decision-making process and guide/let the basketball people just do their thing, he’s worth $12 million a year. It still will take years to build the Knicks back up (and we can debate if Jackson is capable of that, I think the jury is still out) but if he can keep the Knicks on one path rather than the constantly changing it will let them build a foundation.