Phil Jackson seemed intent on leaving the Knicks as a monument to himself and the triangle offense — he was going to turn the franchise around, Derek Fisher was going to run the triangle offense as coach, and Phil would add “savior of the Knicks” to his legacy.
It didn’t work out. At all. The Zen flow and style that made Jackson a great coach didn’t work as an executive. Derek Fisher was not a great coach, the players hated the triangle, and building a team in the modern NBA is not something one can do on reputation alone. Knicks owner James Dolan also always had his people on the inside — Steve Mills at the top of the ladder, he was Jackson’s GM and is now the Knicks’ president of operations — which made Jackson feel he never had full control. (Sources told me this was why David Griffin didn’t want the GM job after Phil, he was not allowed to clean house and bring in his people.)
Yesterday came the report Jackson did talk to teams about trading Kristaps Porzingis last draft, then Thursday night Mills
covered his ass said he tried to talk Jackson into a change of direction from his triangle ways, as reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post.
“Everyone was frustrated,’’ Mills said of last season. “One of our players (Carmelo Anthony) was obviously frustrated. Our fans were frustrated, we were frustrated, and so it led us to think we have to do something different and I felt strongly about it. I addressed it with Phil and our coaching staff and our entire staff, that in my view we weren’t a team that really stood for anything in particular and that needed to change.
“If it meant changing the triangle, it if meant changing our day-to-day stuff, we had to become more definable by something.”
It was apparent to everyone that Porzingis needed to be the focal point of the team and the face of the franchise… well, maybe not Jackson, but everyone else. The move comes with risks, Porzingis is not the most durable of players, but he’s too good not to be in that role. The Knicks needed to give him a chance. Mills and Scott Perry are doing that, and coach Jeff Hornacek has Porzingis in better spots and the team playing faster and better.
A change was needed in New York. With Dolan still owning the team the question of how much change there will be — or when the other shoe will drop — looms, but moving on from Jackson was necessary if he wasn’t going to move on from the triangle.