Phil Jackson: “I think we succeeded” in changing Knicks’ culture

20 Comments

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?

Jackson thinks he did, as he told Charlie Rosen for ESPN.

“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.

Phil Jackson rips Andrea Bargnani: “AB was and still is a big tease”

15 Comments

Throughout his first full season as president of the Knicks, Phil Jackson gave ESPN.com’s Charley Rosen significant behind-the-scenes access and insight to his thought process, which has culminated in an after-the-fact series of pieces telling the story of the season from Jackson’s perspective. The latest of these was released on Monday, and it featured Jackson’s final assessment of every player on the roster. He had high praise for the likes of Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas.

Andrea Bargnani, on the other hand, didn’t get such a good report card:

“AB was and still is a big tease. When he was injured he refused to do simple non-contact activities like dummy our offense in practice. He seemed to be a malingerer and this had a bad effect on the team, and also on the way the Knicks fans reacted to him. When he was on the court, he had a hard time staying intense, didn’t hustle back in offense-to-defense transition, wasn’t active enough in defending screen-rolls. Still, his offense is perfectly suited to the triangle because he really doesn’t have to work very hard to get shots. He’s another guy we renounced, but whether we can agree on financial terms for his return, or he winds up someplace else, AB will always be somewhat of an enigma.”

Obviously, Jackson made these assessments before free agency played out, and the Knicks didn’t re-sign Bargnani. He’s across town in Brooklyn now. It’s not a surprise to learn that Jackson didn’t think very highly of Bargnani, who has underperformed throughout his career. Before Jackson got to New York, the Knicks gave up a lot to get Bargnani, and the future picks they surrendered have hamstrung his ability to make the team better. All for a trade that was mocked at the time and a player that the Knicks made no effort to re-sign.

It’s hard to imagine too many Knicks fans disagreeing with Jackson’s assessment of Bargnani.

Report: Knicks guaranteed just $75,000 of Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s contract

2 Comments

Thanasis Antetokounmpo declined the Knicks’ required tender last season. He then turned down more lucrative overseas offers for a low-paying contract with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate.

That allowed the Knicks to control his development and maintain exclusive negotiating rights with him among NBA teams.

What did he get in return?

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

The Knicks have 13 players with guaranteed contracts plus Langston Galloway, who’s a lock to make the regular-season roster.

That leaves only one regular-season roster spot up for grabs.

In addition to Antetokounmpo, the Knicks gave Darion Atkins and Wesley Saunders partially guaranteed contracts.

Bobby Marks:

In other words, Antetokounmpo will have to earn the vacant roster slot over Atkins and Saunders on the merits. If all three players have similar guarantees, the Knicks won’t have much financial incentive to keep one over the others.

Antetokounmpo has more pro experience than Atkins and Saunders, so maybe he’ll snag the spot. I might even call him a slight favorite.

But if Atkins or Saunders outperforms him in training camp, Antetokounmpo might get just a $75,000 reward for his loyalty to the Knicks over the last year.

This is why I recommend most second-rounders sign the required tender rather than allow teams to stash them. Even if Antetokounmpo had to spend last season in the D-League anyway, he could have negotiated with every NBA team this summer for a more favorable contract. With Antetokounmpo stuck signing with the Knicks or no NBA team, they used their leverage well.

Andrew Wiggins only unanimous All-Rookie first-teamer, Jordan Clarkson tops Marcus Smart for final first-team spot

14 Comments

Andrew Wiggins (who won Rookie of the Year), Nikola Mirotic, Nerlens Noel and Elfrid Payton were presumed All-Rookie first-team locks.

It seemed the final spot would come down to Jordan Clarkson and Marcus Smart – and the Lakers guard won out.

All-Rookie first team (first votes-second votes-points)

  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota (130-0-260)
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago (128-2-258)
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia (125-2-252)
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando (121-8-250)
  • Jordan Clarkson, L.A. Lakers (74-52-200)

All-Rookie second team (first votes-second votes-points)

  • Marcus Smart, Boston (28-86-142)
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota (22-91-135)
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn (7-93-107)
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver (3-91-97)
  • Langston Galloway, New York (7-58-72)

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (first-place votes in parentheses):

Rodney Hood, Utah, 54 (1); Tarik Black, L.A. Lakers, 28; K.J. McDaniels, Houston, 20; Dante Exum, Utah, 17 (3); Jabari Parker, Milwaukee, 13; Mitch McGary, Oklahoma City, 9; Aaron Gordon, Orlando, 5 (1); Spencer Dinwiddie, Detroit, 4; Jerami Grant, Philadelphia, 4; Kostas Papanikolaou, Houston, 4; T.J. Warren, Phoenix, 4; Damjan Rudez, Indiana, 3; Tyler Ennis, Milwaukee, 2; Joe Ingles, Utah, 2; JaKarr Sampson, Philadelphia, 2; James Ennis, Miami, 1; Cory Jefferson, Brooklyn, 1; Tyler Johnson, Miami, 1; Shabazz Napier, Miami, 1; Nik Stauskas, Sacramento, 1; James Young, Boston, 1

Overall, the teams are pretty spot on, and the top vote-getters after the second team are deserving of strong consideration.

But get further down the list of players who got votes? Someone has to explain to me how anyone could consider many of these players a top-10 rookie. Strangely, a quick glance of the voting breakdown shows few examples of homerism in these outliers.

Phil Jackson asks Knicks fans to “remain optimistic”

17 Comments

Did Phil Jackson just ask New York Knicks fans to be optimistic? This rings of the end of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” where the cast sings “Always look on the bright side of life” while being crucified.

It’s been a historically bad season in New York. The Knicks are 14-60 — that’s both the worst record in the NBA and the most losses in Knicks franchise history.

Jackson felt he needed to address the Knicks season ticket holders as the team approaches the draft and free agency, and did so in a letter and video that ESPN got a hold of. Of course, Jackson tried to put a positive spin on things in what was essentially a pitch to season ticket holders.

“While I know this has been a challenging season for our team on the court, I can also tell you that everyone in the organization is working tirelessly to get our Knicks back to a place where we are once again competing at the highest level,” Jackson said in a video message…

“We have made key roster moves to free up significant cap space that will provide us greater flexibility to acquire talent in this summer’s free agency,” Jackson said. “And for the first time in many years, we expect to have a top pick in the NBA Draft this June. These are key steps to building a roster of players that have both the talent and character to win in New York and who, alongside Carmelo Anthony, will become a team that can become a consistent winner.”

Jackson also tweeted out this:

Phil Jackson deserves credit for this: Unlike previous years the Knicks didn’t squander assets to look for a short-term fix that got them into the playoffs but hurt them long term. That has been standard operating procedure for the Knicks under James Dolan for far too long. Rather than bottom out at all in a rebuild, they would trade picks and young players to bring back guys who got them into the playoffs, but never made them a contender.

That alone is good reason for Knicks fans to be patient. As for optimism… good luck selling that in New York. But things can and should improve.

The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony (hopefully healthy). They have what will be at least a top four draft pick, plus young players they like such as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Langston Galloway. They have cap space — not only to chase stars, who likely do not come (Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, for example), but also to round out the roster with quality, high IQ players who can fit in the triangle offense. This year’s roster — which Jackson had a hand in building — was a terrible fit for the offense Derek Fisher was installing. The Knicks need to get the kind of veterans who can move the ball and shoot that fit in the triangle. Then they need to get better buy-in from Anthony on the offense.

The Knicks are not poised for a one-year leap to contenders, but in the East they could make the playoffs next season with the right summer moves. They could build a foundation that would intrigue top free agents in 2016.

This summer we start to see if Phil Jackson really can do this job. And if he does his then we get a better sense of if Derrick Fisher can coach this team and system.