New York Knicks fans have had a long history of disappointment from never winning a championship with Pat Riley and Patrick Ewing to watching their team become a laughing-stock under Isaiah Thomas. This week the organization looked to change its fortunes by hiring NBA and Knicks legend Phil Jackson to head up their basketball operations. This stop in Jackson’s career is different, as he will have to do something with the Knicks for the first time in his career endure a rebuilding project.
There are perhaps no more passionate fans in all of basketball than fans of the New York Knicks, but over the past ten to fifteen years their team has been a mismanaged disaster. There is nothing like the excitement of a Knicks game when they are winning, but ever since the era of Riley and Ewing in the 90’s that brought regular season success but only one finals appearance, the team has made one hilariously bad decision after the next.
No decision was as flawed as the decision to bring in Isaiah Thomas as team president, as he brought in players like Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury who not only performed badly on the court, but also were paid like superstars of the league. Things got really bad when Thomas decided to let go of coach Larry Brown and take over as head coach himself. It all ended horribly for the team when Thomas had a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him and was finally forced out of the team. Things were looking up when Donnie Walsh took over as president and started to dump their bad contracts and acquire draft picks. Going into the 2010 season, it looked as though the Knicks were finally on a stable path and they showed it on the court going into the All-Star break over .500 for the first time since 2000. However, they gave up their bright future for the promise of a superstar in the present when they traded most of their young talent and future draft picks for Carmelo Anthony.
The Carmelo Anthony era that the Knicks are currently in has been quite the roller coaster. In the year he was traded to the team and the following locked out season, the Knicks were in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoffs and went out in the first round each year. The year 2012 saw the Knicks take a big step forward as they finished second in the East and made it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000. This current season has seen the Knicks completely fall apart, with basically the same roster as they had the year previous. Now the Knicks sit in ninth place in the East and their star is talking about leaving in the offseason.
One man has been brought in to right the Knicks ship and that man is Phil Jackson, but for Phil this will be a new experience because he has never been a part of a rebuilding project. As one of the greatest coaches ever, Jackson has had the luxury of taking over teams who already had winning rosters and that will not be the case in New York. Jackson also has no experience in the front office side of the NBA, as he has only been a head coach and player in his career. He will have a lot of work to do to make the Knicks into a winner, starting with how he handles the coming free agency of Carmelo Anthony. More than anyone, Phil is aware that winning in the NBA requires at least one superstar, but whether or not he tries to bring Anthony back will show what he truly thinks of the seven time All-Star. Even setting aside the Anthony issue the Knicks roster is a mess; they have almost all shooters surrounding their best player who is also a volume shooter. Their point guard Raymond Felton has shown a lack of accountability and leadership and their only true big man Tyson Chandler has no help down low and has had injury problems because he has had to take the pounding down low by himself night after night.
Saying the Knicks are a rebuilding project at this point might be a bit of an understatement. For Phil Jackson, however, the Knicks are his first ever rebuilding project and it will be interesting to see how he handles the team and roster going forward. Jackson won two titles playing for the Knicks in the 70’s so the fans will have his back, but he will need a lot of patience from the fans as he looks to turn his former team back into a winner.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius