Time is now for Phil Jackson to engineer Knicks’ turnaround

Written By kom nampuldu on Kamis, 16 April 2015 | 18.18

Mercifully, the gut-emptying disaster known as the 2014-15 Knicks season came to a close Wednesday at the Garden, as a basic replay of so many other games — the Knicks trailed by double-digits most of the night. And lost. For the 65th time.

Hey, as a stunningly successful coach turned impossibly calamitous team president noted recently, "S–t happens." And the 17-65 Knicks and their fans endured more dung than anyone in 2014-15.

"It was obviously a difficult season for us as a team," coach Derek Fisher said after the 112-90 defeat to the Pistons, "and we were forced to deal with some realities."

(Insert your own reality one-liner here)

So now comes the real start of Phil Jackson's regime. By his admission, his grand experiment fell flat on its face. Many of the moves he made appear ridiculously shortsighted. Start with trading Tyson Chandler, who became Dallas' defensive force, for basically a bag of gumballs. Advance to helping Cleveland rise to Eastern prominence by dealing J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for a suspect return.

One out-of-division executive was asked to sum up the Knicks' season. He stressed he spoke only as an observer.

"To me their biggest mistake was they overrated players. They'll probably point to [Andrea] Bargnani getting hurt but he's not good enough. [Jose] Calderon did not have the year they anticipated," the exec said. "They're continuing to try to put the triangle in. How many of those guys are going to be back?"

Put it this way, if everybody is back, "s–t" will happen again. Fisher stressed a core of the current chain gang, although "completely outmanned and outnumbered" many nights, will return to ease the triangular approach. Fisher, speaking with pride and emotion, noted "unfortunately, they can't all be back."

So the Knicks will teach their system to a new class of pupils, along with Carmelo Anthony, presumably healthy, back for the second season of an extension that will pay $28 million when he is 34 in 2018-19.

But forget the past. Any adage works: You have to crawl before you walk; housecleaning was needed to change the culture; whatever. Now is when Jackson must start earning his five-year, $60 million contract — plus added perks likes $15,000 monthly for living ($10K) and travel ($5K) expenses.

There's the NBA draft lottery. Folks rage in a Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns debate. Even the team with the worst record, Minnesota (16-66), has just a 25 percent chance at No. 1 — or a 75 percent chance of picking lower. The Knicks now have a 19.9 shot. The debate over the top pick is idiocy until they have it. The Nets won 12 games in 2009-10, by far the worst in the NBA. They picked third.

Patrick Ewing fell into the Knicks' laps in the first lottery ever in 1985. Since, the Knicks hardly have found improvement through the lottery. In 1986, they wanted Chuck Person; they got Kenny Walker. In 1987, through a trade that got them Gerald Henderson, they also picked Mark Jackson out of the lottery. But the pick they originally owned was used on Scottie Pippen. In 2002, they drafted Nene, and traded him for a package that included Antonio McDyess.

In 2003, the Knicks didn't waste their pick on David West, not when Mike Sweetney was available. In 2005, they picked Channing Frye, who lasted two seasons. Because of one of the most disastrous trades ever — the 2005 Eddy Curry deal — they traded two future picks. They became LaMarcus Aldridge in 2006 and Joakim Noah in 2007.

Teams can't go consecutive years without a first-rounder, so in 2007 the Knicks picked Wilson Chandler 23rd. And they eventually traded him — along with 2008 lottery pick Danilo Gallinari — in the deal for Anthony. In 2009, they wanted Stephen Curry; they got Jordan Hill. Their 2010 lottery pick became Gordon Hayward for Utah. And their 2014 pick, also moved for Anthony, became Dario Saric for Orlando — and the Magic traded him for Elfrid Payton.

So if history is a guide, don't bank on the lottery to solve the Knicks issues.

There will be roughly $26 million with which to lure free agents. If a player, restricted or unrestricted, breathing or completely unresponsive to external stimuli, can become a free agent this summer, he has been linked to the Knicks.

One ex-Knick, recently assessing the roster, suggested his old team not pursue the top-shelf, Grade-A type but rather several second-tier types.

"You need some tough kids that will fit well in New York," he said, specifically naming restricted guys Draymond Green and Reggie Jackson. "Tough kids. Because to play in this environment, you've got to be tough. You can't be weak at all. It'll eat you up."

Like this season's Knicks.


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