Reports of Phil Jackson wanting an exit from New York is an idea too enticing to go unnoticed. Our writers contemplate a Phil failure, bailout and mad dash to the land of milk and honey.
Do you believe that Phil is itching to get out of his contract in New York and by next season will be installed as the new General Manager of the Lakers?
Valerie Morales: Only if he loses the power struggle. Then, he’d have the indignity of watching his BFF Rambis in the unemployment line while at the same time tolerating Thibs with gritted teeth coach his team in a way he opposes. Failure wouldn’t matter. It would be ego-death. I think he expected to walk in and just do whatever carte blanche, like in L.A. New York was always an easy out. He knew if he failed he had the Jeanie plan to cushion the fall and a boat load of money in his back pocket to comfort him on sad days.
C.J. Hampshire: I believe that he thinks that. Don’t know if he’d pull it off. Dude has an enormous ego but if he ran west he’d prove everyone right that said he was only in it for the money. He would get crushed in the media and because it’s New York they’d tie him to every horrible Knick thing that has every happened.
Julian Billick: The experiment was a disaster and the one thing Phil is good at is quitting when he has a reason to. He let Krause drive him out of Chicago. He let Kobe drive him out of L.A. and now the Carmelo-Dolan combo might drive him out of NY. Classic Phil will just spin it with his arrogance.
Brendan Gillespie: He’d never been a GM before and so being an average one in NY before calling it an “irreconcilable differences” divorce will just be a small part of the Jackson meditation philosophy once he’s back at home in L.A. As long as MJ is the greatest player ever, Jackson will be larger than life. In L.A. he’ll be celebrated in a way the Knicks never could, he’ll be given the kingdom because the only time the Lakers haven’t sucked in the past 17 years was when he was there. Or, when Kobe and Shaq were there.
What has gone wrong in New York? Is there one thing that stands out?
C.J.: The triangle. The point guard. Carmelo. Arron Afflalo. Everything. Derek Fisher. I’ll give him props for Porzingis but even that can’t prevent him from receiving his disproportionate share of the blame.
Valerie: Creating a culture and rebuilding takes time but fans don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to hear that Steph Curry was drafted in 2009 and it took 5 years before he got out of the first round of the playoffs. You have to draft well, sign the right free agents and get a little lucky. None of that has happened to the Knicks. You don’t turn things around in a year.
Brendan: Derek Fisher was a huge miss. The Knicks are paying the price for it because now they need a coach. Once he comes aboard, a new system will be installed and then it is square one all over again. There’ll be a learning curve and it’s New York so more pressure.
Julian: Overpaying Carmelo. Giving him that no-trade clause. The Knicks hands are tied and Carmelo has to be driven out of New York before there is any rebuilding that is going to take place. It’s like treading water. You may not drown. But you sure as hell not swimming to shore.
If he does come back to L.A., what does that mean for the Lakers?
Brendan: Even Jackson can’t fix that mess in L.A. with those immature babies.
C.J.: It means he’ll hire Kurt Rambis or Brian Shaw. The triangle part 3 or 4, I’ve lost count, will be enshrined and it will fail as it failed everywhere else it was implemented because guess what, only MJ and Kobe can run it. Jackson will do his normal smirk, like he has all the answers and he’ll pad his bank account but as long as he is triangle-centric the Lakers will stay stuck.
Valerie: Jackson would inherit in 2017 a team that won 25-28 games and that’s if they are lucky. There are so many things the kids just don’t do. That they don’t compete every night is their worst crime. This is a 5-7 year project. How old is Phil, like 70?
Julian: He’ll be 72 in September. Maybe his brain is shrunk and he doesn’t see that going from the Knicks to the Lakers is a downgrade. Carmelo may not be the prototypical leader/best player but he still is a star who you can pencil in for 23 a night. Prozingis got tired late but he can play and affect the game in multiple ways. Langston Galloway is a nice piece off the bench. Even Robin Lopez is serviceable. You can’t say that about any of the Lakers who frankly, on most nights, don’t even know how to play the game. That Byron quote where he said he told a player to run down and set a screen and the player asked, “why” is funny and at the same time symptomatic of the problems Jackson cannot fix.
Does Phil need to reinvent? The revolutionary schematics of 3-point shooting, dribble hand off and rapid ball movement is something he looks down on. Not adapting, have you lost respect for him?
Valerie: Every great leader knows: adapt or die. The triangle is antiquated and in 2016 we shouldn’t still be talking about it. But I still respect Jackson. His accomplishments speak for themselves. How he incentivized selflessness with two of the greatest iso guards in NBA history is enough to keep talking about him. Phil took the money. A year later we find out he’s not a good GM when he doesn’t have absolute power. Shocker.
Brendan: Look at the teams in the playoffs. 7 out of the top 10 three-point shooting teams are in the playoffs. 11 out the top 12 scorers are in the playoffs. 60% of the top 20 scorers are guards. Only 2 of those 20 are centers. Embrace reality.
Julian: Far be it for me to tell Phil anything but there has to be some intellectual thought given to how the game is played today absent a big man. It’s a perimeter guard game. The triangle feeds off of post players and emasculates point guards. Pick and roll, pick and pop, screen and roll action(s) have made the iso game a relic.
C.J.: Phil’s a part of that Oscar Robertson crowd and I don’t blame him. He got to 11 rings one way. All of us stick to what we know, we don’t want to go out of our comfort zone so I understand it from a human perspective but from basketball it makes zero sense not to upgrade and expand. But it’s complicated for Phil because his system is his way of life. Reject the triangle and you’re rejecting him. Will he adapt? No. He is Phil Jackson, the greatest coach of all time.
There is talk that Dolan has his eye on Masai Ujiri of Toronto. Shouldn’t we be hearing about the Lakers having their eye on the phenom GM?
Valerie: Lakers and logic don’t belong in the same sentence.
C.J.: I think Ujiri has done an nice job having the Raptors contenders in year 3 of his tenure but let’s be real. He didn’t make the deal for Lowry. He didn’t draft DeRozan, Valanciunas or Terrence Ross, the heart of their team. He’s winning with someone else’s players and getting all the credit.
Brendan: The Lakers are clueless. They still can’t decide on getting rid of Scott. So nothing they do or don’t do is surprising.
Julian: Until Phil Jackson retires and as long as he is getting paid, he’ll be getting massive north of $10 mil checks. The Lakers front office position is temporarily closed.
photo via llananba