There must be days when James Dolan, the billionaire blues singer, wants to smash his guitar into pieces when he reads the newspaper. And it has nothing to do with the stock market or the NBA standings but everything to do with two of his highest-paid employees.
Phil Jackson was recently quoted saying that his “experiment” has been a failure. The Knicks president could have easily called it an epic failure, a complete disaster or a monumental bust, but you get the point.
Other than stating the absolute obvious, Jackson using the term “experiment” to describe his rookie season as a basketball executive must be comforting to Dolan, who is paying the mad scientist $ 60 million to win titles, not to use the Knicks as crash test dummies.
And then there is Carmelo Anthony, the newly minted $ 124 million man who is a sweet guy but whose season has been, as they say on The Sopranos “a little wackadoo.”
From his meeting with a branding expert where they discussed turning Melo into a “cultural icon, a taste maker” to his funky postgame hats and his made-for-MSG Network documentary about free agency during which Anthony extolled the virtues of the Chicago Bulls, his season has been as odd as Walt Frazier’s wardrobe.
Following Tuesday’s uninspiring home loss to the not-to-be-confused-with-the-Bird/Parish/McHale Boston Celtics, Anthony claimed that fatigue is a factor. In many ways, that is just as disturbing as Jackson’s failed-experiment line. For the record, the Knicks have played 49 games. Melo has played just 38.
What on Earth would have Anthony so fatigued: too much food on Super Bowl Sunday?
If your franchise player is citing fatigue in February following a season that ended in April, you’ve got problems. Or do you think Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan ever used the “I’m wiped out” excuse 10 days before the All-Star break?
While Knicks fans have fallen in love with Langston Galloway’s story and are excited about Lance Thomas, the two men Dolan signed to lead the franchise back to respectability are Jackson and Anthony. The NBA is still a star-driven league, but in the Knicks’ case, we’re getting a lot of star drivel.
This has been a rude awakening for Jackson, who is not accustomed to failure and is clearly not taking it well. According to a source, Jackson skipped several league events that he was scheduled to attend during the Knicks’ trip to London, choosing instead to keep a low profile.
It was during that same trip that Jackson, according to a Milwaukee Bucks official, confronted Kenyon Martin to ask him about seemingly innocuous comments the veteran forward made a day earlier about the Knicks not being interested in signing him.
Jackson apparently did not appreciate the idea that he was slow to act on Martin, especially in light of the Knicks failing to land Pau Gasol last summer and just a few weeks after Jackson dumped J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for a 2019 second-round pick. If you thought the Smith and Shumpert deal seemed a bit one-sided, you’re right. The next day Cleveland traded two No. 1 picks to Denver for center Timofey Mozgov. Jackson could not have been happy about that.
Perhaps most troubling of all is Jackson’s continued defiance/stubbornness when it comes to proving that the triangle offense can work without guys named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant running it.
For starters, Jackson’s championship teams in Chicago and Los Angeles were exceptional defensively. Yet, in New York all Jackson talks about is offense. And just because Jackson is married to that system, why must Derek Fisher? Jackson’s first choice to coach the Knicks was Steve Kerr, who currently owns the best record in the NBA and doesn’t run the triangle.
Jackson is downright sensitive to any opposing view. During the preseason, Jackson’s longtime nemesis, Jeff Van Gundy, threw Fisher a bone by saying talent wins, not a system. JVG was making it clear that you shouldn’t expect too much from Fisher until he gets players.
Of course, Jackson and his hired media gun, Charley Rosen, weren’t shrewd enough to realize that Van Gundy, who clearly understands the Knicks’ talent or lack thereof better than Jackson, was giving a rookie head coach a soft landing spot.
Instead, they hit JVG over the head with Jackson’s 11-rings manifesto, thus leaving poor Fisher exposed.
OK boys, so if it is really about the system and not the talent, why are the Knicks 10-39?
That question was never answered during Jackson’s latest MSG-approved sit-down, which evolved into a defense of Jackson as a brilliant head coach. Again.
Yes, Jackson was a great coach. He’s got the rings to prove it.
But again, he’s not coaching the Knicks. He’s a rookie GM trying to build a team. Year One has been a bust. It doesn’t mean Jackson can’t salvage this mess.
But Jackson needs to worry less about convincing us that once upon a time he was a great coach. His job now is to get his hands dirty, get back in the lab and find a solution.
That’s why Dolan is paying him the big bucks.