Can Phil Jackson turn the Knicks around?

phil-jackson-new-york-turnaroundIf you’ve been making a lot of moneyline bets in favor of the New York Knicks this season, we feel sorry for you because your bankroll has taken quite a beating. Despite basically returning the same lineup from a 54-28 team that easily won the Atlantic Division, New York has struggled to a 27-40 record so far – and that’s WITH a recent 6-game winning streak.

Enter Phil Jackson, who was finally announced as the team’s president in a move that’s been rumored for weeks. Jackson is tasked with helping mold a team that hasn’t won a title in 41 years into a legitimate title contender. This won’t be easy, especially when you consider that New York finally won their first playoff series in 13 years last season.

But if there’s anybody who knows winning, it is Jackson. In lengthy stints with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, the Zen Master won a combined 11 NBA Championships. That’s exactly why Knicks owner James Dolan gave him a five-year contract worth at least $12 million. But can Jackson bring his winning ways to New York, despite not being on the sidelines?

We’ll definitely say that it’s going to be a far, far greater challenge than winning with Michael/Scottie in Chicago or Kobe/Shaq in Los Angeles. Sure, this statement isn’t exactly an earth-shattering revelation. However, it’s worth emphasizing because there are sure to be some Knicks fans who are already placing superhuman expectations on Jackson.

What was somewhat of a winning culture last year has turned to one of losing and confusion this year. Head coach Mike Woodson has dealt with rumors of being fired for much of the season while some of his players have also pointed fingers at Woodson/each other. At least for the immediate future, Woodson got a vote of confidence from the team’s new president. “I’ve had a conversation with Mike Woodson, supporting him and going forward to try to make the playoffs this year,” Jackson said. “The team has had a little run, and we’re anticipating that it’s going to be a good one, and that they’ll get into the playoffs.”

Whether or not this support runs into next season remains to be seen. Woodson could help his case by keeping New York on their hot streak long enough to overtake Atlanta for the eighth playoff seed. But they’ll likely face the Indiana Pacers in the first round, a team that already handled New York in last year’s conference semifinals without home court advantage.

carmelo-anthony-1In any case, it’s going to be up to Jackson and general manager Steve Mills to restore New York to the level of competitiveness that they haven’t had since the 90’s. And they could take a big step towards making this happen right now.

The first priority will deal with the Carmelo Anthony situation. The star power forward has an early termination clause in his contract that could allow him to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this summer. Anthony has indicated that he’d like to test the free agency waters, but also says that he wants to sit down with Jackson and talk about everything first. Odds are that this conversation will include Jackson asking Melo to take a paycut while rehashing all of the rings he’s won. Jackson has already given part of this spiel to the public by stating:

There’s no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league and maybe the best individual isolation player in the game – I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans. I think there are a number of things I see Carmelo doing as he moves forward, and I said – I think I was on record a year ago – that I think Carmelo, as great a player as he is, still has another level he can go to. Together, with the team we create, he can get there.

Besides convincing Melo to stay, Jackson will have his work cut out in trying to add talent for the 2014-15 season. Currently, New York is on the hook for $92 million in salary, giving them little room to work the free agent market. Furthermore, they have no first-round draft pick in 2015 or ’16 (due to the Anthony deal), and they won’t have a second-round pick until 2018 (due to the Andrea Bargnani trade).

phil-jackson-new-york-turnaround-1The summer of 2015 looks to be when Jackson and Mills will truly have some room to work as the eight-figure deals of Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler all end. This will be a sweet time to have cap space and an iconic city like New York behind you since Brook Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert will all be free agents. Miami will also have a trio of stars whose contracts are ending, with Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and, the man everybody will be trying to wine and dine, LeBron James all up for grabs.

It’s no secret that Jackson will be working all of this into his upcoming pitch to Anthony about surviving the next season-plus of mediocrity in New York before big things come. “(In 2015) I think we know that we need another solid contributor, someone that can score to help Carmelo go along, and contribute to this team and their winning experience,” Jackson said. “We’re looking forward to it, but we’re not losing sight of the fact that we’re in a game-to-game basis in this business, that we want to provide a team that’s talented, that people want to come and watch, and a team that’s truly competitive.”

Given everything that COULD happen in New York in a couple of seasons, it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility that Jackson could turn this team into a serious contender. But there are a lot of pieces that need to be put in place before the Knicks can replicate the incredible success that Jackson has experienced at other stops in his career.

Dissecting the NBA All-Star Game Selections

Most of us could care less about how the NBA All-Star Game turns out. After all, this annual no-defense fest is much like the recently-released film Movie 43 – a bunch of big-time stars making cameo appearances in a tacky and shameless form of entertainment. Sure there are always a few good alley-oops and street ball moves; but does this make up for the 5-10 embarrassing mistakes that players collectively make while trying to show off?

Okay, so now that you understand our take on the All-Star Game, it’s worth mentioning that being selected to the game is definitely an honor. And the NBA recently released the list of everybody who received a nod. Of course, there were also a few deserving players who didn’t get picked for this prestigious contest. This being said, let’s take a closer look at who did and didn’t make the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.

Eastern Conference Roster

(Starters)
LeBron James F, Miami Heat – 9th appearance, 26.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 7.1 APG
Carmelo Anthony F, New York Knicks – 6th app., 29.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG
Kevin Garnett F, Boston Celtics – 14th app., 14.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Rajon Rondo G, Boston Celtics – 4th app., 13.7 PPG, 11.1 APG, 1.9 SPG
Dwayne Wade G, Miami Heat – 9th app., 20.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG

(Reserves)
Kyrie Irving G, Cleveland Cavaliers – 1st app., 23.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 1.8 SPG
Jrue Holiday G, Philadelphia 76ers – 1st app., 19.0 PPG, 9.0 APG, 1.4 SPG
Tyson Chandler C, New York Knicks – 1st app., 12.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Joakim Noah C, Chicago Bulls – 1st app., 12.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.2 BPG
Luol Deng F, Chicago Bulls – 2nd app., 17.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Paul George F, Indiana Pacers – 1st app., 17.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.7 SPG
Chris Bosh F, Miami Heat – 8th app., 17.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG

Western Conference Roster

(Starters)
Kobe Bryant G, LA Lakers – 15th appearance, 29.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG
Kevin Durant F, OKC – 4th app., 29.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG
Chris Paul G, LA Clippers – 6th app., 16.6 PPG, 9.7 APG, 2.6 SPG
Dwight Howard C, LA Lakers – 7th app., 16.7 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG
Blake Griffin F, LA Clippers – 3rd app., 18.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG

(Reserves)
Russell Westbrook G, OKC – 3rd app., 22.7 PPG, 8.1 APG, 1.9 SPG
James Harden G, Houston Rockets – 1st app., 25.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 SPG
Tim Duncan C, SAS – 14th app., 17.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.7 BPG
Tony Parker G, SAS – 5th app., 19.8 PPG, 7.8 APG, 0.9 SPG
LaMarcus Aldridge F, POR – 2nd app., 20.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG
David Lee F, Golden State – 2nd app., 19.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.7 APG
Zach Randolph F, Memphis Grizzlies – 2nd app., 16.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG

Biggest 2013 All-Star Game Snubs

Looking at the list of players who were selected to this year’s All-Star contest, you can definitely see that most (if not all) of these guys deserved a spot. However, there were a few skipped-over players who could’ve made a strong case for their inclusion.

The biggest snub in the Western Conference has to be Stephen Curry, who’s truly been a complete player with 20.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG and 45.1% from 3-point territory. While David Lee has definitely helped the Warriors exceed expectations thus far, many believe that Curry is the true catalyst of this team. That said, it’s no wonder why Curry’s coach, Mark Jackson, was angry about Stephen not getting picked.

After Curry, it’s hard to find a true Western Conference snub, but Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka had an outside chance. Gasol does a lot of intangible things in addition to averaging 13.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.8 BPG. Ibaka has really improved his offense this season and is averaging 14.0 PPG on 56% shooting. Plus he’s chipped in his usual 8.3 RPG and 2.8 BPG.

Moving to the Eastern Conference, many people are outraged over Brook Lopez being left off the roster. Not only does the Brooklyn Nets standout average 18.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.1 BPG, but he also leads the East’s third-best team. Many people have speculated that coaches didn’t vote Lopez in because they didn’t like how the Nets fired coach Avery Johnson.

The Indiana Pacers’ Paul George may have earned his first All-Star selection at the expense of teammate David West. The Pacers usually go to West when they need a crucial basket, and he provides veteran leadership….along with 16.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.0 BPG.

Paul Pierce definitely deserved a reserve role on the All-Star team as well; he’s averaging 18.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.4 SPG. However, Pierce was affected by the fan vote since people stuffed the ballots for his teammates, Rajon Rando and Kevin Garnett. It’s likely that coaches didn’t think the Boston Celtics deserved three All-Star players since they’re currently 20-23 and eighth in the East.

One more player who we think could’ve earned an All-Star nod is Brandon Jennings. The Milwaukee Bucks point guard has put up 18.6 PPG, 6.0 APG and 1.93 SPG for the East’s seventh best team. However, he also shoots just 40.5% from the field, so this could have been a reason for leaving him off the squad. The same goes for his teammate, Monta Ellis (18.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 1.81 SPG), who shoots a similarly-low 40.3%.