While Knicks fans rejoice Phil Jackson’s removal as president, it should be sobering reminder of how mediocre they’ve been.
Spike Lee stood there with his arms raised to the heavens with a simple text below his instagram post, “HALLELUJAH.” His prayers, presumably, answered. The diminutive super fan’s thoughts mirrored the reaction for most people in New York. After over three years with Phil Jackson at the helm, New York’s fans felt as though God himself had exorcised the “Triangle.”
It must be asked though, what were you expecting, Knicks fans, in the Jackson Era?
The East has been LeBron James’ hunting grounds for seven years now. Not one executive has figured out how to beat LeBron and company. Has he done that poorly compared to every other front office in the East? While many of Jackson’s moves were questionable, you can look at their roster today and say it’s a hell of a lot better than it was when he took over in March of 2014.
At that time, New York was fighting for the eight spot in the East. No man’s land. They had no draft picks in 2014, thanks to the Carmelo Anthony trade and the inexcusable Andrea Bagnani deal. Knicks coach, Mike Woodson, had lost his team, and eight players combined salary for the following year exceeded the projected salary cap.
Not even God himself could have turned that roster around in the three years Jackson served.
In full disclosure, Jackson’s first couple of moves were dubious to say the least. Former Lakers, Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom were called into Manhattan. Brown would play five more games in Miami after the 2014 season concluded. Odom, well, what he’s been up to has been a bit more documented.
In that offseason though, Jackson made decisions that had to shine a glimmer of hope. He got rid of two unwanted contracts shipping Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for several players and draft picks which were sorely needed. He then attempted a big splash, wooing Steve Kerr. The 2016 NBA Coach of the Year reportedly wanted to sign until owner James Dolan tried to short change the former Bulls player. Kerr ended up in Golden State, Jackson went with another former player, Derek Fisher. That didn’t work out.
Fast forward three years later and despite those rough beginnings, the Knicks have a bonafide unicorn superstar in Kristaps Porzingas (Remember the booing?), another young big man in Willy Hernangomez, 18-year-old point guard Frank Ntilikina, and Anthony, still one of the greatest offensive weapons in the game today.
You can dock Jackson for his stubbornness regarding the Triangle, no doubt. But I have to ask Knicks fans, why are you so ardent that you deserve to be on top? Every fan hopes their team will rise and succeed, but no one does it in such an entitled fashion as Knicks fans. Is it the volume at which you bloviate? Is it Yankee, Giants and Rangers envy? What has happened in New York’s long and “storied” history to give you this right? What in the 71 years of existence has the New York franchise done that makes you think things have been so great?
After winning two championships in the early 70s, the Knicks have made it to the NBA Finals twice, losing in 1994 to Houston and then again in 1999 to the Spurs. You all haven’t been bad, but historically bad.
Since losing in five to San Antonio, the Knicks have won three playoff series. I repeat, in this century, New York’s basketball team has won three post season series. Only the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks have fared worse in the East.
The latest New York rumblings have Isiah Thomas as a dark horse to take over for Jackson. Better call the priest again, Spike.