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What do you make of the timing of Phil Jackson’s departure from the Knicks? And what’s next for this troubled team?
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David Aldridge:The timing isn’t great, but honestly — who was signing with the Knicks when free agency starts on Saturday? New York isn’t anyone’s first choice these days, and that’s part of why Jackson had to go. The Hall of Fame Coach wasn’t doing his franchise any favors with his constant sniping at Carmelo Anthony — no matter what you may think of ‘Melo, most players around the league like and respect him immensely — and his recent, inexplicable going in on Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks have to restore their rep as a place where players are treated well by management, whether or not Toronto’s Masai Ujiri takes the GM gig. Resolving Anthony’s status once and for all — publicly declaring him a Knick for Life, or getting on with a buyout — is first on the list. Second, make it clear the 21-year-old Unicorn is the team’s future and take him off the trading block. Third, make Willy Hernangomez the permanent starter at center and not waiting any longer on Joakim Noah to heal up. Fourth, give rookie Frank Ntilikina the ball from day one, forget about re-signing Derrick Rose and move on.
Steve Aschburner: Addition by subtraction was what the Knicks allegedly were going to pursue in moving Carmelo Anthony. Now Jackson is gone, Anthony very likely could stay, yet the benefits of removing this negative might be more muted in the short-term. Tamping down the drama is a good thing, but the questions far outnumber the answers at this point. Who replaces Jackson? Is the triangle offense officially defunct? What happens to coach Jeff Hornacek? And how do the Knicks build up their talent base? The timing of this is fine — Jackson didn’t want to spend a chunk of his July in Las Vegas, sitting up high in a crowded gym to watch unproven players. But the gain for New York won’t show itself for a while.
Fran Blinebury: I love the notion that James Dolan is the savior of the Knicks for closing the curtain on the Jackson Era, since he is the one that gave birth to the Jackson Era. The timing says that Dolan took time out between sets with his band to make sure Jackson didn’t give away Kristaps Porzingis in another one of those Manhattan-for-a-handful-of-beads deals. What’s next for the Knicks is more of the same — another sap will step onto the Knicks’ perennial treadmill to mediocrity and make himself a bundle of money before he’s let go around 2020.
Scott Howard-Cooper: That’s the worst part of it. Let someone run basketball operations for the Draft, while holding the No. 8 pick at that, and then decide the next week he shouldn’t be on the job? With no replacement in place and free agency days away? Seriously? High school kids do breakups better. The Knicks, probably to the surprise of no one, took a bad situation and made it worse. A lot more losing is what’s next for this troubled team. But if you mean for that job in particular, David Griffin should be next.
Shaun Powell: The timing is awful in the sense that it comes a few days before the trade deadline and less than a week after he worked the Draft. This is insane and it tells me Jim Dolan, until 48 hours ago, was still sold on Jackson running the Knicks. Actually, Dolan was really sold a few months ago because he picked up Jackson’s option for two more years! Yet, Jackson had to go; his heart (and maybe work ethic) wasn’t in the job anyway. Advice to Dolan: Stop chasing big names and hire someone who’ll do the grunt work necessary to retool this team and keep Porzingis happy.
John Schuhmann: The timing could have been better, like a year ago, before Jackson completely alienated his team’s two best players. And it could have been worse, like a year from now or when his contract expired. Jackson did a lot of damage in his 39 months with the Knicks, but at least the Knicks can start moving on and Jeff Hornacek can have a chance to coach his way. The next move is to find some sort of resolution with Carmelo Anthony, but finding a trade that works will be difficult. Swallowing $54 million (or even 75 percent of that) in a buyout doesn’t seem like the right move and keeping him only works if you can sign a top-level, playmaking guard (something Derrick Rose is not).
Sekou Smith: Clearly it was long overdue. It became painfully obvious this season that the situation in New York was not going to be workable now or in the future, not with Phil at odds with the two best players on the roster. Phil’s treatment of Carmelo Anthony and more recently Kristaps Porzingis should go in the how-not-to-do-it handbook for executives in any sport. Now it’s up to Steve Mills (and whoever comes after to him) to clean up the messes made by Phil, a proud Hall of Famer in his own right, but certainly someone who seemed out of his element in the front office compared to what he accomplished as a coach. Someone has to mend fences with the Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis and now it’s time to free everyone from the shackles of the triangle offense.
Ian Thomsen: Fears of a Kristaps Porzingis trade and a Carmelo Anthony buyout had to be driving this move. Now they should think hard about keeping Carmelo, converting him to power forward alongside Porzingis at center, and liberating coach Jeff Hornacek to re-create the explosive offense that defined his early teams when he led the Phoenix Suns. Retain Derrick Rose, push the pace and shoot for the playoffs — that’s not a farfetched goal in the East, where the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers could be sliding into the lottery.
Lang Whitaker: If my team was going to make a fundamental organizational change and move away from a very specific offensive system while the rest of the league used pace-and-space attacks, I definitely wouldn’t do it six days after I used a lottery pick on a point guard that fit the old system. I’ve lived in New York City for 17 years now and have watched glumly as various Knicks front office regimes have frantically hit the reset button again and again. My hope was that the hiring of Phil Jackson would at the very least give Knicks fans the faith to step back and allow the organization to build a solid foundation. But as it turns out, maybe a triangle doesn’t provide the most solid base upon which to build in the modern NBA. What’s next? The one thing Jackson and his staff were consistently great at was identifying foreign prospects who not only showed promise but were able to contribute right away, from Porzingis to Hernangomez to Kuzminskas. So wouldn’t it be ironic if after Phil was gone, newly drafted Frank Ntilikina turned out to be the franchise savior?