Why would Phil Jackson want to join the Knicks?
Sportswriting is much easier, and more fun, when everything is going wrong. There’s only so many ways you can say “Kevin Durant is really good at scoring” or “the San Antonio Spurs are once again at the top of the Western Conference”, but there seems to be a million different ways to describe the straw-grasping desperateness of the New York Knicks as they attempt to court Phil Jackson, or how the have switched places with the once-lowly Clippers. There‘s a Bizarro World brilliance in watching teams, particularly high profile ones with rich histories and demanding fanbases, suddenly forget how to play basketball. With that in mind, this might have been the best “so bad it’s good” week of the NBA season.
The New York Knicks target Phil Jackson
At first, it seemed like a joke or wishful thinking on the part of the New York Knicks ownership, but it looks like Phil Jackson and his eleven championship rings . Despite Jackson’s success as the head coach of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls and the Kobe Bryant-era Los Angeles Lakers, it’s a controversial move, one that has divided Knicks fans into two categories:
1. Knicks fans who say that Phil Jackson couldn’t possibly make things worse.
2. Knicks fans who remember what happened the last 3,000 times they have said that.
The optimistic Knicks fan would note that at this point of his Hall of Fame career Phil Jackson would never enter in a situation where he did not have a lot of control. If Phil Jackson’s presence means that meddling, incompetent owner James Dolan will be much less involved in the decision making process, that alone would be a step in the right direction no matter how Jackson fairs in his new role.
Considering how disastrous this season has been, the Knicks felt like they had to do something and they didn’t have a lot of options. They have very few draft picks remaining over the next few years, even fewer players whose contracts would interest other teams and . Even if they could attract high profile free agents during the offseason, a hard sell to begin with, the Knicks would have to be very creative with their payroll to make it work. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that their best player, Carmelo Anthony, could leave via free agency this summer if he doesn’t feel like the Knicks will be a serious contender over the next few years. The regular season’s not even over and already the media is reporting that Joakim Noah is trying to sell Anthony on the Chicago Bulls.
The Knicks are free, however, to make front office moves. So if they think will appease Anthony and attract other players, the Knicks will do it. Even if New York would be a more attractive landing spot for players if Jackson were returning as head coach, a job that Jackson most likely would not accept, his mere presence could at least (The current rumors have Steve Kerr replacing Mike Woodson as head coach if this deal goes through.)
Now, those skeptical of the deal have plenty of ammunition on their side. After all, the Knicks are hiring Phil Jackson for a job he’s never really held for any extended amount of time, despite his long history with the NBA. While it’s hard to argue that Jackson’s Knicks front office career could somehow be worse than Isiah Thomas’s disastrous run,
Jackson wouldn’t be the first to take advantage of the situation and the desperation and cash checks from Dolan, only the latest, and the line is longer than Carmelo Anthony’s face following a blowout loss. Jackson has absolutely no experience in running a basketball team, and yet Dolan is anxious to put this train wreck of a franchise into the hands of a complete neophyte who never drafted a single player or negotiated a single contract or made a single trade. Jackson can break down the complexities of the triangle offense, but what does he know about the complexities of the salary cap or the sudden emphasis on analytics among general managers?
If you combine that with the fact that Phil Jackson has a tendency to burn bridges via tell-all books and an ego that rivals that of the Hall of Fame players he’s coached, you get a good sense of why many worry that adding Jackson in the mix would only increase the tiresome soap opera dramatics at Madison Square Garden.
Those are the Knicks’ motives but why in the world would Phil Jackson join the Knicks given their 25-40 record, difficult ownership and utter lack of assets? Well, turning around the Dolan-era Knicks would end up being one of his most impressive accomplishments. Not a bad way to finish off one’s career, especially when you have a shot of being remembered as one of the best coaches in NBA history. It’s also entirely possible that Jackson is motivated after the Los Angeles Lakers passed him over and hired Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach last season. Certainly the temptation of turning around the Knicks at the same time that the Lakers organization has come crashing down could appeal to him.
Will the Philadelphia 76ers ever win again?
If the New York Knicks keep finding new and new lows, what does it mean that the Philadelphia 76ers lost to them by the final score of 123-110? Well, it means that the Philadelphia 76ers are terrible, but we probably didn’t need any further evidence of this. If there’s a joy in watching laughably bad basketball, this 76ers team could be on the verge of something special, . They are currently at 17 straight losses and while logic tells us that eventually the 76ers will have to win a game, if only by accident, it’s starting to look like they would have better luck trying to square the circle.
Unlike the Knicks, however, the and their 15-48 record are doing what they were designed to do: Lose. The 76ers began the offseason by trading away their best player, Jrue Holiday, for the draft rights of Nerlens Noel, who is still recovering from injuries and might not even play this season. Then, at the trading deadline they were one of the few teams to actually shed players, trading Evan Turner to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger. Whom they promptly cut.
The end results? An epic losing streak and a excellent chance at getting one of the first few picks in the next NBA Draft. Although Philadelphia still doesn’t have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, that would be the 13-51 Milwaukee Bucks who probably thought they would be in the hunt for the 8th playoff seed rather than fighting for last place, it seems very likely they will snare that dubious honor by the end of the regular season. , only to conclude:
This hand-selected group of disappointments is better on both offense and defense than the actual Sixers. Las Vegas would surely consider it a favorite — perhaps even a heavy favorite — to prevail in a matchup with Philadelphia.
The Los Angeles Lakers suffer worst loss in team history
The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the most successful and storied franchises in the history of US sports, so it’s something of an accomplishment whenever they manage to set a new team record. Unfortunately, . The 48 point loss was the team’s biggest margin of defeat since the team moved from Minnesota to L.A. in 1960.
especially for any Lakers fans who, for whatever messed-up reasons, decided to watch the debacle in its entirety. As is usually the case, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin was the catalyst for most of the action, just one small part of a week where he’s clearly established himself as one of the premiere offensive weapons in the league ().
Because disasters make better copy than triumphs, the positive aspect of the story, that it was the most lopsided win in history got buried. The Clippers blowout victory settled any doubts about who the best team in Los Angeles is right now. Point guard Chris Paul has been his reliable self, Blake Griffin has finally emerged into a reliable second option, the Russell Westbrook to Paul’s Kevin Durant and first year head coach Doc Rivers is not only an improvement on the court from the departed and not-missed-at-all Vinny Del Negro, his presence has made players that normally might normally go to the Lakers more eager to sign with them.
While the 45-20 Clippers are trying to gear themselves to make a longer playoff run that they’ve made in the past, the Lakers have been struggling to keep up with the Sacramento Kings and the Utah Jazz at the very bottom of the Western Conference standings, all three teams are currently tied for last with 22-42 records. A few days after the embarrassing defeat, reports surfaced that Kobe Bryant, out with a knee injury, would not return to the Lakers season, , it’s hard to grasp that it’s early March and the Lakers season might already be over.
Joakim Noah doesn’t do “rebuilding”
Despite losing Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the Chicago Bulls have kept on While the fourth seeded Bulls’ 35-29 record is something of a mirage, as they have faced the dregs of the Eastern Conference, that doesn’t take away from the fact this team was expected to be one of those dregs after Rose injured himself and Deng was traded. Just as he did last postseason, center Joakim Noah has been left to keep the Bulls near the top of the standings seemingly on willpower alone and, impressively, on many nights that seems to be exactly enough.
, Noah had 20 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocks while leading this depleted Bulls roster to a 95-88 victory over the reigning champions. , has even inspired some MVP talk, presumably by people who believe that LeBron James and Kevin Durant both left the league to play minor league baseball. .
Certainly there must be some within the Chicago Bulls organization wondering if the Bulls would have been better off resigning to their fate like the Lakers seem to have done recently following the injury to Kobe Bryant. After all, Noah’s all-out style of play all but guarantees an earlier decline than many of his fellow All-Stars, it would have been nicer to see this breakout year from Noah when this team was at full-strength.
Here’s the deal though: The Chicago Bulls team will never be at full-strength. No one knows what Derrick Rose will be when he comes back, trade or no-trade Luol Deng was most likely gone via free agency, even Carlos Boozer knows that Carlos Boozer is going to be amnestied this summer. While the rest of the league gets caught up in trying to define what constitutes tanking, the Bulls are playing hard and not giving up games.
Bulls fans will rightly criticize the organization for not protecting its players, and yes maybe head coach Tom Thibodeau’s love of playing guys at risk for career-altering injuries 40+ minutes a game isn’t a good precedent, but it feels like it’s good for the league in general. As fun as it can be to watch bad NBA teams, it’s better theater when the players involved actually feel like they are playing for something, even if they couldn’t tell you exactly what it was.
Other things we’ve learned
• The Miami Heat and the have already clinched playoff spots. No, you don’t have to check your calender, it is still only early March.
• The Brooklyn Nets, .
• There have been reports that an elusive Andrew Bynum has been spotted outside its natural environment, the bench, .
• Rajon Rondo is officially back and trying to get Boston sports fans a reason to click away from Red Sox spring training games.
• Rivalry of the week: . Apparently much of the debate centers on Lil’ B’s a song that some have interpreted as being somewhat critical of Durant.
• Bad Idea Jeans Department: The Milwaukee Bucks’ .
• Barry Bonds: Man of many talents, apparently. It would have been amusing to see Barry Bonds rise up as a spry shooting guard only to suddenly become a center after seeing how many commercials they were giving Shaq.
• making a pass to Houston Rockets teammate Omer Asik despite the fact that he did not exist at that moment according to the accepted parameters of the game.