New York Knicks President Phil Jackson finally said something to media since early December and it was direct to the point: “I take responsibility.”
Jackson’s public “mea culpa” was not expected at all although everyone’s already starting to point fingers on him for the Knicks’ disastrous season. We all know him to be the Zen Master who’s won 11 NBA titles as coach. We know him as the coach who never calls for timeout when the game seems to be going out of hand, electing to let his team figure things out for themselves. Well no one, not even Phil himself, has figured out what’s happening to the Knicks so far. It’s become far worse than anyone had ever imagined it would be.
A Tragic Season
After Phil’s interview with the media, he stayed on for the Knicks’ Saturday game against the Charlotte Hornets. He sat on the stands and watched his team get obliterated 110-82 at home by a team that had a 15-24 record. The Knicks played horribly, trailing by as much as 45 points in the third quarter and getting outrebounded 51-29. The loss was the 15th straight defeat for the Knicks and their 25th in their last 26 games. They are currently having the worst start in franchise history and are staring at the worst season in team history.The worst finish by a Knicks team in an 82 game season has been 23 wins. If this team keeps up its losing pace, they will just win a total of 11 games or two more than the worst team in NBA history (1973 Sixers were 9-73).
Jax Just Pulled the Plug
But as if this losing streak is not enough, Jackson virtually pulled the plug on the Knicks 2014-15 season last week when they gave away three player who could have helped them compete every night (although it didn’t look that way this season) Five days ago, the Knicks traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers and waived center Samuel Dalembert. In return, the Knicks got a 2019 second round pick and a potential savings of $20M from payroll and luxury tax. Plus, the Knicks unloaded Smith’s $6.4M salary for next season and officially paved the way for Jackson to freely build a team of his choice once the contracts of Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire expire at the end of the season. By that time, only Carmelo Anthony’s $22.9M and Jose Calderon’s $7.4M will be on the books, giving Jackson more than $30M to rebuild the Knicks and bring them back to the glory road.
But What About The Now?
While the future may look bright for the Knicks after this season, the question is what happens to the now? The Knicks are 5-35 and are worse than the “tanking masters” 76ers who are 7-29 and the Timberwolves who are 5-31 (and who are also in a 15 game losing streak). Aside from losing the productions of Smith, Shumpert and Dalembert, the Knicks are also dealing with the injuries of Andrea Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony. Bargnani ( who has been a bust) has played in just two games this season and has played just a total of 22 minutes. Carmelo Anthony has missed six straight games with a sore left knee. Melo hinted not wanting to have surgery, but Jackson mentioned it as a possibility now. Should that happen, the Knicks will be further stripped down to their role players.
Resemble a Summer League Team
Last Thursday, some Knicks’ fans wore paper bags to cover their heads while watching the Knicks game. There were no signs of those fans on Saturday night. But the there were boos and chants of “Fire Fisher”. If this were some other place, Fisher would have long been ejected. But this is New York where they still believe (or do they?) Phil Jackson as a savior. As Quincy Acy took foul shots in the closing moments of their loss to the Hornets, chants of M-V-P were heard, not to cheer but to mock the home team. The Knicks-led by Acy, Cole Aldrich and Shane Larkin look more like a Summer League Team than the New York Knicks of the NBA.
Singing A Different Tune
Jackson said before the start of the season that these Knicks were a playoff team. Now he’s singing a different tune:
“Obviously I didn’t do the right thing in picking the group of guys that were here.”
Even before the season started, he traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Now he’s given away J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Samuel Dalembert. It’s hard to imagine that those guys (except for Dalembert) were key contributors to a 53 win season in 2013. That was just two season ago and look how far they’ve dropped. Jackson may have been wrong in choosing the pieces he built around Carmelo.
Jackson wore a black suit with a black and grey tie during his “mea culpa” media appearance. It resembled a funeral attire, not for him nor Fisher (not yet?) but for the Knicks’ season. The fans really don’t care whose fault it is. What they want is to see their beloved Knicks win again and avoid becoming the worst team in franchise history or even the worst team in NBA history.