CALLING the New York Knicks a disaster is an insult to the concept of catastrophe.
Somehow, the Knicks keep finding ways to embarrass themselves. The latest twist involves Phil Jackson flat-out stating Carmelo Anthony would be better off elsewhere — comments which in part led to Kristaps Porzingis, the future of the franchise, skipping exit interviews and reportedly considering eschewing triangle-based workouts this summer.
Yet believe it or not, the Knicks aren’t that far away from turning this whole thing around. With just six easy steps, New York can go from laughingstock to team on the rise.
1. FIRE PHIL JACKSON…
Phil Jackson didn’t destroy the Knicks.
New York’s dysfunction stretches at least as far back as the Zen Master’s coaching tenure with the Lakers, so you can’t blame him for all of this storied franchise’s woes.
You can blame him for the Knicks hitting rock bottom and digging deeper, though, which is almost worse when you’re supposed to be the saviour. Jackson’s lone saving grace was drafting Kristaps, but he’s even put Porzingis’ time in New York at risk.
The only way the Knicks turn this around is to fire Jackson. He’s poisoned the well through and through. Players hate his obsession with the Triangle Offense. He’s alienated both of his stars. And he refuses to let his coach do the job he was hired to do.
Dolan has to bite the bullet, pay Jackson’s contract, and move on before his team becomes less relevant than the Brooklyn Nets.
2. …AND HIRE A BIG-NAME REPLACEMENT WHO ACTUALLY KNOWS THE JOB
You can’t fire Jackson without a replacement lined up. Here, things get complicated.
Owner James Dolan (we’ll get to Jimmy D in a moment) likes hiring big names, because he’s a wealthy NBA team owner with a healthy ego. If his team can’t win games, making headlines is the next best thing.
So cross off any up-and-coming young assistant GM or outside-the-box candidate for the Knicks’ GM job. The next New York front-office leader needs to move the needle and get the job done.
Toronto’s Masai Ujiri has been on Dolan’s radar before, which makes sense. He’d be a perfect hire. But it’s hard to see him leaving the Raptors for this mess of a franchise, unless the Knicks are going to pay him like a player.
Otherwise, the answer is Sam Hinkie, as controversial as that might be. A hefty segment of the Knicks fan base is furious at the very notion. Is New York supposed to tank like the Sixers, bottoming out on purpose for season after season?
No, not really. The Knicks are already pretty bad, for one. Although they did themselves no favours with a few late wins, New York could claim a pretty solid draft pick this year.
More importantly, New York already has Kristaps Porzingis. The whole point of “The Process” was to find a game-changing franchise player. Porzingis fits the bill. The Knicks also have the glamour of the Big Apple to try to lure free agents, something Philadelphia couldn’t boast. Oh, and the chance to make up for Hinkie’s passing on Porzingis the first time would be a nice poetic touch.
Hinkie’s skill, for those wondering what exactly he does, is simple yet crucial: he finds the edge. Whether it’s parlaying Michael Carter-Williams’ meaningless Rookie of the Year season into more meaningful assets or aggressively using second-round picks, he figures out how to strip a team to its core and make it slowly better over time.
The proof is in the pudding with a Sixers team that started to look pretty, pretty good to close out 2016-17, Joel Embiid’s injury not withstanding.
Hinkie’s not infallible. His draft record is open to interpretation, and there’s the issue of his antagonizing opposing front offices and player agents.
But he’s a smart guy. He won’t make the same mistakes he did with the Sixers, such as drafting a bunch of big guys in a row or angering every agent in the business. If he can bring a humble approach to the biggest rebuild in the NBA, the former commander of The Process can get the Knicks pointed in the right direction.
3. LET JEFF HORNACEK REMAIN AS COACH (FOR NOW)
A little bit of continuity can go a long way.
Since we’re firing the GM, keeping Jeff Hornacek as coach (and giving him an actual chance now that he’s out from the shadow of the Triangle Offense) would be a smart decision. We’ll even get rid of Kurt Rambis and get Hornacek an actual defensive-minded assistant coach.
Yet 2017-18 should serve as an audition for Hornacek as the long-term coaching answer in New York. If he can’t get this franchise back to respectability on both ends of the court, then the Knicks need to look for replacements.
Another retread isn’t the answer, though. Today’s pace-and-space offense demands a coach who can counter the 3-point-shooting bonanza with an aggressive, trapping defense and an offense that thrives in transition.
So if (or when) Hornacek comes up short, New York needs to back up the Brinks truck to lure Shaka Smart out of the college ranks. Let him revolutionize NBA defense the way offenses took a massive leap forward by embracing the 3. Give him athletes who can score, pass and defend — and ignore positions.
If you want to turn the Knicks around, don’t try to emulate what’s successful today. Figure out what will win tomorrow, and hire the people who can make it so.
4. STOP TRYING TO TRADE CARMELO ANTHONY & TRY TO SIGN CHRIS PAUL
Here’s a hot take: Anthony is currently more valuable to the Knicks as a basketball player than a trade asset.
Jackson’s war against his best player submarined Melo’s value. Moving him this summer guarantees you’ll get the minimum return possible.
So stop the rumors, stop the innuendo, and stop the Melo-drama. In fact, rather than leaking that Anthony is on the trade market, let it be known you’re trying to sign Chris Paul in free agency.
You won’t succeed; CP3 is headed back to Los Angeles this summer for max money. But trying to add one of Melo’s “Brotherhood” brethren is an easy PR win. Plus, committing to a pursuit of Paul means cutting loose Derrick Rose — and bringing the former MVP back beyond this season is one of the biggest short-term mistakes the Knicks could possibly make.
Only then, once you’ve built up Melo’s reputation and self-esteem, should you approach him about waiving his no-trade clause to go to a contender. Any sooner and you risk maintaining the status quo for very little upside.
5. MAKE KRISTAPS PORZINGIS THE CLEAR CENTRE OF EVERYTHING
Porzingis is the future for the Knicks — and the only way to get to the future is to make him the present, too.
With Melo having embraced his late-career status as a veteran leader, New York must focus everything on Porzingis: roster construction, player rotations, ad campaigns, everything.
Make him feel like your sun and your moon, then make sure he has room to grow into the NBA’s ultimate superstar. There’s no better skill set than a 7-foot-3 big man who can dribble past small forwards from the wing, knock down threes and destroy opponents at the rim.
The alternative is watching a once-in-a-generation superstar walk away. At that point, we might as well contract the Knicks.
6. KEEP JAMES DOLAN OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT
Outside of employing LeBron James, ownership is the most crucial element of a successful NBA franchise.
Dolan has done a solid job of not meddling with the Knicks since he hired Jackson (that whole weird Charles Oakley incident doesn’t count, since we’re only talking about basketball decisions). The problem was hiring Jackson in the first place.
So no matter what else this franchise does, Dolan needs to slip into the shadows and let his people do their jobs. No interviews, no feuds with former players and no opinions on player transactions. Just go enjoy playing in your band, Mr Dolan, and soon enough, your once-proud team will be back on the right track.
Originally published as How to fix NBA’s New York disaster
SOURCE: newsnow sport