Phil Jackson’s obsession with the triangle offense and his failure to accept the modern style of play in today’s NBA is similar to a guy who believes that he would revolutionize technology if he brought back the VCR. Would it work to some degree? Sure. Would they sell or win some sort of prize? No, because we’re not in the 90’s and no one cares for it. Yes, Phil has won more rings with that triangle offense than you and me combined…unless your name happens to be Bill Russell. Whether it was Jordan and Pippen or Kobe and Shaq, the most successful coach this game has ever seen found a way to get it done. But as of now, Phil Jackson is like the grandparent who doesn’t understand the concept of texting. Times are changing, pops.
Unfortunately, for the guy who would look a lot less smart without his glasses, the style of play has changed and today’s successful teams rely heavily on off-the-ball screens, ball movement and the three point shot. Threes are no longer being shot at a premium. The amount of teams averaging over 25 three point shots per game is higher than the league has ever seen and they’re doing it with success. Just look at last years 73-9 Golden State Warriors. The dubs broke the NBA record of the most successful three point attempts in a single season. This year, the red hot Rockets not only set the record for most three point attempts in a single game, but also set the record for the most three pointers made through the first 22 games of an NBA season. Even the Spurs, a team that has lost ONE road game, rank in the top half of the league in three pointers made during those games. This is developing into a fast-pace, shoot-first type of league and the teams that do it most successfully are becoming offensive juggernauts.
What the Knicks needed was a quick fix. What Phil Jackson has brought to the team is the equivalent of an accountant bringing an abacus to trade deadline meetings to help figure out the salary cap. He claimed in a New York Times interview with Harvey Araton that he wanted to, “set up something that may go beyond by being here” and “build a foundation [that would create] a way of playing basketball.” In other words, he needed to hire a sock-puppet coach that would run the team the way Phil wanted in order to make sure his legacy lasted in this league before he hung his suit up. He almost got away with it when there were reports that he wanted to keep one of the WORST coaches that this league has seen in a while in Kurt Rambis, so Phil could run the team from his comfy suite. He then hired Jeff Hornacek, with Jeff under the impression that he could run the offense the way he wanted to. Nevertheless, not even 10 games into the season, ESPN reported that Jackson was already feeling shaky about the long leash he was giving Hornacek with the offense. The Knicks were only 2-4 at the time and had an offensive ranking of 14, TEN SPOTS higher than they were last season. But that didn’t matter to Phil, because they weren’t playing the type of offense he wanted them to.
Carmelo Anthony said it perfectly when he claimed that the 13-10, 5th place Knicks had a “dark cloud” over their heads. What he really meant to say was the Knicks have a gray, wrinkly, 71-year-old cloud with glasses hanging over their head. Phil Jackson needs to have his mouth taped shut and his Twitter deleted, because no one wants to hear what he has to say. Phil recently came out and took a shot at his veteran, Carmelo Anthony, blasting him for holding onto the ball for too long. Newsflash Phil: It doesn’t seem to be affecting them, as they sit comfortably in 5th place in the East. Only in Dallas do you see owners creating turmoil within THEIR OWN team like Phil has been doing. Anthony wasn’t happy with Phil to begin with, especially when Phil took a shot at Lebron James by referring to LeBron and his associates as a “posse.” Oh, and he didn’t fail to mention Lebron’s mom in his statement either. Delonte West might be the sock-puppet coach Phil has always dreamed of. Phil can talk all he wants about how he doesn’t understand why his word choice was racially insensitive, but the truth is, it was. LeBron has every right to hold it against him, which he did. When Phil was getting fit for his dentures last Wednesday night, LeBron and the Cavs spanked the Knicks by 30 in New York.
Why doesn’t Phil’s inability to shut up surprise anyone? Because he’s been doing it for years. Last year, he claimed Klay Thompson standing around, waiting for the ball and shooting a three was a form of “not participating” in Golden State’s offense. Yes, he was referring to the Klay Thompson, the top-3 shooting guard in the league who averaged over 20 ppg for two straight years in which Golden State waltzed to the NBA Finals. How about the fact that the all-star guard dropped 60 the other night and only handled the ball for a total of 90 SECONDS in which he only dribbled the ball ELEVEN TIMES. Phil, stop ducking under the table. We see you.
Not only is he afraid to look stupid by refusing to adapt to the speedball style of play that the modern NBA has become accustomed to, but he’s not afraid to sound stupid either. In the 2015 Western Conference Semi-Finals, Phil Jackson tweeted, “NBA analysts give me some diagnostics on how 3pt oriented teams are faring this playoffs…seriously, how’s it goink?” (He clearly meant to say “going”, but he wasn’t wearing his glasses.) What Phil was referring to were the Wizards (28th in the league in three point attempts per game) leading the series with the Hawks (4th), the Bulls (16th), up 2-1 on the Cavaliers (2nd) and the Clippers (3rd), up 2-1 on the Houston Rockets (1st). Oh, you guessed it. The Rockets, Hawks AND Cavaliers all went on to win each series. Phil’s bookie must’ve had himself quite the week.
Phil happened to get seriously unlucky with that tweet, like to the point where it was funny. However, the truth is that no matter how those series turned out, Phil would have been wrong. The evolution of the game has caused teams to rely on the three point shot now more than ever. The amount of three pointers both shot AND made have gone up every year over the last few seasons. The 73-9 Warriors shattered almost every possible three-point record last year on their way to the best regular season in NBA history. I find it a little humorous that Phil coached the team that was 72-10, but that’s beside the point. If Phil wants this Knicks team to be successful, which with Carmelo Anthony, a healthy Derek Rose and the rising star Kristaps Porzingus, they have a very legitimate shot of doing, Phil needs to cut the cord with the triangle offense and allow Coach Hornacek to run the offense the way he wants to.
I want to finish by saying that Phil Jackson will and deserves to go down as the greatest NBA coach of all time. *Duck from San Antonio fans throwing various debris at me* Everything he has brought to this game, the success he has brought to all of his championship teams and his ability to bring out the best in current and future hall of famers, Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Shaq and Kobe should not go unnoticed. My point is that this game is evolving. Phil Jackson’s beautiful basketball mind is smart enough to understand that, but his strong desire to keep his legacy and continue the triangle offense is getting in the way. Oh, and he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, but that comes with age.