Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Impact of Phil Jackson

By Joseph Landini

Today marks a new era in the history of the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson will be announced Tuesday as the Knicks new President of Basketball Operations.

The longtime NBA coach and player will take the reigns of the storied franchise, which hasn't won a championship since Jackson played for them back in 1973. Although successful as both a player and coach, the impact on the franchise as president is to be determined. Right off the bat, Jackson will have to face obstacles and decisions, which will make or break the Knicks near future.

Personnel wise, there is one man on this roster and one only, which will determine the direction the franchise goes. With the decision upon us this off season, Carmelo Anthony will most likely decide whether he stays or goes. This decision will also show if the Knicks will attempt to contend, or in fact sink into another rebuild, which the city of New York is never privy too. Anthony has already made it clear on many occasions that he wants to win. The problem is whether or not he can win in New York with the situation they are in.

Pretty much in cap hell until 2015, Jackson may have to be imaginative and slick when it comes to this off season. In a way, you wonder if the Jackson hiring was to help bring in quality players. With a name like Phil Jackson at the top of the franchise corporate tree, the Knicks become an attractive destination for Free Agents. Jackson having the Pat Riley effect would be essential to the fix of the Knicks. Riley, partly due to his name, was able to build the Miami Heat into a powerhouse by bringing in quality players for less money. Hoping for Anthony to take a pay cut may be something Jackson prays for as well.

On the court, Jackson will not be coaching, but his presence has already been felt. Since the rumors have started to swirl, the focus went from the disgraceful and underachieving Knicks team, to Jackson. Within this time period the Knicks have quietly rolled off six straight games, all winning by double digits. With the focus not on the players for a brief moment, the Knicks have gotten themselves back in the hunt for a low playoff seed.

Although all may be good today, Knicks fans around the world have to be asking themselves: Is this going to end up like the last big name, Isiah Thomas? For everyone who does not remember, Thomas may be the worst President of Basketball Operations in the history of the NBA. With continuous head scratching transactions, a sexual harassment lawsuit and making the Knicks a complete joke from 2003-2008, Thomas will always be known as poor taste in New York.. Thomas put the Knicks in a five year drought, which many have called it the lowest point in franchise history. Obviously Phil Jackson will be given time to prove his worth, but this thought will be in every fans mind when moves go array.

Today the New York Knicks enter a new era, the question is whether it will be one which brings the title back to Madison Square Garden or one that brings even more heartbreak to a fan base starving for success?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From 6th man to 12th man

By Joseph Landini

Remember the prolific season New York Knicks guard JR Smith had in 2013? Raining three pointers, constantly shooting clutch shots, and electrifying Madison Square Garden was normal for Smith. The sixth man of the year from just a year ago is now just a memory. JR Smith has seemed to hit rock bottom.

Looking back at the offseason, Smith cashed in on that Sixth Man of the Year award by signing a new three year contract with the Knicks. After signing, Smith had an unannounced patella tendon surgery, which set him back for offseason training. To make the situation even worse, Smith was then suspended by the NBA for continually failed marijuana drug tests. The perfect start to a brand new contract, wouldn’t you say?

Let us fast forward now to present day. The Knicks are looking at a disappointing 15-23 I n the face, and currently a .5 game out of the playoffs. Experts had them as a  mid seed playoff team, some even choosing them to win the Atlantic Division. Smith has been a major part of the struggle, averaging only 11.4 points per game on 35% shooting. For a team in need of a stable second scoring option, Smith has proven to be nothing short of erratic.

Tuesday night, the Knicks faced the Charlotte Bobcats in the second night of a back to back. Smith received a DNP- coach’s decision for the second time in four games. The first benching of Smith came versus the Miami Heat last Thursday after being disciplined by the league. Smith in two games prior attempted to untie opposing player’s shoes at the foul line (Can’t make this stuff up). After being warned once, he proceeded to attempt and do it again. Obviously coach Mike Woodson had enough, thus benching him against the Heat. After that coach inflicted one game ban, Smith played effectively in the following two wins and seemed to be back on track.

Monday evening the Knicks hosted the Phoenix Suns. Smith tallied 10 points in 25 minutes of play, and played effectively. New York would win the game in overtime, but Smith did not play in the final extra period. The reason why Smith was benched last night against the Bobcats came out this morning. According to reports, Smith complained after the victory against the Suns because of his minutes and not playing in the overtime. Due to the complaining, Woodson took it upon himself to bench Smith for the second time.

Last season Mike Woodson seemed to figure Smith out. Smith praised his coach for retooling his game, by driving to the basket more, and being more aggressive on both sides of the ball. This year, not only has Smith gone back to his old ways of circus shots, and step back fade-a-ways, but he is now on the outs with Woodson fully.

At this point the Knicks are in a major situation with the former Sixth Man of the Year. Is there a trade partner in the league who would want this contract with a childish attitude attached? The only place I could think of would be the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich has been able to get troubled attitudes in the right mind before, maybe Smith could be his next project. The only other answer you could come up with now if you’re the Knicks is keeping him on the bench until he learns from it or flat out quits. The organization has done this before, remember the blank stare of Stephon Marbury back in the day sitting on the bench? How he was a healthy scratch from the rotation on a nightly basis. It is starting to get to that point with Smith.

When you think about it, the problem can be easily solved. One man and one man only can take a look in the mirror and admit that he has acted like an overpaid, egotistical child. The same guy can take accountability of his actions and focus on the team rather than himself.  To think, we are not even a half year removed from watching one of the most lethal shooters in the league have a career season. Now we are looking at one of the worst teammates in the NBA.

Memo to JR Smith: Stop being a child and play basketball!