Tag Archives: Mike Woodson

Phil Jackson and the Knicks: A Recipe for Success

By: Prad

Phil Jackson has previously been associated with the New York Knicks. And it was a winning time for the team. Although not as significant as others on the team, Jackson was a member of the Knicks’ teams that won Championships in 1970 and 1973. He was last affiliated with the Knicks on April 23, 1978 when he played his final game in uniform for the team. Much has changed in the Big Apple since his departure 35 years ago. The team has failed to capture a ring since that ’73 title run and the team up to this point in the season is moving in the wrong direction. 

Can the Zen Master turn things around? Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Can the Zen master turn things around?
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Last season, the Knicks finished with an impressive 54-28 record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They won their first playoff series in a decade and it looked like the Knicks were finally coming back from a decade of turbulence that included front office mishaps and issues with player personnel. It appeared as if the Knicks were building a head of steam and could potentially make another big step by making the Eastern Conference Finals this season. This hope faded quickly though as the Knicks held a 3-13 record by the beginning of December. Head Coach Mike Woodson was blamed for the dismal record, but no single member of the team could possibly have taken full responsibility for the atrocious start. The team was out of playoff contention and the team looked at this season as a failure until very recently.

New York has been climbing itself out of the hole that it dug for itself in the past couple weeks. Prior to the official signing of Phil Jackson, the Knicks were riding a six game winning streak and hitting its stride. The Knicks faced its biggest challenge in the past few weeks when it played Indiana tonight. I don’t know if it was Phil Jackson’s presence at Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks played some of their best ball of the season during that win against a gritty Pacers team. They currently stand four games out of the final playoff spot in the poor performing East. The momentum from the last week and an easy slate of upcoming games may turn things around in New York this season. The Jackson signing can’t hurt either.

More importantly, the five-year $60 million signing of Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations provides optimism for the future of the franchise. The Zen master, who holds the highest winning percentage (70.2% at 1155-485) in NBA history, now takes on his first front office position. Nobody knows for certain if his winning ways will translate to him as an executive.  Yet, his signing certainly provides the aforementioned motivation for his players to work harder. And he knows what kinds of things need to be in place for the wins to pile up.

The Knicks can give Melo more money than any other club this offseason Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
The Knicks can give Melo more money than any other club this offseason
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

At this point, his top priority must be to sign Carmelo Anthony, who is expected to opt out of his current deal. New York can offer him almost $30 million more than any other team this summer at five years for $129 million. It has also recently been reported that Melo is willing to change his role within the offense and even take less money if Jackson believes that it can bolster the team’s performance and chances at a title in the near future.

Past this, Jackson does not seem to have much room to operate. Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire are all signed until the end of next year at a whopping $50 million. This doesn’t allow for much room this offseason but Jackson will have to make a splash in free agency the following summer. This lack of financial flexibility causes problems for a team that has mediocre role players. No solution is in sight unless Jackson can work his magic by restructuring a few contracts in the next several months.

All signs also point to Jackson dismissing Coach Mike Woodson at the conclusion of this season. It will be interesting to see who Jackson picks to succeed the underperforming Woodson. He might pick someone who implements the triangle offense, a game plan Jackson made popular during his tenures with the Bulls and Lakers. Ultimately, Jackson will be the one shaping the offense for years to come with his acquisitions and shaping of the roster.

Knicks owner James Dolan will give Phil Jackson full freedom with the fate of the franchise Courtesy of NY Daily News
Knicks owner James Dolan will give Phil Jackson full freedom with the future of the franchise
Courtesy of NY Daily News

Nevertheless, the fate of the franchise essentially rests in Jackson’s hands as owner James Dolan will give him unlimited room to operate. This is pretty difficult for Dolan, who’s basically influenced every single decision the Knicks have made since the turn of the century. Jackson has the opportunity to bring a glimmer of hope to a fan base that hasn’t seen much success in quite some time. His recent signing with New York ushers in a new era of optimism and hopefully wins for a club that has been struggling since his departure three and a half decades ago.

JR Smith’s Wise Decision

By: Prad

JR Smith
JR Smith

JR Smith signed a four year deal worth $24.7 million to stay in New York with the Knicks. The fourth and final year of the contract he  signed includes a player option, which when exercised is $7 million. The Sixth Man of the Year had a career year last season when he averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, both career highs. He only made $2.8 million during his breakout season though. The Knicks owned his early bird rights and were offering him the maximum that they could. Smith was definitely getting offers from other teams but was not offered as much as New York offered him. This is in part to his lackluster performance during the postseason. He shot an inefficient 33.1% from the field and 27.3% from the 3-point arc. His inconsistency coupled with his desire to chuck up a large volume of shots made some teams shy away during this offseason. However, Coach Mike Woodson allows him to be as aggressive as he wants as he leads the reserves. He thrives in an environment where he is allowed to be the primary scorer in a unit.

JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony
JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony

The landscape of the team will change next year though. JR Smith is searching for a job in the starting lineup next season. But, he might not be as effective because Carmelo Anthony takes the bulk of shots for the Knicks’ starting unit. He might be constrained in the number of shots he takes when Melo is on the floor. This will lower his overall points averages, but I look for him to become more efficient and intelligent with his shot decisions. This year, he put up many low probability shots because he was supposed to take a majority of the shots when the starting lineup was on the bench. With Melo on the floor, he will want his shot attempts to count and not simply be wasted.

Last Season's Knicks Bench
Last Season’s Knicks Bench

This season, Smith didn’t start in any of the 80 games he played in, but played starter minutes, 33.5, which is also a career high. The Knicks second unit might not be as aggressive next year with no viable consistent scorer unless Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani comes off and leads the bench. But, this is very likely because only one of the power forwards can start and Carmelo can’t move to any guard position. The Knicks can’t rely on them for the duration of a full season since both of them have had a difficult time staying healthy in the last couple of seasons. I thought that the Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. because they believed that Smith would leave the Big Apple. Perhaps Hardaway could be a major factor on the bench and hover around the 25 minutes range each game. Hardaway needs a bit more development in creating his own shot before he can crack the starting lineup but he can definitely produce solid numbers on the bench until then. Him along with an exciting Iman Shumpert makes the Knicks’ bench more youthful and legitimate.

Ultimately, JR Smith made a smart move by signing with the Knicks because he doesn’t necessarily do well in other systems and wouldn’t have gotten as much money as he did because of his noted inconsistency.

All Statistics and Pictures from ESPN

NY Knicks Offseason Needs

By: Prad

JR Smith
JR Smith

1) Re-sign J.R. Smith

This is by far the single most important thing Glen Grunwald needs to do this offseason. Although J.R. Smith was terribly inefficient in the post season, his value in the regular season can’t be overstated. He averaged the second most points on the team, 18.1 to along with 5.3 boards a game. His lackluster performance in the postseason this year surely will make him fewer millions than he could’ve had he continued his outstanding play into the playoffs. Some critics say that Smith will not experience the same success that he experienced this year anywhere including New York. But, I believe that he worked well in the Knicks system under Mike Woodson where he led the second unit and was allowed to take a high volume of shots. He thrives in this system where he has the ability to work for his own shot and ends many possessions with his shots. This can continue if he decides to re-sign with the Knicks. The Knicks will offer him approximately $5.5 million because they own his Early Bird Rights. The Knicks would love to re-sign Smith, as they don’t have another secondary scoring option after Carmelo Anthony.

2) Sign a couple big men

I believe attaining another big man is essential. The Knicks could’ve probably done better in the draft but I don’t blame them with the selection they made. They drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. who is a talented and fantastic shooter that can create of the dribble. If the Knicks don’t manage to sign J.R., I think that Hardaway would be a great replacement once he develops his skills a bit more in a few years. But, the fact is that Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire are the only true big men the Knicks currently have on the roster. Kenyon Martin played solid bench minutes for the Knicks in the playoffs, but he’s not a long term option. Stoudemire gets injured often, so Chandler is the defensive anchor and the only player on the team who plays like a big man. The Knicks are in great need of a couple big men to play reserve minutes as backups to Melo in the power forward position and Chandler at center. A player that is physical inside and who has the ability to rebound well would be ideal but it will be hard with the Knicks inflexibility in cap space.

Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martin

3) Re-sign Kmart and Pablo Prigioni

Although Prigioni was a rookie last year in the NBA, he is a veteran in terms of experience. I mean he’s 35. He can help teach young guards how to fit well into the Knicks system under Coach Woodson. He adjusted fairly well into the system his first year. In fact, when he was inserted into the starting lineup, the Knicks won 13 consecutive games. He is noted for his persistence in attempting to steal the ball at all times when on the court. Kenyon Martin provided valuable minutes off the bench for the Knicks late in the regular season and during the playoffs. He had the most efficient season of his career, shooting 60.2%. Though he’s 35, he can still provide around 25 MPG.

Pablo Prigioni
Pablo Prigioni

All Stats and Pictures from ESPN