Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Would Phil Jackson fit with the current Knicks roster?

Jackson sporting Knick colors with a blue shirt,
 and orange tie.
Following the departure of Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks coaching situation is in question. Right now Mike Woodson is running the show and next season it is questionable to see what the Knicks will do with their coaching position. Phil Jackson's name has been often mentioned in association with the Knicks. But if he did come, would the current roster be a good fit for his offense?

Jackson as coach would have at least two benefits. First, he is used to the media and fan attention that surrounds an organization like the Knicks. As a player, he played for New York for the majority of his NBA career and has coached the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Both are major cities that get a lot of media attention and fan pressure to perform well. Jackson is going to be able to take the pressure that surrounds the organization.

Second, Jackson is also very familiar working with stars like Carmelo Anthony. He has coached two of the arguably greatest players in NBA history during his coaching career. Phil has been able to manage personalities like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. So he would obviously be able to work with Anthony. Anthony isn't on the same talent level or skill set as Bryant or Jordan in their primes, but he has similar needs. Jackson would also likely have leverage as coach over Anthony, something Mike D'Antoni never had.

However some had said that this roster does not exactly fit Jackson's offense. Though it wouldn't be perfect, the Knicks current roster would work decently well in the triangle offense. The triangle offense (like D'Antoni's) focuses on spacing. Shooters are a necessary part of the strategy, and the Knicks are at a premium in that category. The idea of the offense is to space the players on the floor in such a way that they are able to benefit when the defense shifts or attempts a double team. That means (again like D'Antoni's offense) players are asked to shoot when they get a good look and make the pass when the defense shifts. So everyone on the roster needs to be decent shooters and passers. Tyson Chandler would be the weak spot of the offense, but he can definitely develop as a passer and potentially as a shooter or post player. Chandler would be good enough to get by, Jackson has been able to make someone like Shaq (who isn't a great shooter or passer) as a viable part of the triangle.

The offense is also predicated on a point guard, a guard or forward, and a post player. These are the positions where the Knicks have the most talent. Jeremy Lin at point, Carmelo Anthony at small forward and Amare Stoudemire in the post would likely be the triangle combination. But Stoudamire is perhaps a stronger pick and roll player, as is Lin. But Stoudamire probably can function in the post enough to suit the triangle offense. He wouldn't be the same caliber as a player like O'Neal but he could do enough. Lin on the other hand might not be the best suited for the triangle but he has talents that are valuable in the offense. He is a great passer and unselfish teammate. He can also knock down shots when called upon. But as a player, he would be better suited in a pick and roll offense where he is called upon to make a pass or drive to the basket.

The biggest problem for the Knicks would likely be ball movement in the system. The offense is built so one player can pass to any of the other four players on the court. This makes spacing for the opposing team much more difficult and easier to attack. But the Knicks biggest problem in the D'Antoni offense was ball movement especially with Melo. Anthony loves to play in the isolation and has been accused of being a ball stopper by former player and current analyst Chris Webber. With Jackson' triangle offense the Knicks could run into the same problems as D'Antoni's offense. It may all come down to whether the Knicks can move the ball and what happens when the ball gets to Anthony. But Anthony wouldn't be the first player that Jackson has coached that has been criticized for hogging the ball. Kobe has also been accused of many of the same things as Anthony. So Jackson may be able to work and get Anthony to buy into the system despite the popular opinion surrounding the player. But it could potentially be the same situation for the Knicks under Jackson as it was for the Knicks under D'Antoni.

It might be too early to start looking for Jackson anyways. It is not even certain that he wants to return. He does have a history with the Knicks and analysts, like Stephen A. Smith, believe he wants to return to New York to end his career. Jackson is only sixty-six which, by coaching standards, means he still has a few years left in him. If he does have the urge to return, and he is willing try to win another ring, New York might not even be the most attractive roster. He might be more drawn to another team, like the possible Dwight Howard-Deron Williams combination. Both would be a better suit for his offense, and he might be given more leverage to craft his roster than take what the Knicks offer him.

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