Knicks: Is Phil Jackson Repeating The Sins Of Past Regimes?

Jan 10, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks president Phil Jackson addresses the media before the start of game against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks president Phil Jackson addresses the media before the start of game against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

Is New York Knicks team president Phil Jackson repeating the mistakes of past regimes or has he found a winning formula?

Phil Jackson’s 2016 offseason transactions have drawn almost equal praise and criticism. With a rising salary cap, Jackson has taken somewhat measured gambles on high-profile names with injury concerns, like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Brandon Jennings also may cause some to pause, though his one-year, $5 million deal is considered both a low-risk and financially responsible deal.

Depending on the analyst or Twitter handle, the Knicks have either reverted back to the practices of overpaying and trading for players who are past their prime, or have immediately slotted themselves as a Top 5 team in the Eastern Conference.

A brief review of past trades and free agent signings since 2000 suggest that, although Jackson has made moves reminiscent of previous regimes, he has generally kept at least one eye towards the future in regards to salary cap flexibility and draft picks.

In 2002 Scott Layden traded for Antonio McDyess after he played 10 games during the previous season. The Knicks lost Mark Jackson, Marcus Camby and Nene Hilario (drafted 7th overall).

McDyess previously had patellar tendon surgery, and had two years left on his deal worth $26 million, as per Chris Broussard of The New York Times.

Overall, McDyess played 18 games for the Knicks in total, and his time with the team was an utter disaster.

Thomas also invested draft picks and money into Eddy Curry. The Knicks received Curry in a sign-and-trade deal with the Bulls including two first-round draft picks that became LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah. Curry’s contract was for six years and $56 million.

Curry had one good season, but never panned out in New York.

Overall, the key departure and difference between Jackson and previous regimes is that he has not mortgaged future assets in trading away draft picks. Between Isiah Thomas and Scott Layden, close to 15 draft picks were traded to other teams from 2000 to 2007.

The Knicks currently hold all their first-round draft picks through the 2020 season, as per realGM. However, Jackson did fire Derek Fisher a year-and-a-half into his five-year, $25 million dollar deal.

He gave a significant amount of money to Fisher to coach the team with no prior coaching experience. Similar to Larry Brown, Fisher will also collect a good amount of money to not work for the Knicks.

Going into the 2016 off-season, Jackson was certainly on the hot-seat and had to be creative in making Knicks relevant and improving them from a 32-50 season.

After trading for Derrick Rose, 27, New York clearly shifted to “win-now” focus. In theory, this makes sense. Jackson and Carmelo Anthony will both be under contract for the next three seasons.

Jackson has been on record as saying that a conversation with Anthony led him to reconsider his philosophy in building the team.

This change has led to the Knicks taking a risk on the surgically repaired knees of Derrick Rose. Although the Knicks have traded for and signed players with previous knee injuries (see: Amar’e Stoudemire and Antonio McDyess), none have been a former MVP.

According to his trainer, Rob McGlanaghan, Derrick is healthy and eager to prove people wrong. Furthermore, the Knicks have the flexibility of letting Rose walk as he’s due to become a free agent after this season.

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal also writes about Derrick Rose’s fit with Carmelo Anthony.

"“Rose was more comfortable on the left, taking about 40% of his outside jumpers from there. Anthony, by contrast, took nearly 48% of his outside jumpers from the right, per Stats LLC.”"

Although Rose and Carmelo feature as isolation players, their go-to spots on the court are different. However, if Rose plays well, he may have the leverage to garner a major multi-year contract.

Agreeing to such a contract could see the Knicks following old habits, plunging them into salary cap hell.

Concerns regarding Joakim Noah, 31, center around his previously injured shoulder and knee issues. According to Fox Sports, Noah has had tendonitis in his left knee since 2015. Most recently, Noah had surgery last season to repair a separated left shoulder.

This offseason, Jackson signed Noah to a four-year deal worth slightly over $72 million. Noah will be 35 when the deal expires in 2020.

If you’re an optimist, Noah is a player who basically missed last season and is claiming that he’s healthy and determined to prove that he can return to the form of a former Defensive Player of the Year.

The good news is that Noah’s game was never predicated on athleticism. He will continue to bring hustle, good passing and leadership to the Knicks’ roster.

The worst case scenario is that Noah’s body continues to break down, and the last two, or maybe even three years of his contract are seen as dead weight.

Jackson is also hoping to surround Kristaps Porzingis with hardworking and determined players to help him develop and sustain good work habits.

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One could argue that Phil has had to take risks like trading for Rose and signing Noah after not being able to secure meetings with top free agents such Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, or Al Horford. In 2015, Jackson was able to meet with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan, yet they decided on different teams.

Since taking over as team president, Jackson’s gravitas has not translated into the league’s premier players seeing the Knicks as a preferred destination.

Despite this, if you compare the 2016-2017 projected starting lineup to Mike Woodson’s 2012-13 opening night lineup which included Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler, Knicks fans should at the very least be somewhat excited

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It will take at least a year or two to fully evaluate the Rose and Noah moves, but Jackson has kept future assets secure while making steady improvement in the Eastern Conference.