New York Knicks: Phil Jackson Shouldn’t Settle For Mediocrity

The New York Knicks’ latest loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers should serve as a wake-up call. Mediocrity isn’t a high enough standard.

With a little over two weeks remaining until the trade deadline, Phil Jackson is quickly running out of time to determine what direction the New York Knicks should take for the rest of the season.

The Knicks may just be 1.5 games away from the No. 8 seed, but after watching them put up a meager effort against the reigning NBA Champs, I think Saturday’s game wasn’t just a loss; it was a wake-up call that should make Knicks fans realize how far this franchise is from being a top-tier team.

The hard truth is that it’s time to abandon the notion that the Knicks can turn things around this season because continuing to do so is damaging for the health of the franchise.

Why Settle For Mediocrity?

Making the playoffs is always a positive feat, but with more than half the teams in the league making it to the postseason, don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a remarkable accomplishment.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, years of losing has fans starving for any kind of success. That’s clouded our judgment into thinking making a No. 7 or No. 8 seed would be something to be celebrated.

It isn’t, though, because making it to the playoffs for certain elimination in the first round keeps the Knicks running on a treadmill that prevents them from obtaining lottery picks or gaining ground on being better than winning teams like the Warriors, Cavs, and Spurs.

Maybe I’m being foolish, but when Phil Jackson was introduced to Knicks fans at his first press conference, I took it seriously when we were officially told:

“His history of success in the NBA is unrivaled, and he is the ideal executive to lead our team and develop short and long term plans that build a successful franchise and result in an NBA championship. That is our only goal, and what our loyal fans deserve.”

Three years later, I don’t consider the Knicks anywhere closer to that goal.

With just one advancement into the second round of the playoffs over the last 18 years, I think it’s entirely fair for Knicks fans to demand more from this franchise. Anything that isn’t in service to a goal of winning championship is just a distraction.

And yes, Jackson should factor that into Carmelo Anthony’s current situation.

A Lesson From LeBron’s Dissatisfaction

Last week LeBron James spouted off on Charles Barkley for criticizing his plea to bring more talent to the roster. Regardless of Barkley’s disapproval of that, James asking for help shows a winning mentality that has been absent from the Knicks ever since Jeff Van Gundy was here.

If the leader of the defending NBA champions measures his team as being below other teams, what does this say about the Knicks?

If the Knicks’ goal is to become a championship team, then how can we look at the state of the team and convince ourselves into thinking that they’re close to competing with the league’s best teams?

Keeping the status quo is a road to nowhere.

Despite the emotional attachment many Knicks fans have to Carmelo Anthony, it’s difficult to imagine a way the Knicks can navigate themselves into being a championship team with him still the nucleus of it.

Kristaps Porzingis may not be ready to takeover a franchise, and as impressive Willy Hernangomez is, it’s also true that it’s going to take more to bring the Knicks to the upper echelon of the conference.

The thing about Anthony, though, is that he’s still an impressively talented player, even if he isn’t an All-Star anymore. He’s just too talented to be a role player (sorry Jeff Van Gundy) on a championship team.

So where does this leave Jackson on what to do with the Knicks?

It’s Time To Focus On The Future

Things are bad, but I’ve seen worse. Unlike prior years, where I’ve felt the Knicks were hopeless, they aren’t in a terrible cap position and they also have young assets that look like future NBA All-Stars—two things needed for any team to attain success.

What Jackson needs to do is decide when exactly it’s time to admit defeat and focus fully on future. I think that time is now and I think it’s something that Knicks fans should realize, too.

Not too long ago, when Anthony talked about his desire to be a Knick, terms like “winning” and “contending” were cited. Nowadays, it’s words like “loyalty” and “family situation” that have replaced that.’

This is obviously admirable, but it’s also an admission that the window of the Knicks winning anything here with him as the driving force has closed. This doesn’t mean that he deserves to get booed and be disparaged by fans.

It’s not like the New York Knicks did the best job of surrounding him with good coaching or the best complementary players.

Two weeks from now, we’ll learn what Jackson thinks about this, but Saturday’s loss should serve as cold dose of reality.

A lot can happen in two weeks, but based on the difficult schedule ahead and the growing degree boos showering Carmelo Anthony at MSG, things seem primed to get pretty ugly.