The hornets nest that surrounded Phil Jackson’s operation of the New York Knicks comes to an abrupt end under James Dolan’s employ. The Knicks’ future, however, has yet to be ascertained.
The sudden firing of Phil Jackson leaves the New York Knicks in a state of disarray—again. Even the manner in which the public received the news was disheartening.
As Mitch Lawrence of Forbes put it: Jackson was fired, “On [the] Eve of Free Agency.” Considering free agency plays a big role in creating teams, the timing has left Knicks fans perplexed.
When Phil Jackson addressed the Kristaps Porzingis trade rumors prior to the 2017 NBA Draft, he gave a semblance of his assurance by stating:
"“Well, I think we know what we’re doing. That’s what I can say to them. Although it’s not been apparent in our record the last couple years, we’ve grown from within, we’ve got young players that are on their move up. It takes time to rebuild with youth, and I think to have confidence in the fact that we’re gonna have good players and we’re gonna have a good team and we’re gonna be on the court competitive.”"
Three weeks ago, it seemed as though Jackson was on the cusp of making big deals. He was shopping for promising names such as Maurice Harkless and Ricky Rubio, and even piqued the interest of ex-Knick Pablo Prigioni for an assistant coach job.
It seemed as though Jackson was attempting to jumpstart the Knicks franchise for a fresh new season.
More specifically, the salesman pitch Jackson sold the public on was considered to be a, “Youth movement”, as cited by Forbes staff writer Simon Ogus. He was developing a plan to progressively rebuild and restructure the team.
With this focus, Jackson Jackson made it clear why he desperately needed to shop for younger and more structurally fitting players to build around budding star Kristaps Porzingis.
Since his emergence as a rising star, Porzingis has been revered as a symbol for the Knicks’ future. Yet, the decision to draft the 7’3″ Latvian disappointed Knicks fans.
In the face of adversity, Porzingis proudly proclaimed to the fans:
"I mean a lot of fans weren’t happy that they drafted me, but I have to do everything that’s in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans."
And throughout his tenure with the Knicks thus far, that’s exactly what he’s done.
Porzingis has become one of the NBA’s top young rising stars. He won the 2017 Skills Competition, displaying an unseen skillset for a 7’3″, athletically gifted shooter.
In addition, Porzingis owns the prestige of ranking near the top of the NBA in jersey sales. It all comes together to give him the honorary nickname: “The Unicorn.”
Despite the tenuous injuries that have hindered his career, Porzingis still solidified what was to be a long-term relationship. Not only as an impending star, but a branding icon in New York for years to come.
These affairs have been happening under the legislation of Phil Jackson, which has led us to believe his redesign of the Knicks would be built around the future: Kristaps Porzingis—the embodiment of what is considered to be, “Hope”.
It wasn’t until things started to go awry, all dreams of the Knicks growing alongside Porzingis became a potential project bust this offseason.
Phil Jackson has often been accused by fans and former NBA players of having a self-centered ego above the temperament of those affiliated with him.
When Jackson proudly inaugurated Porzingis as the future of the Knicks, he went to tremendous lengths to give him the necessary space to develop. That includes the open scapegoating of former face of the Knicks: Carmelo Anthony.
And when Jackson had (by proclamation) his most important asset skip a team meeting, it was based on Porzingis’ discernment that The Zen Master was unable to become the leader and spokesperson that players and fans needed him to be.
When you choose, yet again, to scapegoat someone—and that someone happens be one of the frontrunners to carry the torch as the future—it’s a telling tale.
This occurrence questions Jackson’s ability to build a culture that can last and sustain.
Phil Jackson gave the masses, specifically Carmelo Anthony, false promises of making the Knicks playoff contenders. In accordance to that vision, he gave blockbuster contracts to Anthony and Joakim Noah, and traded for an injury-prone project in Derek Rose.
It was all a part of the convoluted plan to rebuild around Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangómez, and recent draftee Frank Ntilikina.
Negotiating long-term contracts that have proven to be flops; the weight of ‘Melo’s no-trade clause; Kristaps Porzingis and the dissatisfaction of the Knicks mobs—it’s all been showered over by Phil Jackson’s ego.
And when his ego usurped that of James Dolan’s likeness, that’s when the prestige of winning 11 rings becomes diminished.
Phil Jackson has been relieved of his duties and the New York Knicks have been left in optimistic disarray.