Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher are entering their 2nd season together as the New York Knicks “brain trust”. The Knicks are coming off their worst season in franchise history (17-65). There is an old saying, “It is always darkest before the dawn” and it was pretty dark last year for Knicks fans. But, there are better times coming. Does anyone really think that Jackson and Fisher just forgot how to win at basketball? Between the two of them they have won a total of 18 NBA Championships. So the Knicks were awful last year, this is nothing new to this franchise under James Dolan. Since 2000, New York has had 9 head coaches:
Jeff Van Gundy 1996–2001
Don Chaney 2001-2004
Herb Williams 2004
Lenny Wilkens 2004–2005
Herb Williams 2005
Larry Brown 2005–2006
Isiah Thomas 2006–2008
Mike D’Antoni 2008–2012
Mike Woodson 2012–2014
Derek Fisher 2014–present
The only thing consistent about the Knicks under Dolan has been constant change, The Knicks have traded away numerous draft picks, brought in veteran players on the decline of their careers all in the name of winning. The only problem is… Dolan’s formula hasn’t worked. Since 2000, the Knicks have won 1 playoff series. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This is been the Dolan regime.
All that has stopped under Jackson. For the first time in 15 years the Knicks have a long term plan. They didn’t overpay for free agents this summer, and they drafted two players, Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant. Both Porzingis and Grant have tremendous upside. In their 1st summer league game as a professionals, the two combined for 24 points. (15-17 from the free throw line) and played a pivotal role in the opening game victory. Porzingis is frail but he will get stronger and he should be a productive stretch 4/ center for years to come. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook was impossible to block, because Porzingis is so tall (7’1 and growing) maybe his jump shot will be impossible to block as well.
Jackson acquired Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Derrick Williams and Aaron Afflalo. Williams is a former #2 overall pick and has all the tools to be a very good NBA player. I like Quinn and Lopez up front because they don’t need plays run for them to influence the game. They are grinders and like to do all the dirty work. That should help Prozingis as the season wears along. I don’t think you can win an NBA championship with Carmelo Anthony being your number 1 option. But, for now, Jackson has put players around Melo who don’t demand the ball. Successful teams like the Bulls, Warriors, Cavs and Spurs build through the draft. This is what the Knicks have to do for long term success.
Did Jackson and Fisher make mistakes last year? Absolutely, but let them learn on the job. Gregg Popovich was 17-47 his first year as the San Antonio head coach. The Spurs didn’t panic, they believed in him and 5 championships later, the rest is history. Derek Fisher is coaching in his second season in the Knicks summer league. This proves to me he wants to learn and grow and be around his players. It hasn’t been talked about much through the media but Fisher deserves a ton of credit for being on the sidelines. He was a grinder as a player and now as a coach.
I don’t know if Jackson and Fisher will bring a title to New York, but they will bring the Knicks back to a contender. It may take another year or so, but Knicks fans have been in mourning since Dolan took over. Remember, in 15 years the Knicks have 1 playoff series win… Better times ahead, be patient. Phil and Derek know basketball.
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