Phil Jackson Rumors

Knicks team president Phil Jackson will have $27 million in cap space on July 1 and may be willing to save a trifle of it for 7-foot free-agent center Jason Smith. According to a source, Jackson would love to have Smith back as the backup center — a sweet-shooting big man for the triangle. Jackson realizes it may not be possible if Smith gets offered significantly more than the $1.4 million veteran’s minimum.
Asked whether the Knicks could find a perennial star with their first pick—similar to the team striking gold with Patrick Ewing 30 years earlier—Jackson said he wasn’t sure. “We’re hoping to. But it doesn’t jump out at us right away that there’s this consensus [of a player] with the size and physique to [be a franchise player]. But it can come in different ways. It can be a wing player, or a guard.”
During a 25-minute gathering with writers who cover the team, Jackson revealed buzzworthy 7-foot-1 European project Kristaps Porzingas failed to complete his workout Monday with the Knicks because of cramps. With the 76ers leaning toward taking Russell at No. 3, there’s been speculation Jackson would consider Porzingis — despite the notion he could be two years away from making an impact because of his skinny frame. “We had to change the workout,’’ Jackson said. “He had a cramp in the middle of it. He did go through the workup with the medical staff that was impressive.’’
When Bryant is told that the triangle prospered only because he was involved, he objects. “You’re supposed to win with a bunch of bums?” he said. “It baffles me to hear people talk about how this is a team sport and then say the triangle was only successful because Phil had great players. We were successful because we played in such a beautiful system. We had great coaches. It’s all in conjunction.” Jackson said: “You have a player like Michael Jordan, you’re going to have the opportunity to win championships. But to be able to do it consecutive times, three championships, and three more, that says a lot about what a team created.” So, I asked him, how does it feel when people say he won only because he had Jordan, Pippen, O’Neal and Bryant? He brightened. “Feels great!” he said. “I’m so glad I had those players. Made all the difference.”
To find a coach who does adapt his strategy year after year, I headed (by telephone) to the Research Triangle, to consult Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. “I never try to put my players in a system,” he said, not long before his adjustments enabled the Blue Devils to win the national championship. “I try to create a system that’s good for my players.” Had he thought of trying the triangle? The idea seemed to startle him. It was so successful, I ventured. “The triangle didn’t win crap!” he said sternly. “Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant! Whatever offense I run, that offense didn’t do it. Winning means you had the caliber of players capable of winning a championship.” Then he seemed to want to soothe the situation. “I have nothing against the triangle,” he said. “I think it’s a great offense. But it’s a lot better if Jordan loves it or Kobe loves it.”
Steve Kerr, who excelled in the triangle as a player with the Bulls and now coaches the Golden State Warriors, said it was difficult to find players who could execute nuanced passing and movement. “Today’s game is so ball dominant,” he said. “Players grow up with the pick-and-roll, so they don’t naturally play without the ball. “So many one-and-done guys are incredibly gifted,” Kerr continued, referring to players who jump to the N.B.A. after a year in college, “but they’re not seasoned fundamentally. In Triangle, they’d be completely lost.”
In an appearance on Mike and Mike’s ESPN Radio show, Jackson was asked about his sentiment GM Steve Mills sat on the lottery dais because he’s the future and will be with the Knicks organization for the long term. Jackson said Monday he expects Mills to be his successor, but he isn’t close to bolting. “I have a five-year contract and I just finished year one,’’ Jackson said. “I anticipate it will take awhile to turn this around and I want to be here through that phase. That was my commitment with Jim Dolan. He was trying to find a brand for our franchise in which people know how we play and identify the style of ball we play. I’ve had part of that history of coaching in the NBA. It allows you to take players to fit into the system that works well and had success. As time goes on, I can allow Steve to take over the whole operation. I don’t anticipate that’s going to be a big deal.’’
In his three-year semi-retirement, Jackson flirted with the Brooklyn Nets, advised new Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and consulted with the investment group that tried to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle. Had that deal been consummated, Jackson would likely be in Washington right now, managing the reincarnated SuperSonics, instead of trying to resuscitate the moribund Knicks. “He loves the game so much,” Kobe Bryant told Bleacher Report. “He loves teaching the game. So that part of him is always there.”
He concluded: “It struck me: How can we get so far away from the real truth of what we’re trying to do? And if you give people structure, just like a jazz musician—he’s gotta learn melody, and he’s gotta learn the basic parts of music—and then he can learn how to improvise. And that’s basically what team play is all about.” The agitation in Jackson’s voice is evident. Yes, he is on something of a quest in this presumably final chapter of his NBA career, but it goes beyond the triangle, beyond restoring Knicks glory and beyond New York. It sounds as if Jackson is fighting for the soul of the game, or at least the game as he learned it as a Knicks forward in the 1960s and ’70s, under the legendary Red Holzman.
Jackson has four years left on his contract and speaks openly about this being a short-term exercise. He wants to put the franchise on solid footing, then turn it over to the next guy—ideally before a potential labor stoppage in 2017. You can say that Jackson’s basketball jones drove him to return. You can chalk it up to boredom, restlessness, ambition, money, even nostalgia. New York is, after all, where his career began all those years ago. Jackson harrumphs at any suggestion of sentimentality, but Buss knows better. “It’s in his heart,” she said of the Knicks. “It means a lot to him to see the team do well.”
Jackson’s presidential stint so far has been viewed as an unmitigated disaster, but he has the fourth pick and $27 million in cap space. “People underestimate what a great evaluator of talent Phil is,’’ Rosen said. “He made the decisions in L.A., not Mitch Kupchak. Phil had to sign off on everything because he knew the triangle better than Mitch. You need a different type of player for it. It’s not necessarily the most talented player.’’
No offense to Steve, but why weren’t you the team’s public face on the dais at the draft lottery? Phil Jackson: I see Steve as the future of this franchise. I mean, I’m here for a time, and I’m trying to help turn it around the best way I can. But I can see Steve having a lasting tenure here, and this is one of the things that’s good about our relationship, that we can grow from our teamwork. I couldn’t believe that there was some kind of hue and cry over whether I should have been there to watch what in effect had taken place in a back room, where they had some balls rolling around in a hamster cage.
Were you consulted before Thomas was brought in? Phil Jackson: Jim Dolan had talked to us about it over dinner, maybe a month before it happened. We said, “Are you cognizant of the fact that this at least has the look of putting the fox in the henhouse?” Is that a good term? In reviewing the history of it, we were told what the approach was by the Garden and how it went down. Jim said, “If you have any suggestions that you want to come back with, I’m open.” And not being in that field, I didn’t have any information. It’s not where my head is at. So we’re not giving them any advice, and it’s going both ways.