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Want to know just how bad things have gotten for Phil Jackson and his New York Knicks? Consider carving out an added $30 million in salary cap space as he did earlier this week comes as the easy part atop his to do list.
The Knicks still-newly minted president of basketball operations announced Monday he had gifted enigmatic swingman J.R. Smith and oft-injured guard Iman Shumpert to LeBron James’ quickly proving to be equally dysfunctional Cleveland Cavaliers for little of nothing. And now the Zen Master’s real work is set to begin.
In truth, the Knicks received marginal hanger-ons Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and Lance Thomas, all players who not-so-coincidentally happen to be in the final days of non-guaranteed contracts. In the final dimension of the complicated three-team deal, the Thunder acquired Dion Waiters from the Cavs, who in turn shipped them a protected 2015 first-round pick.
But on a day when the Knicks started a lineup of Jason Smith, Cole Aldrich, Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin and Tim Hardaway Jr. and suffered their twelfth straight loss and 22nd in 23 games, it’s clear this day, this desperate play for a chance at reclaimed respectability was all about Jackson and the Knicks.
“As our journey moves through this season, we will search for the type of players that fit the style we hope to exhibit for our fans,” Jackson said of his ongoing attempts to incorporate the triangle offense that has won him 11 NBA titles as a way of life for the Knickerbockers. “Our desire is to improve our ability to compete. In addition, these transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future reasons.”
But in recent times, all the Knicks’ best laid plans have always seemed to go awry. Their 5-32 start and growing rumors $124 million dollar man Carmelo Anthony is on the verge of shutting it down for the year because of lingering knee issues are but the most recent examples.
And it’s not as if Jackson hasn’t targeted would-be saviors in the same way he now again seems inclined since arriving at The Garden. Think Pau Gasol and even Steve Kerr, both of whom were essentially presented with blank checks in hopes of luring them to the Knicks, only to take what’s rumored to be lesser deals to sign with far more stable franchises like Chicago and Golden State.
Given all the Knicks’ clear and present dysfunction, it’s more than reasonable to question whether such primary 2015 targets as Marc Gasol, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge will earnestly consider similar overtures, even though they will almost surely directly come from the Zen Master himself.
Alas, it seems the best chance the Knicks and Jackson truly have to getting back to who they once were lies in recapturing the lucky bounces they once benefited from.
Back in 1985, the Knicks were just as bad and nearly as dysfunctional when they lucked out in landing the No. 1 overall pick Patrick Ewing. Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor has hardly proven himself to be quite of Ewing’s stature, but he clearly seems the Knicks’ best option to have any chance of an immediate resurrection.
Either way, Phil Jackson has to know his job won’t be easy.
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