The New York Knicks have started their 2017-18 NBA season off on the right foot. We’re only a month in, but the Knicks are currently 8-7. While that record might not look incredibly impressive on paper, considering what most NBA pundits were predicting for the Knicks this season, they are exceeded expectations. Most importantly, though, Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as one of the very best players in the entire NBA.
The difference between these Knicks and the Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson-era Knicks is palpable. Despite the fact that much-maligned Knicks owner James Dolan is still a factor, the organization is significantly less dysfunctional without the ‘Melo vs. Phil drama clouding their every move. We don’t want to jinx anything here, but basketball in New York looks fun again.
So, what changed? Why are the Knicks better? Why is Porzingis playing the best basketball of his career? Why is this team suddenly so much fun to watch? Well, head coach Jeff Hornacek has a theory, and it stems from the fact that Jackson is no longer trying to get the team to run his beloved triangle offense.
In an interview with ESPN’s Ian Begley, Hornacek said “Last year we were trying to combine a couple of things — our style and the triangle style. We tried to mix it. This year we’re not trying to mix it.”
While Hornacek didn’t mention the absence of Jackson directly, we do know that he was a big proponent of bringing the triangle to New York in the first place. I won’t question the merit of the triangle here, but it’s easy to understand why a young team like the Knicks might benefit from a simpler offensive system, particularly one that doesn’t try to blend two different styles together.
Porzingis somewhat backed up Hornacek’s assessment in an interview on the Michael Kay show last week, saying “This year you can feel that Jeff has more, he’s running his own stuff without anybody coming in and telling him what to do or how to do.”
Porzingis has his own beef with Phil Jackson, so it’s not terribly surprising that he was a little more direct than Hornacek with his criticism of the organization last year. Whatever sort of subtle shots the Knicks are sending here aside, the end result is good news for basketball in New York City. The triangle is gone, Porzingis is a monster, and the Knicks are fun. We’ll take that.