Nevermind the brazen nepotism that has defined Phil Jackson‘s brief and tumultuous tenure as Knicks president. It’s his increasingly outlandish ideas about basketball that should have fans in New York concerned. That, along with the fact that the Knicks are coming off their worst season in franchise history, missed out on all the big-name free agents this summer, and settled on a draft pick that Jackson himself has since compared to Shawn Bradley.
But he keeps insisting that it’s all part of his larger vision, which apparently now includes recently-signed Sasha Vujacic as a key part of the Knicks’ rotation next season. Here’s what he had to say about Vujacic in the latest installment of Charley Rosen’s “The Phil Files” for ESPN.com:
“At age 31 he still has plenty of game. He’s a classic streak-shooter who, when he’s zeroed in, can totally change a game in three minutes. He’ll be a significant force for us coming off the bench.’’
“Streak-shooter” might be the only accurate descriptor in that sentence, which is weird coming from Phil because, you know, he coached Vujacic back in the day when he was emphatically not a game-changer nor a significant force for the Lakers. Even if Vujacic will potentially get more opportunities on this current iteration of the Knicks, that’s still just another testament to their ongoing roster woes.
A big part of the problem in New York is Jackson’s stubborn insistence on running the Triangle Offense, which appears increasingly outdated in the pace-and-space era of the NBA. Furthermore, it’s predicated on getting players to assume certain roles within that system rather than playing to their strengths, which in this particular case amounts to a round-peg-square-hole scenario.
For example, Jackson also told Rosen that he expects new free agent signee Robin Lopez to evolve into an offensive threat in Tex Winter’s notorious system, something Lopez has never been known for.
“Robin can hold his spot in the pivot and score with either a right-handed hook or a turn-around jumper, and also make intelligent passes,’’ Jackson said. “These qualities are absolutely necessary for the triangle to be properly executed. As a bonus, Robin also has 15-foot range on his jumper. … Above all, he’s a guy whose basic motivation is to fit in with whichever team he’s playing for. I’m happy that he wanted to come to New York.”
Despite these and other wild proclamations, Jackson has stopped short of calling the Knicks a playoff team this season, which is probably wise considering that is mostly likely not their destiny.