ESPN has been running a series called “The Phil Files” where scribe Charley Rosen spent a day with Phil Jackson every month of his first season as the President of the New York Knicks.
Monday’s profile had Phil critique his roster, and it was delightfully honest. Phil has been around long enough, and had enough success in his career, that he doesn’t seem to really care about being politically correct.
Jackson gave a detailed breakdown of every player on the team, and — like he had in previous Phil Files — he held very little back.
He called Andrea Bargnani “a big tease” who “had a hard time staying intense, didn’t hustle back in offense-to-defense transition, wasn’t active enough in defending screen-rolls.” About Tim Haradaway Jr., Jackson said “Perhaps the worst part of Timmy’s game is his ugly defense.” Jackson even questioned (rightly so) how long Shane Larkin would last in the league saying: “For sure, every team needs a small, quick guard, but there are a lot of guys like that available.”
It’s all a fascinating look inside the mind of an NBA legend, but there still are some serious questions about Jackson’s direction with the franchise.
A lot of the Knicks success (or lack thereof) will be how well Carmelo Anthony can shoulder the load as the team’s franchise player. In his comments about ‘Melo, Jackson compared the eight-time All Star to some other pretty good players Jackson has been involved with:
“Like Q, Melo is a leader by example, not by exhorting his teammates. He’s also very into the triangle, and with a better supporting cast he has every chance to be the MJ and Kobe of our offense.”
That better supporting cast this year will include newcomers Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin, and rookies Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant, as well as a healthy Jose Calderon, and young players like Langston Galloway, and Alexey Shved.
Most experts would put that roster right around the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but not enough to truly contend. Considering that the Nuggets/Raptors will have New York’s first round pick in the 2016 draft (depending on which team between Denver and New York gets a higher pick, Toronto owns the less desirable one), New York’s only real way to continue to improve is through free agency or trades.
Questions still remain about whether or not a team with Carmelo Anthony as its star player can win a title, but it’s clear that Phil Jackson believes that Anthony could excel in the triangle and eventually bring the Knicks a championship.