When a man who as a coach has led 11 teams to an NBA Championship, refers to your roster as “clumsy,” it might be a good time for a franchise to re-evaluate its game-plan. That was the label that former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers bench boss Phil Jackson, stuck on the New York Knicks, in an interview that will air Tuesday night on “HBO Real Sports.” As previously reported, the member of the Basketball Hall Of Fame, told reporter Andrea Kremer, that he did not believe the Knicks individual players form a cohesive unit.
Jackson told Kremer “Well, they don’t fit together well. (Amar’e) Stoudemire doesn’t fit well with Carmelo. Stoudemire’s a really good player. But he’s gotta play in a certain system and a way. Carmelo has to be a better passer. And the ball can’t stop every time it hits his hands. They need to have someone come in that can kinda blend that group together.”
The former coach, is far from the first person to voice these criticisms, however when a man with his track record speaks, people tend to pay attention. His observations carry a lot more weight than the words of most other former coaches, simply because of what he has been able to carry out while on the bench.
While New York has three very talented players in their starting front-court, with Anthony and Stoudemire joined by center Tyson Chandler, the sum of the whole so far has been less than the individual parts. One major reason is the fact that Anthony insists that the offense goes through him and many times when he gets the rock, he just jacks up a shot without looking first for better options to score. Right now, the Knicks are kind of like a jigsaw puzzle that is missing that connecting piece, a take-charge point guard, who will be in charge of distributing the ball.
They had that player on their roster, as Chauncey Billups came over to the Knicks with Anthony in the trade with the Denver Nuggets in 2011. However, they would release him via the NBA Amnesty Clause, before the start of this season to have the cap space to sign Chandler.
New York tried to fill the starting slot, with many players, however none of them were the forceful floor general that would set the offense. The only time they had success at the point, was when Anthony was sidelined by injury at the same time that Jeremy Lin had his coming-out party in the Association, dominating his opponents and winning the hearts of Knicks fans in the process. When Anthony returned to the lineup however, things soon bogged down again and just when the two seemed to be getting on the same page, Lin was lost for the season after having minor surgery.
There is no denying the individual talent that Carmelo Anthony possesses, however the gifts that he is possesses have never translated into success for his team. While Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (who were drafted the same year that the Knicks forward was) are in their third appearance in the NBA Finals; with Wade already having won a Title; Anthony has yet to appear in even one. The Nuggets had a talent-laden roster, yet he could never lead his team past the Western Conference Finals.
So the question becomes; what will it take for Anthony to evolve into the type of leader that can take a team to the Finals and win an NBA Championship and can it be done with the Knicks? Anthony needs to be on a team with a strong coach, a veteran point guard who runs the offense and teammates who will force him to fit into their system. New York really does not fit that description at this time.
Anthony would most likely flourish with the San Antonio Spurs, as they fit the criteria he needs to evolve perfectly; with Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and teammates like Tim Duncan. Unfortunately for both teams, Anthony’s salary would most likely make a trade improbable, the Spurs have a lot of young talented players such as rookie forward Kawhi Leonard and point guard Gary Neal, that could be assets for the Knicks; but the numbers just don’t work.
So it is most likely that Anthony will be back at Madison Square Garden again next season, whether he heeds Jackson’s advice and starts to become more of a team player with New York, remains to be seen.