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NBA AM: Phil Jackson’s Vision for the Knicks

The Knicks won’t open the season with title expectations, but Knicks fans are watching Phil Jackson’s plan closely

Lang Greene profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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Lower expectations for Knicks in 2015, but title dreams remain

It has been over 40 years since the New York Knicks have added a NBA title to their mantle. But that isn’t to say the team hasn’t had varying levels of success during this gap. The franchise reached the Finals in 1994 and 1999, capping a decade of near excellence, but since the team’s last appearance on the big stage playoff success has been few and far between.

The Knicks entered the 2014 campaign with dreams of title contention, after recording 54 wins the season before, but limped to 37 wins and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

There’s noticeably less talk of an immediate title run in New York heading into training camp but the franchise appears to be on a firmer foundation structurally with newly minted president of basketball operations Phil Jackson and first year head coach Derek Fisher now calling the shots in the Big Apple.

Jackson spent the majority of the offseason talking about a culture change needing to be embraced in New York in order to return the ranks of the league’s elite. Jackson believes championships are built on much more than just the presence of talented players. Jackson says the right level of cohesion and preparation is needed throughout an organization.

“Even in the process of talking about these things that take a year to manifest themselves in a title, there is the journey, and the journey is what counts,” Jackson told Steve Serby of the New York Post. “So when you start this journey, it’s about the process. And the titles and the championships, they’re ephemeral in many ways. You win it, you feel great, and you’re on top, and there’s a wonderful euphoria that follows it. But it goes away. And then you have to start in July, rebuilding another championship. It’s something you understand it’s our goal, but it’s our goal starting July 1st — actually, when we draft.

“So it’s all this journey that begins including the summers, the injuries, the training camp, the rehabs — all these things these players are doing — and I hope, that when we sat in our exit meetings last April, late April, that I could portray that to these players that are coming back.”

The biggest key for New York’s development under Jackson is All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. After a whirlwind free agency tour of listening to overtures around the league, Anthony elected to re-sign with the Knicks to a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $120 million.

Jackson says Anthony was candid during the free agency process admitting he’d like more help on the offensive side of the ball to reduce his workload.

“All we talked about in our negotiation was, ‘I’d like not to have to feel like I have to carry the load to score every night.’ He wants some help,” Jackson said.

Jackson believes the triangle offense, which the Knicks will utilize under Fisher, will maximize Anthony’s strengths and make the game a bit easier for the star.

“It’ll give him opportunity to be a passer, a rebounder, and probably easier spots to score from than he’s had before,” Jackson said. “I think. I hope that’s true for a lot of the players.”

While the pressure to win a title this season isn’t in the air, the patience of the New York market doesn’t take kindly to talks of long term rebuilding projects. Jackson believes the Knicks should be a playoff team in 2015, but also cautions there are more steps in the process to become a perennial contender.

“I don’t know what soon is,” Jackson says regarding an immediate title in New York. “Is soon this year? Is soon next year. Is soon the year after? I see it in a sequence of 1, 2, 3 … A, B, C. We’re starting out with our A this year, we’re gonna move forward next year. This year we’re gonna show people who we are. We’re gonna get our players accustomed to how to play together, what kind of culture we’re gonna have, develop a chemistry that we want, and shed what’s not gonna help us get on the way and to move forward in the process.”

Latest Eric Bledsoe Update

We have noted in great detail throughout the offseason about the curious status of restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe, who still is still available on the market. There’s no question Bledsoe is a top talent who has yet to reach his prime and one who could immediately help plenty of franchises. But the problem is twofold. Bledsoe plays at the league’s deepest position and he reportedly wants to be paid max level money.

The Phoenix Suns have reportedly had a standing four-year, $48 million offer on the table for the majority of the offseason, but Bledsoe hasn’t bit.

But according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, sources says contract negotiations between Phoenix and Bledsoe have been renewed, with Yahoo! Sports also adding a deal could be reached by the start of training camp.   

Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists per game last season in Phoenix but was limited to just 43 games due to a variety of leg injuries.

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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