[We all love a bit of fisticuffs in the seats at an NBA (or any professional) game. It is even better when it is the owner of the team and a former iconic player getting into it in the largest media market in the US. Let me take off my Oakley glasses and watching this one firsthand.
Roey Herzfeld, one of our top beat writers on the East Coast, gives us his thinking in what is a timely look at the scuffle at MSG that Roey argues offers a bigger set of insights into what is wrong with this storied franchise.]
Last Wednesday night, the Knicks season reached a new low. Charles Oakley’s scuffle with the MSG security guards led to his arrest, followed by a ban on Oakley from attending games at MSG. In addition to that, the Knicks lost their fifth game out of six. Except for the very start of the season, this Knicks team has been a disaster. The Knicks are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, but as of now they are the fourth worst team in a depleted Eastern Conference.
In addition, Phil Jackson’s constant Twitter feud with Carmelo Anthony is only adding to the drama and pressure for this Knicks squad. The front office, the players, the coaching, all seem to be lacking the cohesion of a playoff team. There’s one thing, however, that everyone can agree on: It’s bad. But who is really at fault?
Candidates: Jeff Hornacek, Carmelo Anthony, Phil Jackson, James Dolan
When Jeff Hornacek was hired last spring, he was supposed to be the man who was going to change the losing culture of this knicks team. Hornacek nearly led a Phoenix Suns team led by non-superstar plays such as Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic to the playoffs, which led to high expectations. Unfortunately for this franchise, he has not been able to succeed like he did with Phoenix. His defense has been awful as the Knicks rank almost last in opposing points per game and is triangle offense is nothing special.
But is he really the man at fault? A Head Coach can only succeed as much as his players and organization allows for him. Phil Jackson’s max contract for Joakim Noah sure seems a lot worse than Hornacek’s below average coaching. Hornacek doesn’t seem like an elite coach but his post-game press conferences beg the front office and players for more effort and more changes. He is definitely not the man responsible for this terrible season so far.
Despite the non-stop drama about Phil Jackson, or trade rumors, or building through Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony comes out to play every night. You can
argue that his numbers are down or that he shoots too much, but there’s not a single person who can question his loyalty and desire to win for New York. You can see the expression on his face when they lose close games. “He wants it”. He wants to win badly.
Yet he will not abandon his city and keeps fighting every night. To me as a Knicks fan, this is extremely admirable. We’ve seen players who are begging to get out of New York, but here is Melo fighting through more drama than any player can imagine and putting up 20+ points every night. Argue that they need to trade him and get younger and build through Porzingis. Fine. But to blame him for this Knicks season where night in and night out he gives 100% not only offensively but also on the defensive side (even if he isn’t very good at it) is not fair. It might be time for Melo to go but he is not the man at fault here.
Phil Jackson is arguably one of the best coaches in NBA history. His eleven head coaching rings rank second to none. What he did with those Bulls and Lakers team was absolutely incredible. His President skills for the Knicks have not gone the same way. When he first arrived, the “Zen Master” was set to take Melo to the promise land as he did for MJ and Kobe. What we’ve seen so far does not look so promising for the legacy of either. Not only are his acquisitions of players like Noah, turning out as failures,
Phil Jackson is having personal issues with Melo himself. The twitter war and the comments about Melo holding onto the ball too long are more common right now than knick wins. Phil is supposedly desperately trying to trade Melo ensuring that his first experiment as president of the Knicks has been a failure. So is Phil the man to blame for the Knicks struggles this year? Well Partly. Phil did draft Porzingis and also brought in Derrick Rose who is looking a lot closer to MVP Derrick Rose. His comments have been a problem, but his actual management of the Knicks has seen worse days i.e. Isiah Thomas.
So who is the man at fault? The answer is owner James Dolan.
On Wednesday night, I saw it on TV and I finally understood why the Knicks are so bad. It all starts at the man at the top. James Dolan. To sum up how bad he’s been: In the 10 years Oakley played in NY, the Knicks won 70 playoff games. In the 17 years Dolan has owned the Knicks, they’ve won 9 playoff gms. James Dolan’s treatment of Charles Oakley Wednesday night was disrespectful and disgusting. The man gave everything to the Knicks organization and is thanked with a ban from returning to MSG.
James Dolan has been a failure as the Knicks owner and it starts with respecting players. In addition, James Dolan has failed to prohibit Phil Jackson from making critical Twitter comments about his best player, Melo. He has failed to make this team legitimate. Similar to what former Knick Jalen Rose said, what star would ever want to come to New York seeing how disrespectfully Melo and Oakley are being treated.
To me, that’s the problem and that’s why the Knicks are sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in. It’s not a talent problem. It’s a leadership problem and right now the leadership of the front office is the biggest issue the Knicks have.