The New Hierarchy of The New York Knicks

Many people have asked me over the past week or so what my thoughts are regarding the new regime in the Knicks front office. The team announced changes to their basketball operations leadership following the debacle that was the three-year run of Phil Jackson steering the ship.

My answer has been very honest: I really do not know, it is a mixture of emotions. I do not know much about Steve Mills, I know he is loyal to owner James Dolan and that he has been in the front office for a long time, both before Phil Jackson, and now in the “post-Phil era”.

It is my opinion that Mills overpaid to get Tim Hardaway Jr. back in an offer sheet to pry him from Atlanta. The Knicks paid him about four times more money than the next closest offer, this after initially drafting Hardaway Jr., then trading him away, only to pay him $71 million to come back. That is a player acquisition that is just so typical of the Knicks, what a total mess.

The appointment of Steve Perry as the new General Manager is a move I do find positive, if they give him some authority to make certain personnel related decisions. Perry is smart, politically savvy, and well respected around the NBA. He did great work in a short time with the Sacramento Kings, and the move to bring him in from California made a great deal of sense to me and others within the media that cover the team.

Mills and Perry in their introductory press conference towed the new company line that they want to rebuild the team around a young core, they want to reshape the team into a more athletic club. That sounds nice, but it disregards the fact that they have half the salary cap for the entire roster tied up in three veteran players: Carmelo Anthony, Courtney Lee, and Joakim Noah.
Then, they committed huge dollars to Hardaway Jr. and he is essentially the same type of player as Courtney Lee. I am not sure if they could trade Lee without taking back a “bad contract” in return. The issue with Noah is that he is coming off major offseason surgeries and has a prohibitive contract that Phil Jackson doled out to him. The move to trade Noah would be “selling low” because of the injuries, so the Knicks will most likely have to hold on to him for the time being.

Then, there is the Carmelo Anthony saga, with a contract that pays out a ton of money to a player that Jackson tried to make completely miserable. The Knicks had been attempting to move him to either Houston or Cleveland, according to reputable reports, and then paused that process when they named Perry to the GM post.

The Knicks new regime was said to have been looking to mend the relationship with Anthony to bring him back into the fold. Several sources around the league state that Anthony is done with the dysfunction of the Knicks and wants to be traded to Houston to play with Chris Paul and James Harden.

However, trading Carmelo will be complicated because he has a no trade clause (which he has lifted to move to either Houston or Cleveland) that the Knicks front office has reportedly asked him to expand that list so they have more viable options to trade him. He also has a 15% “trade kicker” in his contract that will increase his salary cap hit to the team that obtains him, and the right amount of money has to be sent back in order to meet the regulations of the NBA for trading players.

All of this when taken together means that the Knicks need a fourth team to be involved in a multi-layered deal that ultimately would get Anthony to Houston, would provide the Knicks with cap relief, and also would provide the other two teams in the deal some other assets or cap space to make the deal worthwhile for them. It seems unlikely that will happen at this point because the Rockets will probably wait until closer to training camp to leverage the Knicks into a deal that is better for Houston’s interests.

The Knicks have some talent on the roster and they do need to start the rebuild because they have been spinning their wheels for the past four or five years. The fan base is getting restless, and rightfully so, but as I wrote in the past, the Knicks will continue to sell tickets because tourists want to see games at the Garden. The Knicks will continue to be a money machine because of the allure of playing in New York, which makes the impetus for actually rebuilding the roster a difficult thing for their front office to actually accomplish.

The new hierarchy of the Knicks brings me mixed emotions, I am not sure how much Mills will interfere with Perry trying to make bold moves to revamp the roster. I am not sure how involved James Dolan will be, and if Perry will have his hands tied in trying to improve the team. I guess only time will tell, they have a great deal of work ahead of them.

In the meantime, Knicks fans will wait and see if this new front office will be able to make the moves necessary or if it will be business as usual in the Garden.

Why Phil Jackson Will Not Coach The Knicks

The New York Knicks are in a tailspin, everyone who follows basketball knows that, and the rumors have been swirling that their head coach, Mike Woodson, is going to be fired as soon as next week. The speculation is that the Knicks front office will go with an interim head coach for the remainder of the season, and pursue Phil Jackson to be the next head coach for the long term.


I have been a Knicks fan for a very long time, and I can state with a fair amount of certainty that Phil Jackson will not be the next head coach of the team. My rationale is simple: Jackson has been offered the job before and declined it, the roster of the team is a mess that is not easily fixed, and the owner is too intrusive.


In addition, Phil Jackson has won his championships, he has made a ton of money coaching, and he is retired with some health issues. The Knicks have approached him and made overtures to him before and he has not been interested in the job. It is going to take a lot of money and a great sales pitch for Jackson to consider taking over the Knicks coaching duties at this point.


The Knicks will begin the second half of their season after the All Star festivities over this past weekend in New Orleans. I thought this would be a good time to evaluate the team and the future of the head coaching position in New York.


Roster Mess


The key motivation point for Phil Jackson to take the coaching job in New York would be the capability for the current roster to be championship-caliber. This roster at the present time is not winning a championship at any time soon, in fact it would be pressed at this point to make the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, that is saying very little, since the majority of the teams do not even have winning records.


Jackson is not going to coach here for a long period of time, he is 68 years old, and so this has to be a “win now” situation. The Knicks are set up to have several contracts expiring so they will have a great deal of salary cap room in the summer of 2015. That is still over a year away and it will take time to build team chemistry with an overhauled roster, so this will take a multi-year commitment from Jackson.


The Knicks current roster features poor point guard play, a shooting guard in J.R. Smith who plays erratically and inconsistently, an aging front court which has been injured more than they have spent time on the floor, and a star player in Carmelo Anthony who plans to test the free agent market at the end of this season.


The team needs depth at every position, a point guard, and a forward with size who can rebound and play defense. The Knicks also have virtually no draft picks because they have traded them away in deals to obtain veteran players from other teams in the past.


This is a key aspect in roster building because it takes away the ability to get younger players through the draft on more cost effective contracts. It also takes a key chip off the table in future trades where the Knicks could improve their team by trading draft picks and not parting with multiple players on their current roster.


Ownership drama


The final reason, and perhaps the most compelling reason, why Phil Jackson will not be the next head coach of the Knicks is the intrusive nature of their owner, James Dolan.  Dolan gets involved in every aspect of the Knicks and does not allow the head coach any power or control over the roster moves of the organization. Phil Jackson is a proven winner and is considered to be among one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He is going to be approached by other teams in search of a head coach.  Why would he take the job with the Knicks and have no control over the roster, when he could go somewhere else and have full control over player decisions?


The answer is that he would not come to New York and deal with the owner constantly making front office moves, firing the general manager on a whim and forcing the front office to make trades before they were ready to do so, like with Donnie Walsh and the trade for Carmelo Anthony.


Phil Jackson is not going to want any part of the front office drama that comes with the territory of being associated with a Knicks organization run by James Dolan.


I have seen the Knicks make some bizarre moves just when you thought they had a plan, they would make a trade or bring in a free agent that made no sense. That had started to change after the disaster of the Isaiah Thomas years, and Walsh had assembled a pretty good roster here at one point, and then this season happened.


The unorthodox style of the Knicks front office continues, when just last week, New York was linked to a potential trade with the Denver Nuggets for Kenneth Faried. Now, I think Faried is a talented player and a great athlete, but the move does not make sense from the Knicks perspective because they need size on the front line. Faried is an undersized power forward who can score, he is not known for his rebounding.

The Knicks currently use a smaller lineup with Carmelo Anthony playing the power forward spot and using his quickness, athleticism, and lethal shooting ability to score against bigger, slower players at that position. Kenneth Faried can score points but is in no way even in the same category as Anthony, who is one of the top players in the NBA. I do not understand why the Knicks would try to obtain another smaller guy to play power forward, neither did many reporters on the beat for the team. It is an example of strange moves by the front office in the Garden.  It is also yet another reason why Phil Jackson will not take this job.


At this point, I could see Mike Woodson coaching through the last 30 games of the season, and if the team misses the playoffs, then I think they would have to make a coaching change. The more feasible choice at that point could be Jeff Van Gundy, who has a history with the Knicks, so he knows how the franchise operates. He also has a reputation as more of a disciplinarian than other guys they could bring in, and I think the Knicks need a strong amount of discipline to turn this team around.


I would be shocked if Phil Jackson took this job, for all of these reasons, and because I am not sure that even his coaching greatness could fix the mess which is the New York Knicks.