After a 31-51 season that was marred by numerous ugly incidents, things around the New York Knicks got even uglier after Phil Jackson’s season-ending press conference on Friday.
During the speech, Jackson said Carmelo Anthony would be “better off somewhere else” when asked about trade talks involving Anthony. He also said there’s been resistance from the “top,” another reference to Anthony, about adapting his triangle offence.
Jackson’s comments quickly spread around the NBA world, and Anthony himself reacted with an Instagram captioned “REALLY” with two crying-laughing emojis shortly after Jackson’s press conference.
One of the 119,000 likes on the picture was Kristaps Porzingis, as many people noticed.
That may have been a preview of how Porzingis was feeling. Later on Friday, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that Porzingis skipped his exit meeting with Jackson out of frustration over the “dysfunction” and “drama” surrounding the team. In fact, the unhappiness around the team may be widespread.
On Saturday, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski published a scathing report about Knicks players’ distaste for Jackson and his methods of running the team.
According to Wojnarowski, Porzingis has taken note of how other more successful organisations are run and believes the Knicks aren’t giving him the proper platform to become a future face of the franchise. Wojnarowski reports that Porzingis is also returning to Latvia this summer and may not return to New York until closer to training camp.
Additionally, players around the team are reportedly “fuming” about the team’s plans to hold summer sessions to install the triangle. Many Knicks players don’t like the system, which has largely proven to be antiquated in today’s NBA. Head coach Jeff Hornacek was never given the freedom to install his own system, and according to Wojnarowski, players question the allegiance of assistant coach Kurt Rambis, who was a Jackson hire and Jackson’s leading candidate to become head coach before the plan was thwarted.
In general, Wojnarwoski paints a picture of large-scale unhappiness:
“Inside and outside the Knicks, people see a franchise in disrepair: Jackson’s open war with Anthony, the failed trade for Derrick Rose and the $US72 million contract albatross of a broken-down Joakim Noah. Players grumble of a support staff that is far more concerned about creating an illusion of hard work with management and ownership than facilitating winning, a media-relations staff that is suffocating and intrusive, and a management/coaching dynamic that’s made Hornacek look like a puppet.”
Wojanrowski reports that Jackson’s blunt comments about Anthony’s future with the team only make Anthony want to dig in and wait out Jackson’s remaining two years. Anthony holds a no-trade clause that allows him to approve or disapprove any trade in which he’s involved.
Anthony actually took a step to fire back at Jackson on Saturday, with the NBA Player Association releasing a scathing statement over Jackson’s comments. Anthony is the NBPA vice president.
“We voiced with the Commissioner today our view on the inappropriate comments by Knicks President Phil Jackson. If players under contract cannot, under threat of league discipline, speak openly about their desire to be employed elsewhere, we expect management to adhere to the same standards. The door swings both ways when it comes to demonstrating loyalty and respect.”
Facing a rebuild, the Knicks could not be in a worse position. They have an ill-suited mix of veterans and young players who haven’t proven capable of playing together, a coach without the freedom to coach how he likes, a president the players don’t like, an unhappy star player, and unhappy future face of the franchise.
Jackson and Anthony’s feud will be settled one way or another. But the worst-case scenario for the Knicks is that Jackson pushes Porzingis away and turns the Knicks into a franchise players don’t want to join. The latter appears closer than ever.