May 3, 2016

DENSON | Where Do the Knicks Go From Here?

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Welcome to the spiraling vortex of anxiety and futility that is the New York Knicks. Year after year, New York’s pride and glory — the city’s Knicks — end most seasons in a complete state of infinite flux. After yet another failed season, the Knicks will be looking for that missing piece of the puzzle — but in this case it’s a massive jigsaw that’s missing about half of its 1000 intricate pieces. Now it’s up to president Phil Jackson to solve it.

The Carmelo Anthony experiment has failed. The team has lacked a consistent winning coach, and the team’s tendency to underperform seems expected now. The next step, a steep step that the Knicks seem to be taking, is to move away from the past and enter the rebuilding phase. If 21-year old Kristaps Porzingis is the future, then Carmelo Anthony is the past. A past characterized by frustration and a lack of focus. Phil Jackson is this link. A member of the glorious early 1970’s championship Knicks, Jackson represents the greatest of the franchise’s past while emulating a beam of hope for a bright future in New York.

This off-season, more than any other, will be the true test of positive change for the Knicks. While Phil Jackson’s presidency is a step in the right direction, he will need to find a way to get another star-caliber player in New York who is willing to run the triangle offense with Carmelo. He needs to find a talented point guard; the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley or the Kings’ Darren Collison are good candidates. And of course the team needs a coach. With the Lakers squashing the Knicks hopes of having Luke Walton on board as coach, the position is wide open. David Blatt, Frank Vogel and Hornets assistant coach and Knicks legend Patrick Ewing are likely candidates. And please, I pray to the mighty basketball gods — please don’t hire interim coach Kurt Rambis. David Blatt seems like the best option. Blatt’s status as an “outsider” in Jackson’s basketball world helps quell his negative reputation of keeping to his inner circle. Plus, it’s nice to have a Jewish head coach in New York.

But as the seasons go on, coach after coach, player after player, the one constant in recent years is Carmelo Anthony. I’m of the opinion, perhaps unpopular, that Anthony is a cancer to the team — but there is room for change. And while any athlete should be celebrated for wanting to stay in New York until retirement, it’s time for Carmelo to realize that New York is not the city for him to win, but rather it is the city for him to plant the seeds for future success. He needs to accept a decreased role for this season, and act as the team’s mentor and key developer of young talent. The other scenario, as we’ve seen, will lead to everything but a championship, as Carmelo needs to share the scoring load with someone on the team.

Focusing on the team’s rebuilding phase, the team needs to bank on the potential of big man Porzingis. As we’ve seen with the miserable 76er’s, rookies and young players need an experienced veteran on the team to lean on. Because no matter how talented Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor may be, a bunch of 21-year old kids cannot win an NBA championship. Rookie Jerian Grant will need to learn the triangle under Phil Jackson, Porzingis needs to learn how to consistently play like the star he has the potential to be and Melo needs to take a decreased role if he truly wants to see future success in New York.

Hopefully a new head coach and point guard are a few of the pieces to the Knick’s seemingly unsolvable puzzle. I recommend taking a break this off-season from the Knicks. Focus on the all the other success stories New York has to offer.
Are the Islanders well on their way to a Stanley Cup? Are the Mets one of the best teams in the National League? Did Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon throw eight scoreless innings last night? Yes, yes and yes.