The critical advice one ex-Knicks coach gave to GM Scott Perry
It’s a good time to start a rebuild, and the Knicks finally seem ready to commit to one.
That’s the current state of the top-heavy NBA with another season tipping off this week.
“The Knicks are going to be in the same position as 28 other teams and that’s looking up to the Golden State Warriors,” NBA TV analyst and former Knicks coach Stu Jackson said.
“The Knicks are at the stage where they are starting to develop. They have their picks, good young players. By the time they are ready to compete for a championship, maybe the Warriors will be on the downside. The timing could work.”
There are teams that spent the offseason bulking up rosters, such as the Rockets and Thunder, in an attempt to make a run at Golden State in the West. Then there are the Celtics and Cavaliers switching key pieces in the stunning Kyrie Irving trade that will determine who can conquer the East. The Celtics’ chances took a crushing blow when Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and broke his leg on opening night.
Then there are the Knicks, who opened the season Thursday night against the Thunder in Oklahoma City — and at square one. But it is better than the state of the franchise in recent seasons with former president Phil Jackson intent on trying a slew of failed quick fixes that left the Knicks without direction or hope.
Stu Jackson is a friend and mentor of Knicks new general manager Scott Perry, having coached him at the University of Oregon 36 years ago. He is confident the franchise is in the right hands.
“Scott’s strengths are that he’s a really good evaluator of talent. He is very much a relationship person, a very likeable man,” Jackson said. “He’s honest, has integrity and has the ability to get people to buy in to what he’s selling. He’s got some toughness to endure difficult times, and I believe those qualities will serve him well.”
His first season in charge may be one of those difficult times. The Knicks’ key offseason moves were drafting French 19-year-old point guard Frank Ntilikina, trading Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott and signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to a much-criticized four-year, $71 million deal. The reins have now been handed from Anthony to Kristaps Porzingis, who is forced into a position of incredible responsibility at 22 years old.
“He needs to continue to work on his body. He needs to continue to rebound the basketball better and just continue to improve defensively, particularly on the ball,” Jackson said of Porzingis’ improvement in his third year.
The entire team has to improve in that area. The Knicks were abused on that end of the floor in the preseason. It’s a season that could see the Knicks as one of the league’s worst teams or competing for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
“I told Scott Perry this [last week]: The biggest misnomer about Knicks fans is that A) they are insatiable in terms of needing a mega-star and B) they are not patient,” said Jackson, who coached the team for one full season and 15 games of another between 1989 and ’91.
“I feel that Knicks fans are so intelligent about the game that they will recognize when they see hope and development in the future,” Jackson said. “As long as Scott and his regime continue to make smart personnel decisions and put players on the floor that are talented, play hard, together and aggressively that’ll maintain fans’ hope and they will be fine.
“I don’t think Knicks fans necessarily need the quick fix. I understand they are frustrated with years of discord, confusion and not making the playoffs. But this city is so passionate about the game that if they see those qualities they’ll be patient.”