By Max Prinz
When Phil Jackson took the job as president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks, he – to no one’s surprise – made it very clear that the triangle offense would be coming with him to Madison Square Garden. Even less surprisingly, the Knicks have struggled to pick up the complicated scheme early on. Jackson’s team lost its fifth straight game Monday night, falling to the Atlanta Hawks 91-85.
The Knicks’ struggles to learn the offense are visibly apparent. Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has noticed.
“I watched the Knicks’ game last night,” Silver jokingly said on Nov. 5, according to ESPN. “Clearly, they’re still learning the triangle. I still don’t understand it. But, they’re learning it. But, that’s what the game is all about. You have a new coach; you have a new president of basketball operations in Phil Jackson; you have a couple new players on the team.”
Phil Jackson didn’t take kindly to the commissioner’s comments.
“I wasn’t so humored by the commissioner actually jumping in on top of that, too,” he said. “He doesn’t need to get in on that. There’s enough focus on [the] triangle. It’s not anything. It’s a system. It’s simple basketball. Just play the game. We’re over the triangle; let’s get to business and play the right way.”
Pardon me, Mr. Zen Master, but we are not even close to being over the triangle.
The Knicks’ offense deserves Silver’s and others’ criticism. The triangle is a complex offense with a long and storied history. It was the offense that reined in Jordan and made Kobe and Shaq coexist. It should and will be a topic of discussion all season long.
If Jackson can’t handle that, perhaps he never should have taken this Knicks job in the first place.
That a perfectly valid criticism miffs Jackson is ridiculous. As Silver pointed out, there are lots of new parts to this team. Jackson handpicked coach Derek Fisher, who was hired knowing he would be a devoted follower of the triangle. A high level of scrutiny, especially under the giant microscope of New York sports, is expected.
To be fair, Fisher has fared well in his first few weeks as head coach. True, the Bulls blew out his team on opening night. However, Fisher got them to respond the following night and his team managed to spoil Lebron’s return to Cleveland.
There are some noticeably good things about the Knicks’ action in the triangle as well. Iman Shumpert is learning, albeit slowly, to cut off the ball. The team’s passing, a key component to the triangle, has been encouraging thus far.
Still, the Knicks entered play Monday ranked 20th in points per 100 possessions and 19th in field goal percentage.
That isn’t good. And pointing it out, Mr. Jackson, isn’t unfair.
Max Prinz is the Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.