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We don’t understand Phil Jackson’s plan with the Knicks

It looked like Phil Jackson would rebuild the Knicks slowly. Then, he traded for Derrick Rose and signed Joakim Noah. How is this supposed to work?

Phil Jackson's plan with the Knicks have confused us all. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller are previewing all 30 teams via conversation. Next up: the New York Knicks. Find all of the Flanns and Zillz previews here.

ZILLER: After drafting Kristaps Porzingis and veering away from veteran talent, it appeared Phil Jackson was content to rebuild the Knicks almost from scratch, without losing his superstar Carmelo Anthony. Now, after a promising rookie season for Porzingis, Jackson is seemingly going all-in on big-name, high-dollar veterans. This begs the question: does even Phil Jackson know what his plan is at this point?

FLANNERY: Hard to make the case that there is one, other than signing up some old heads and empowering Clarence Gaines to scout the hell out of Europe. (The latter is not a bad plan, by the way.)

I always feel like the Knicks get graded on a curve. When they do something that isn't totally ridiculous, people act like they've solved the mysteries of the ancients.

Trading for Derrick Rose was risky at best, but you can see the risk. Giving Joakim Noah four years was absurd, but Joakim really digs New York and that's pretty cool. Courtney Lee is a fine player, but not at that price. And on and on. Some of it makes sense in a vacuum, but none of it adds up to a coherent whole.

Best case for this team is, what, playoffs? That still feels like a reach.

ZILLER: Especially with no obvious candidates falling out of the Eastern playoff picture. The rise of the East was overstated early last year, but on the whole there was a deeper pool of solid teams, like the Pistons and Pacers. Even the Bulls weren't bad, just depressing. The Knicks need to leap a few of those squads and hold off more talented teams like the Wizards or franchises with growth potential like the Magic. It's a lot to ask, especially with a brand new coach who has in the recent past been stung by the tricks of balancing minutes.

It almost looks like Jackson acceded to Noah's obvious desire to join the Knicks, then decided he needed to go full vet to make it count. Lee is far from the worst two-guard the Knicks could have added in this market. Rose for one year is a better basketball bet than Rajon Rondo for two. (This ignores the horrific rape accusations Rose will face in a civil lawsuit that goes to trial in a week. It’s unconscionable for this franchise, just a decade removed from a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit, to have added Rose without considering this case and perhaps without even talking to him about it.)

But speaking strictly about the basketball side of things, I can't for the life of me figure out what the on-court identity of this team could be. Pace-and-space seems out of the question given the shooting deficiencies. Defense isn't likely to be a huge strength (though a Noah-Porzingis battery could work assuming health). Rose pick-and-roll mixed with Melo isolation? In 2016? Good luck.

FLANNERY: *coughs loudly amid a plume of smoke*

I have seen a vision, and it's a triangle.

ZILLER: Oh no. Are we seriously still doing this, Phil?

FLANNERY: If it involves playing KP at the five then I'm all for it.

But yeah, I don't know about this team. This whole thing seems very Knicks. We've seen variations on this type of plan from them before and it never ends well. I'd love to see Melo get a shot with a contender before too long and I don't think it will be here.

ZILLER: Be right back, going to do the calculus on a Bradley Beal for Melo trade.

I think there are serious questions about what Jackson intends to do and whether he even cares about what state the Knicks are in three years out. He and Jeannie Buss can deny it until they are blue in the face, but the belief that he's just waiting for Jim Buss to be booted out of Lakers control so he can step in and return that franchise to glory from the comfort of Playa del Rey isn't going away.

If Jackson can get the Knicks to the playoffs again before he bolts for Lakerland or, hell, Montana ... perhaps he sees that as success, no matter the long-term cost. And, frankly, I'm not sure there's a significant long-term cost to building this way in any case, considering how wackadoo the NBA salary cap system is right now.

FLANNERY: The 2016 Knicks: We might be okay, and at least we didn't screw up the cap.


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