Phil Jackson is out in New York. Why? Because Jackson put the Knicks’ franchise cornerstone on the trading block, and that’s something you don’t do.
The Kristaps Porzingis rumors and trade discussions fueled by Jackson were the straw that broke the camel’s back, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. James Dolan’s concern with Jackson running the franchise grew after he publicly admitted to entertaining trades for Porzingis.
Dolan had become increasingly concerned about Jackson’s fitness for the job and the long-term prospects of success for the franchise, especially in the aftermath of Jackson entertaining trades for Porzingis, the franchise’s 21-year-old burgeoning star, league sources told The Vertical.
As soon as Porzingis’ name showed up in trade rumors, it was a wrap for Jackson. The Knicks never came close to actually dealing him, but Jackson shot himself in the foot by opening that door anyway.
Jackson is gone now, so Porzingis’ future in New York should be much more secure. But how did we get here anyway? And what happens now?
Jackson hated that Porzingis skipped out on exit meetings
The Knicks have been a dumpster fire for years now, but that reached its peak at the end of this season when Jackson had another public spat through the media with Carmelo Anthony. Jackson wanted Anthony out, and that triggered Anthony to respond via Instagram by calling upon The Great Gatsby.
Seeing this spat after a tumultuous season pushed Porzingis to the edge. He skipped out on exit meetings and didn’t return the organization’s calls for months. The franchise’s lack of a clear direction frustrated him to the point where he didn’t want to be bothered, and could you blame him?
The Knicks were the No. 3 seed in a weak Eastern Conference early in the season, but drama and injuries soon marred the Knicks’ momentum. Jackson, who was supposed to be the responsible adult in the room, manufactured most of that drama.
Jackson publicly shamed Porzingis in a pre-draft interview on MSG where he confirmed the trade rumors and said he doesn’t think “has ever had a player over 25 years of coaching, maybe 30, not coming to an exit meeting.” That was wrong — Shaquille O’Neal skipped out on an exit meeting in 2003 when Jackson coached the Lakers.
Even so, Porzingis is the franchise’s best hope at competing in the future. He’s young. He made a decision that was probably disrespectful, even if you understood the logic. But still, the Knicks can’t alienate him as the franchise’s cornerstone.
That’s what Jackson did, and he didn’t hesitate to do it either. He felt he was more important to the Knicks’ future than Porzingis, and that was wrong.
Jackson is gone, so what does that mean for Porzingis?
He should be a Knick for the foreseeable future, assuming he still wants to be. Dolan has made some terrible decisions as the owner of the Knicks over the last 17 years, but relieving Jackson of his duties was necessary.
For once, Dolan recognized the investment the Knicks have in a young player with the potential to be something special. This was a power struggle, and Porzingis won out. It’s not uncommon to see management bend to talent in the NBA, but for the Knicks. these things never usually go well.
If Porzingis is indeed happy again with Jackson out of the picture, the Knicks have a franchise player who is 22 years old with the ability to play inside and outside on both ends. They can continue to build around that without having to worry about fitting a triangle peg into a square hole.
Porzingis may be the best thing to happen to the Knicks in quite awhile. Jackson forgot that and he lost his job for it. We don’t know who will take over for Jackson or what happens to the rest of the roster.
But if there’s one thing we know after this situation, it’s this: The Knicks want Porzingis there for the long run. Does he want to be? Only time will tell.