Phil Jackson On Melo, STAT, Shump, Knicks Playoff Push, & More

Jonah Ballow


Knicks president Phil Jackson met with the media for the second time since officially accepting the position on March 18.  Thursday at MSG Training Center, Jackson quipped that it was his first time in the media room and in front of some unfamiliar faces.  It’s clear Jackson is in the midst of the transition process and in the initial stages of assessing the structure of the franchise.  Meanwhile, the Knicks are involved in a heated playoff race as they moved into the eighth spot last night based on winning percentage.  Let’s take a look at some of the topics covered during Jackson’s media availability.

The New Role
Jackson is entering a new position and for the first time as an executive has a challenge to evaluate the current team while creating a plan for the future.  He described his approach since appearing at the press conference a couple of weeks ago in Manhattan. 

“It’s on the docket, having to check-in to see how the team is doing, seeing what the health situation is with the players, conversations with Steve [Mills] daily, talking about the team, sometimes having conversations with players,” Jackson explained.

He added, “I think you are always assessing the team, the players and how they fit together, what’s the mood, who is not playing up to the level you want to see them play at, if they can produce more if they get an opportunity.  So, those are ongoing things but we have an assessment at the end of the year that synthesizes all of that and we can go forward from there.”

Currently, the Knicks do not own a 2014 draft pick but there are ways to acquire a pick through trades or cash for a second rounder.  While the NCAA Tournament and NIT are winding down, Jackson met with the full staff of scouts this week and they discussed the upcoming June draft and potential opportunities in the near future.

“There is always ways to make moves, even though the limitations and flexibility is limited but we anticipate that we are going to try to improve the team at every position we can,” Jackson stated.

Knicks Playoff Push
Following Wednesday’s big win over Brooklyn, the Knicks improved to 7-3 over their last 10 outings and jumped over Atlanta for the eighth spot in terms of winning percentage. 

New York will need the Hawks to continue their free-fall and the Knicks face a daunting schedule but the head man in charge is impressed with the team’s recent surge “I think they are playing with great energy now. They seem to be playing with purpose and I appreciate that.”

Regardless of their playoff positioning, Jackson believes it’s extremely valuable for this team to make the postseason and that will also help him evaluate the current roster.

“You are playing a team in a 7-game series, you really see who is going to be attacked, how they stand up to the pressure, performs in the critical situations, the grind of a multiple game series does to a team, and how they react to it.  Those are valuable lessons,” Jackson emphasized.

Thoughts On Melo, STAT, & Shump
Jackson instantly smiled when discussing the resurgence of Amar’e Stoudemire.  The big man returned to the floor on Wednesday after taking Monday’s game off in Utah.  Stoudemire needed rest on the back-to-back, final contest on the grueling five-game west coast trip.  He managed to start and help propel New York to a win over Brooklyn on Thursday with 13 points and six boards.

The Hall of Famer had the chance to chat with Knicks defensive specialist Iman Shumpert on Thursday.  Jackson revealed a part of the conversation, “I was able to tell Iman today that’s [defense] what has to be seen on a basis we like to see from game-to-game.  It may not happen every game but those are the things that break games open, give you opportunities to win when you have easy baskets and defense can do that.  That’s really an important aspect.”

Shifting to Carmelo Anthony, Jackson allowed media members a glimpse behind the curtain at their recent discussions.

“We’ve had a couple of occasions to talk,” Jackson said.  “We haven’t really delved into the future as much as what’s going on, getting to know each other type of thing, trying to see how he is feeling about playing.  He’s had to carry a big load, it’s been a tough year for him but it’s been a tough year for everyone, it’s not just isolated to him.  I think he feels the weight of it a lot more.”

Jackson also provided this insight on New York’s 7-time All-Star, “Carmelo is really stepped into another level of trying to help players.  One of the things in my conversation was that he made a critical pass in the Sacramento game, coming down the stretch to Amar’e for a dunk and he sucked the defense in, made the pass, the play was a two-point ball game at the time and really stretched the lead a little bit, gave them an opportunity to win and I think that’s one of the things that we see Carmelo can do and that he’s grown into as he’s gone along but those are issues not only on the basketball court, there’s off the basketball court, there in practices, in the training room, in the locker room where players learn to lead and from that standpoint push the team forward with their energy.”

The Power of the Triangle
Jackson did not necessarily declare the triangle offense as the scheme for the Knicks moving forward.  However, he is an obvious proponent of a system and this particular system has delivered extraordinary results under his watch.  On Thursday, Jackson illustrated how the triangle offense actually has a direct impact on the defense. 

“The triangle offense is one of the best offenses to run because of its balance and because players can play defense out of an offense like that, so instead of having stretched players that are standing in the corners and have to recover from a difficult situation or in a weird position on the floor, you have guys that are in balance and there’s an opportunity to defend from your offense and that’s how the basketball game connects.  Your defense creates offense and your offense creates defense.  It should be both ways,” Jackson confirmed.

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