Phil Jackson had better be kidding when he said on Tuesday that he won’t represent the Knicks at next month’s NBA Draft Lottery.
Jackson owes it to James Dolan, the Knicks and their fans to be sitting on the dais May 19 in Times Square crossing his ring covered fingers and hoping he wins one of the top two picks.
This isn’t the time to get cute and throw Spike Lee up there. Or even Taylor Swift. It shouldn’t be Carmelo Anthony, Derek Fisher, Steve Mills, Allan Houston or Langston Galloway. It has to be Phil.
Madison Square Garden has made the last 14 months all about Phil and there is no reason to stop now. He is the face of the franchise, the point man of their proposed resurgence. Sure, Jackson is not solely responsible for getting the Knicks into this mess. But the draft lottery affords him the opportunity to own his mistakes, be accountable and once and for all show the NBA that he is not some mythical Wizard hiding behind the curtain but rather an honest to goodness coaching legend committed to fixing this broken club.
Jackson’s state of the Knicks address lasted 44 minutes on Tuesday and, as usual, included a couple of head scratching moments. He said his recruiting pitch to potential free agents will be triangle heavy because it is system that “enhances their skills.”
“I think there’s a style of how we play,” Jackson added. “We’ve established that…We gave a unique style and that attracts certain people.”
Dave DeBusschere was the Knicks GM when the Knicks won the rights to Patrick Ewing in 1985.
For the record, Jackson is referring to the 17-win Knicks, not the 72-win Chicago Bulls. He also says that Carmelo’s presence will be a drawing card.
It goes without saying that Jackson might not be the Zen Master of salesman. But that’s OK. What Jackson has is a lot of money to spend and an attractive New York market. That will get the attention of free agents.
I’d focus on that as opposed to a selling a system that produced the worst season in franchise history and a soon-to-be 31-year-old scoring forward who has only been out of the first round twice and is coming off major knee surgery.
Jackson has a few months to practice his free agent spiel and he’d be wise to improve it. Jackson should also reconsider his thoughts about not attending the draft lottery.
“I don’t want to be there to do it,” Jackson said. “I submit my colleagues to go and sit in that place and watch it all go down.”
Hall of Famer Larry Bird isn’t above representing his team at the NBA draft lottery.
This is where Dolan, famous for meddling, needs to get involved. Jackson must use this opportunity to show all those potential free agents that he is in charge. Get up on the dais and look as mad as hell as if this is the last time you’ll be seeing the Knicks in the lottery while you’re in charge.
Jerry West, Larry Bird and Pat Riley have sucked it up in the past and sat on the dais. If those three legends can do it, so can Jackson. Heck, Jackson’s fiancé Jeanie Buss sat on the dais the year the Lakers won the 10th pick and drafted Andrew Bynum.
On Tuesday, Jackson spoke fondly of watching his late teammate, former Knicks GM Dave DeBusschere pounding his fist on the table after the Knicks were awarded the draft rights to Patrick Ewing in 1985. It remains one of the defining moments in franchise history.
Ewing turned the Knicks into a contender all throughout the ‘90s and that pick became part of DeBusschere’s legacy. When I asked Jackson if he would be satisfied with leaving a legacy where he builds a championship foundation that may not win until after he’s gone, Jackson replied: “Yes, in one short sentence… exclamation point, yes. I’m fine with that.”
Well, part of that legacy includes the night of the draft lottery. Right now, all Jackson is known for as Knicks president is big paychecks and precious few wins. So take your medicine Phil, put on your finest suit and bring your 11 rings to Times Square because you need to be there.
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