Top 10 Things Phil Jackson Must do to Fix the Knicks

The New York Knicks basketball team is currently in a volatile and unstable state of affairs. They have started off the season with the worst basketball record in the history of the franchise at 5-21. Right now, the team seems to be filled with discord, doubt, rebelliousness and ‘a losing mentality,’ according to team president Phil Jackson. It is obvious that the team does need help. Jackson has already proven that he is a good coach because of his success in the past with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Now he has to work with a makeup of different personalities. This might just be the one that challenges Jackson the most. His philosophical approach to life and basketball may not work for some of these current players as it did for his previous record. While Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were introduced to Phil’s philosophy and were able to accept it as part of their success, the New York Knicks may not be ready for that yet. In the latter case, the Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were handpicked for success and had the ability to build a team chemistry that many players are yet to emulate. Shaq and Kobe of the Los Angeles Lakers had personal issues, but they played the game professionally and won NBA titles under the tutelage of Phil Jackson. Of course, there may have been locker room squabbles, but they knew how to leave it where it belonged – in the locker room. It never showed on the court. Can the New York Knicks follow suit? It is evident that they are having problems doing so. A good leader would be able to ‘nip it in the bud.’ So the question remains in the minds of many – whether Jackson can reform the team to his liking. How does he fix this problem with the New York Knicks while wearing the hat of a president?

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10 Team chemistry

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, it looks like the players of the New York Knicks have no chemistry. That is something that Mr. Jackson may have to take a closer look at. When there is bickering among teammates, it is best to get to the bottom of the problem. This may be the reason for the lack of chemistry. Even though, he is dealing with adult players, they are still human. There may be grudges against each other that need to be individually addressed – to clear the air.

9 Teach the Coach

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Every team is made up of coaches and players. Derek Fisher is the new coach for the Knicks and this is a new position for him too. In most basketball teams, respect and comradery with the coach is important as Michael Jordan might attest to. It may take some time for Fisher to build the respect and earn the trust, especially with an opinionated player like Carmel Anthony. It might be a huge challenge. Many sports enthusiast believe that the insistence of Fisher to run the same triangle offense as Phil Jackson did with the Lakers and Bulls has met some resistance from the players. This might be something that Phil Jackson needs to revisit. He, too, still believes wholeheartedly in the triangle offense. He should have a meeting with the coaches and players to see how they can work together amicably as a team for one cause – to win, even if it means to change the playbook tactics!

8 Get through to Carmelo Anthony

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It is apparent that like Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony is the ‘go to’ player when the team is in need of a big play. However, according to sources, many players are displeased with how Anthony handles the ball. He is said to ‘hog the ball,’ always wanting to shoot instead of passing the ball to his teammates. He doesn’t move around during play and only defends when he wants to. If you watch the games, you may feel the same way as the players do. Phil Jackson needs to have a personal ‘one on one’ with Anthony to deal There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’

Sources have also indicated that there is tension between the newly acquired Hardaway and Anthony. Apparently, both players don’t particularly care for each other. This has been the case from the time Hardaway was brought onto the team last season. Both of these players believe that each other does too much shooting and don’t defend the ball. Hardaway also had a problem with the favoritism that he thought Anthony got from Mike Woodson, the coach last season. So there is a lot of animosity among team mates toward the franchise player. If possible, he should assign a heavy monetary fine and punishment to any player who doesn’t adhere to the rules of engagement for playing the game how he and the coaches want it to be played, which includes:

  • Working as a team
  • Defending the ball
  • Leaving the egos in the locker room
  • Looking out for each other
  • No bickering on the court
  • Listening to the coaches

Anthony has to change his attitude or it will affect the team in the long run. The Knicks will have access to woo several free agents during the summer, but if those free agents think that Carmelo is difficult to work with, it is going to be a hard sell for the Knicks.

7 The Offense

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According to sources, Anthony and the other players are in disagreement of the triangle offense. They have all thought about ditching the offense and moving to a new system. This is going against Phil Jackson and the coaches. The Knick team members feel that the triangle offense is too easy to defend for other teams. The triangle offense, though, allows every player to touch the ball and possibly shoot. However, right now, the ball seems to end up more in Carmelo’s hand and then he shoots. Soon, he gets tired and the team suffers.

6 Build Trust

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Michael Jordan was a strong shooter and the person who usually has the ball during tough plays, but he wasn’t afraid to pass the ball to Scottie Pippen or some other team mate if he wasn’t able to take the shot. What it boils down to is – trust! You have to trust your team mates. Jordan and his team mates trusted each other. That is the piece of the puzzle that Phil Jackson has to put into the Knicks jig saw puzzle team. Then the offense will take care of itself. Jackson and coach, Derek Fisher must find a way to work on trust among players during practice.  Run different offenses so players can learn how each other plays. Jordan knew that John Paxon was an awesome three-point shooter so when it came down to the last three points needed at the end of the game; he passed the ball to Paxon.

5 Get the players to accept change

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It is human nature for people not to accept change. The Knicks may be resisting change to the coaching staff and the way that it changed the dynamics of the team. When there is change, you have to ensure that you are willing to change too. You have to do what is in the best interest of the team, whether you like it or not. Bosh from the Miami Heat team had to change his offense to accommodate Lebron James. He did it with dignity and style. Even if he was unhappy, he did not take it out on the court for the world to see. Phil Jackson may need to take a look at whether Derek Fisher is a good choice for coaching the team. Is it too late to change coaches? If he were coaching the team, it might have been a different ball game. So, it might also be a matter of personality and attitudes that need to be changed.

4 Determine the role of the franchise player

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Right now, Carmelo Anthony is the franchise player for the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson is going to have to consider really hard if he should keep Anthony as the centerpiece or change his role. He has to consider whether he can build around Anthony and maintain harmony and vie for a basketball champion at the same time. Or does he bring in a better player than Anthony – one with greatness like Phil Jackson is used to? If Jackson decides to build around Carmelo, then it is possible that he will listen to the plans that Phil has for the team and stay on.

3 Keep egos in check

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Jackson was able to apply his Zen Master knowledge and convince Michael Jordan to consider the team at the expense of sacrificing his ego. He also got Kobe and Shaq to work amicably together for the sake of the team. To improve the team’s balance and flow, Phil may have to do the same with Carmelo Anthony. If Phil was able to use these examples to convince Anthony to do what it took to win, he would see a remarkable turnaround. Phil Jackson should have a serious talk with Anthony and then the other players to get rid of all the egos floating around. He has to be firm or the team will suffer.

2 Learn to close games

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In a chat with reporters, Jackson did say that the Knick’s loser mentality caused them to drop close games by 7 points or less. Phil Jackson needs to send out his front office lieutenants to give the coaches tips on how to work on their game so that they know how to close out games successfully. It is evident that the team needs to improve their defensive tactics as well as offensive attack on the glass. According to recent basketball stats, Carmelo is at the end of the totem pole among 78 NBA small forwards when it comes to defensive plays. This is apparently what the entire team lacks as well and the cause of the ‘loser mentality,’ during close games.

1 Distribute the ball

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It is apparent that Carmelo is not such a good passer. When he gets the ball, it is as if the ball stops with him. There should be someone else (like Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen and Tony Kukoc) to blend everything together. Jackson can show Carmelo how to improve his game and make the team better, but also providing Carmelo with a strong supporting cast like Jordan had is probably the key to winning.

Even though, Carmelo Anthony is not where Michael Jordan or Kobe is, he still has a lot of talent to work with. If Jackson can get Carmelo to believe in his ultimate plan for the team, then he can stay on to find out how great Jackson can make him. Derek Fisher was an excellent player and worked with Phil Jackson as a Laker Player so he understands the triangle offense and what it takes to win. In actuality, the team needs cohesive teamwork, change in attitude, elimination of ego and a desire to win at all cost.

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