I think we need to pump the brakes on the Knicks. The season is not lost and they are not all of the sudden a championship-caliber team. Contrary to what Derrick Rose has said, the Knicks are not a "superteam." But what they can’t be is a disaster once again. They have looked good in wins against Memphis and Chicago and have looked bad in losses to Cleveland, Detroit and Houston.
When Derrick Rose brings up his former coach in Chicago, Tom Thibodeau, following a 102-89 loss against the Pistons, it certainly drew the attention of many. Rose said, “I played on teams before Thibs got to Chicago. We didn’t have an identity. He came and changed the culture there and changed our identity. We can do that here. We have to and we’re going to. But it takes time.”
It is also strange when Knicks President Phil Jackson is huddling with players and teaching the finer points of the triangle offense. I am not sure that works when you have a new head coach in Jeff Hornacek and he is trying to put his stamp on the team. I am not sure that builds the confidence level in a coach that you want him to have for a franchise that is trying to get back to some sort of relevancy. Plus, you are looking for your head coach to build a relationship with his players and you can’t have Phil looking over your shoulder to see if you are doing it the triangle way.
I get that people are tried of hearing about the triangle offense and there is certainly a fear that James Dolan won’t remain out of the way. There is also a concern about Phil Jackson’s commitment to this job and just how good is he as a talent evaluator.
I get all of that, but aren’t you tired of the side stories? Basketball is the city's game and aren’t you tired that the Knicks are about everything else but basketball? They have been a bad daytime soap opera for far too long.
What the Knicks hope is their victory Friday night against the Bulls represents an early turning point in this season. In that game, all five starters scored in double figures led by Kristaps Porzingis and his 27 points. As a team they had 32 assists and just five turnovers. In the return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to Chicago, there was certainly an intensity to the team that we have not seen up until this point of the season. Maybe it was their emotion of playing back in the city in which their career began. Or maybe, just maybe, this team was ticked off after getting beaten badly at home to the Rockets 118-99. Whatever the reason was, the Knicks played one of their best games offensively and defensively in quite some time.
It is amazing what happens when you actually share the basketball and play together and give effort in every phase of the game. You might actually win some basketball games. Friday night might prove to be a turning point for this team. For a city that looks to celebrate an NBA title for the first time since 1973, maybe they found themselves in a city that is celebrating the Cubs' first World Series title since 1908. Maybe that is a reach, I will give you that. But what we saw on Friday night was what Phil Jackson talked about when he was first introduced as Knicks president. We saw a team that played for one another and shared the basketball. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
“Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game — and life — will take care of itself.”
That is a classic quote from Phil Jackson. Maybe we all need some moments of Zen with Uncle Phil. What we saw on Friday night was clearly a Knicks team that played a superior game. It was actually fun to watch. Basketball is unpredictable. I am certainly not going to write this Knicks team off. I am certainly skeptical that the egos will get out of the way and let this team develop. Given that, I hope the team stays healthy as well and plays to their capability. If you pay a lot of money to watch games at MSG or spend your time watching from home, you should at least feel the team cares as much about the outcome as you do. That has not been the case in recent memory. Maybe this year that will be different.
Friday night we saw a Knicks team that played a well-rounded game. They played a complete game. They shared the basketball and took care of the basketball and they won and it was actually fun to watch. Imagine that.