Make no mistake about it, these New York Knicks are now officially Phil Jackson's. And he is now officially on the clock as president of the Knicks and all the pressure that comes with it.
On the clock, we say, because he is finally going to get the chance to shape and mold this team into his vision, whatever that might be. With Monday's announcement that Amar'eStoudemire is a Knick no more, the last major holdover of the old regime is gone. Jackson made the choice this summer to re-sign Carmelo Anthony, a player he inherited and decided to build around, but there are precious few remnants of the team he took over last spring still on this roster.
And with no more Stoudemire, a player who was an All-Star and an All-NBA selection here in New York now bought out, Jackson has the flexibility to build this Knicks team with little restraint. That means a boatload of cap space coming up. It also means a boatload of decisions. Decisions for a roster that will soon be his alone.
And in being his and only his, we can finally start to judge the job he's doing and If things go sour, the job he may not be doing with the Knicks.
What this past Sunday's All-Star game performance, where Anthony made just 6-of-20 shots, did was remind Knicks fans why he isn't a building block for the future. But now the 'Zen Master' will have the opportunity this summer and next summer as well to start building a team that coincides with the vision that landed him multiple trophies in Chicago and Los Angeles. This is why he was brought to New York by the much maligned Jim Dolan; to make the tough choices. Only Jackson has the clout to pull this off.
He will pick up where others have failed here in New York, with a young head coach of his choosing and with a roster that pretty soon will begin to look like his and his alone. He made the decisions to bring Anthony back and to buy out Stoudemire. Now he will get the chance to fill-out the rest of the roster sooner rather than later.
Many Knicks fans couldn't even tell you who their last team president was, but Jackson they know. There will be high expectations for a man who has won everywhere else he has been, though he better start winning here soon too or else these fickle fans will begin to lose patience.
All of which means that, as of Monday, the clock now starts ticking on Jackson's tenure with the Knicks. For the first half of the NBA season, he had a pass. The team wasn't really his and he had a rookie head coach walking the line. And with the Knicks in salary cap hell, not even the most optimistic of Knicks fans thought playoffs this year.
While few thought it would be this bad, this horrible start to the first 53 games of the year, it underscores just what a project Jackson inherited. Now, however, he will sink and swim by his decisions.
In hiring Jackson, Dolan perhaps decided to follow the same philosophy that has made his other team, the New York Rangers, a postseason team the last few years. In the Rangers, Dolan is hands-off and lets the hockey minds make the decisions on the ice. He doesn't mettle, he doesn't try to play puck God. Instead, he simply writes checks and cashes wins.
Jackson, perhaps the most influential figure in the NBA for well over two decades now, has the rings and cigar victory poses to back up bold decisions like the one he made with Stoudemire on Monday. But it had better work, because he's taken some risks here.
He decided to tie this team to the wet blanket that is Anthony for another five seasons at near the maximum figure, and he decided to part ways with Stoudemire, who may be washed up - but was still an influential figure on this roster. And it will be Jackson who decides how to use his cap space and draft picks over the next several years to begin to get the Knicks into playoff contention and back to being relevant again.
And it will be his team and his team alone that will either sink or swim. You're on the clock Phil, and you better get moving. New Yorkers don't like to wait.