By Craig Hoberman
As Knicks fans, it’s no surprise to find our blue and orange sitting shamefully at 2-7 just weeks into the 2014 season. But this isn’t just any old post-1999 Knick season- this is a Knick season that introduces a new direction, new coaching, new players and a new philosophy: the triangle offense.
We hardly have the same Knicks organization, let alone roster we had last year. MikeWoodson is out, D Fish (new coach Derek Fisher) is in. Jason Smith, Quincy Acy and experienced rim defender Samuel Dalembert now comprise most of the Knick front court. We upgraded the point as well by replacing a tired and ineffective Raymond Felton with Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin. Coaching legend Phil Jackson is now our President of Basketball Operations. Tim Hardaway, Jr. looks bigger and better than last year. So, for the love of god, after redesigning the entire franchise and culture, why can’t the Knicks escape the endless cycle of incoherence and loss?
Despite fresh legs, new youth and new management, the Knicks have begun their rebuilding season by doing what they’ve been doing for almost two decades - getting blown out in quarters and struggling to finish games. But there’s no need to panic. The truth is, and some of us know this, it will take time for Phil to be able to teach Fisher how to install the triangle, it will take Fisher time to instill it within the players, and it will take perhaps ten times longer for the entire Knicks lineup to function within that system. The key to the triangle offense is consistency and creativity. The Knicks have had flashes of this so far in games; putting the ball hard on the floor against Atlanta, wiping the floor with an overloaded Cavaliers roster and showing composure against Detroit.
Sure, the Knicks still need to make roster improvements to put the team where it needs to be skill-wise. A good complement to Carmelo Anthony could be Memphis Grizzlies Marc Gasol or Detroit’s Greg Monroe, both highly capable big men and targets for the Knicks in this year’s free agency. Dalembert shows spurts of defensive genius, and even tenacious rebounding, but lacks the freshness, consistency and offensive playmaking ability necessary for players in the triangle. Playmaking big guy Gasol would fit into Fisher’s new school triangle perfectly. Monroe would bring offensive firepower, paint presence and unbelievable athleticism.
Analysts argue that acquiring a great big man is highest on the Knicks agenda for roster improvements, but how capable are we at the point? We upgraded over a lost and confused Felton, but Calderon’s durability is questionable. Larkin, like the rest of the Knicks this season, shows flashes of excellence, but many question his height and ability to compete in the NBA and run an offense. If the Knicks were able to acquire Rajon Rondo or rising star Kyle Lowry, the triangle may be complete. Just imagine it Knicks fans- Melo, Rondo and Marc Gasol running an offense that takes us to our first conference final circuit in years. Those sound like the kind of players Jackson wants to bring to his New York empire.
It’s not like the Knicks have nothing worth mentioning now. Iman Shumpert and Hardaway are two young guards who look better than ever; Shumpert is a superior lockdown defender on the perimeter, scores off the transition and boasts unbelievable athleticism. Hardaway has struggled with his shooting percentage but looks bigger, healthier and more confident this year and probably needs more time to adjust to the coaching transition. His ability to knock down open jumpers and even drive when needed leads some to believe he will end up a premier scoring guard in the NBA. We also have Melo, and let’s not forget that…
Knicks fans should have faith in Phil Jackson. He did it with Chicago, he did it with LA, and he can do it with the Knicks. Sure, he was a coach for those two teams, and is just the president here, but his experience and understanding of the in’s and out’s of basketball prove he has the knowledge and skills to run a basketball organization. If we focus on the positives- upcoming draft picks, expiring contracts, more cap, free agency and a boatload of talented young guards- it’s hard to ignore the very real possibility that Knicks fans might actually get to see a respectable organization in the 21st century.
So what should we expect from the Knicks this season? Not too much. They’re a new squad, learning a new system with a brand new coach. Don’t expect a superb playoff run this year. When we acquire the tools from free agency and develop some of our youth, the triangle will begin to develop as a culture for our Knicks. They will learn to embrace it, we will learn to embrace it, and most of all, it will guide us to the success we haven’t seen in almost twenty years.
But seriously- this season- they’ll go 30-52. Come on guys, this is the Knicks we’re talking about.
(Guest writer Craig Hoberman is a student and SUNY-Cortland and Social Media consultant, dedicated Knicks fan and patriot. You can follow Craig on Twitter at @MyTownTutorsNY)