Back in December, when the New York Knicks were 10-14, Phil Jackson talked to his friend Charley Rosen about several topics -- both about the Knicks and the NBA in general.
One topic Jackson addressed? The root cause of the Knicks’ struggles at the time. Jackson put some of the onus on his players’ shortcomings.
“Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle,” Jackson told Rosen in an interview published Friday by Today’s Fastbreak. “They know how to play one-on-one, catch-and-shoot, and they’ve mastered crossover dribbles, spins, playing off of screens and step-back shots. They don’t know how to execute things like inside-reverse pivots and other basic footwork. They have no sense of timing or organization. They don’t really know how to play five-on-five basketball. It’s strictly generational."
Was Jackson simply frustrated because of the Knicks’ struggles at the time? Or is this something he sees as a major issue?
Given that the interview was conducted nearly eight months ago and based on the context, it’s presumptive to assume the latter.
But if Jackson really believes that “today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle,” a logical question would be to wonder why Jackson is so strident in wanting the Knicks to run the offense.
New York's offense might change to a degree next season, but Jackson and the Knicks remain committed to using the triangle in half-court sets.
New Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has said that he also wants the Knicks to increase their pace (the club ranked 24th in pace last season) and has told players he’ll add more pick-and-roll in the half court.
But all indications point to the triangle being a major part of the Knicks’ offense. What if this year's Knicks lack the fundamental skills necessary to run the triangle? That would seem to be an issue that needs to be addressed, whether it’s through increased practice or tweaking the offense.
But if Jackson’s comments to Rosen in December were a reflection of the club’s struggles at the time, then this isn't a significant issue.
Another interesting triangle issue that arose in the Rosen interview is the pace of the offense. Jackson mentioned that then-Knicks coach Derek Fisher wanted to push the pace on offense, in part, because the Knicks were struggling with the triangle.
Fisher not running the offense the way Jackson and others envisioned was a source of consternation between coach and president last season, sources say.
It probably wasn't the reason Fisher was fired, but it likely contributed to Jackson making the decision to let Fisher go. That's worth noting now as Hornacek looks to blend an up-tempo approach with the triangle offense.
Jackson addressed several other topics in his interview with Rosen. Here’s a rundown:
Rules change? To stop the hack-a-Shaq approach, Jackson suggests that when player is fouled outside of the context of a basketball play, the team should be awarded two free throws and possession. He also suggests in the interview that a player shouldn't foul out; rather, a team should be awarded an extra free throw if an opposing player commits his seventh foul. He also would like to widen and lengthen the dimensions of the NBA court to make the 3-point arc concentric, so players don't risk stepping out of bounds on corner threes. These changes seem logical, though unlikely to come to fruition due to their drastic nature.
Porzingis shot issue? Jackson notes that rookie Kristaps Porzingis was making "huge strides" but was also missing makeable shots because he had a propensity to dribble into a crowd rather than pull up for a jump shot. Jackson also noted that the Knicks should have found more playing time for Derrick Williams, who declined his player option with New York this summer and signed with Miami. Lastly, Jackson pointed out that teams were going underneath screens set for Jerian Grant because of his unreliable jump shot. Grant was dealt to Chicago in the Derrick Rose trade.