GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- Phil Jackson has been watching the Knicks for a little more than two weeks.
He gave reporters a State of the Zen address, discussing Carmelo Anthony, what he has been up to, his view on the Knicks' future and even the Knicks’ ties to CAA. But here are some of Phil’s other observations:
J.R. and Amar'e impress: Jackson agrees with Tyson Chandler: The Knicks could give whomever the top seed in the East will be some fits if they get in as the eighth seed.
"Well, with J.R. [Smith] playing at the level he’s playing at now, yes,” Jackson said. “Now they have more than one option out there on the floor and I think that we’ll give teams trouble.”
"We’re all happy to see Amar’e have a resurgence here," he added. "It’s been a long, hard struggle for him, rehabbing and trying to get himself ready for this opportunity, and we’re happy to see that. The fact he missed a game the other night and was able to come back and play at the level he did last night was really a good sign."
Phil wants more Shump: Jackson was on hand to watch the Knicks crush the Nets on Wednesday. One guy who caught the new Knicks president’s eye with his defensive vigor was Iman Shumpert.
"I’m still a coach that believes in pressure, pressure defense, playing like we saw the Knicks play last night -- anticipation, turnovers become run-outs," Jackson said. “I was able to tell Iman today that’s what has to be seen on a basis that we’d like to see from game to game.
"It might not happen every game, but those are the things that break games open and give you opportunities to win when you have easy baskets. And defense can do that, so that’s a really important aspect."
It’s important for Shumpert to show Jackson what he can do, and that he can do it on a consistent basis. If the Knicks make the playoffs, Shumpert would have a golden opportunity to prove to Jackson the kind of impact he can have, particularly with defense and energy.
No coaching: Jackson reiterated that he has no intention of returning to the bench in the future. And he says he hasn’t felt the urge to do so while sitting in the stands as an executive now.
"No, I don’t, but I do know that I can’t be too vocal about what I see going on all the time out there," Jackson said. "If a flagrant foul happens, or there’s a couple of situations out there, with a post-up between Carmelo and Joe Johnson that was beyond the level of what is legitimate basketball, and I want to give my voice and my opinion to the referees, I don’t want to do that."
Phil did talk more at length about the benefits of the triangle -- just another reason to expect Jackson to bring in one of his guys to coach the Knicks and install the triangle next season.
Woody defense: Jackson said the Knicks’ improvement on defense is a major reason for their turnaround.
"I think Mike [Woodson] has a philosophy," Jackson said when asked about the Knicks’ defensive switching and past struggles with pick-and-roll defense. "It’s worked for him in the past. It’s worked for him in Atlanta. The big thing is you’ve got to have players buy into it. They have to believe in it.
"I think one of the reasons why they’ve been successful in the last month and a half, whatever this run has been, has been their defense has improved," Jackson continued. "Mike likes to switch with bigs a lot of times and ends up rotating from the other side of the court, trying to get bigs on bigs and smalls on smalls. You know, that’s his style. Players have to buy into it. That’s what coaching is about."
Jackson also praised Woodson for getting through tough times and handling all the speculation about his future.
Phil’s sked: Jackson said not to expect him to be with the team for every game for the remainder of the season. But if the Knicks make the playoffs, he will be there every game.
"My job is not to travel with the team," Jackson said of the regular season. "Mike is in control of this team, he’s the coach, he’s got that sculpt ahead of him, he knows what he is doing on the road. Steve [Mills] has chosen to go out there, and maybe Jim [Dolan] encouraged him to go out there.
"Steve has been away from the game a while so maybe that associated him back with the game," Jackson added. "So he has traveled with the team but I don’t see general managers going on the road. However, in playoff situations, yes, I will be there at all games."