Phil Jackson was in character and his performance was vintage. Unabashed, unflinching and unaffected.
As if you expected some kinder, gentler version of a man who only two years ago was quick to remind his critics of his 11 championships.
Once again, in his postseason address and rare media forum, he left some in the fan base infuriated — at least that was the reaction on social media — but while you can say you didn’t like the delivery, you can’t say he didn’t answer all the questions.
And after a season of innuendo and conjecture, the most important question of all — the future of Carmelo Anthony — finally had a definitive answer.
“We have not been winning with him on the court and I think the direction with our team is that he’s a player that would be better off somewhere else,” Jackson said, “and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”
So it can finally be said with certainty: the Knicks want to move on from Melo. Jackson said he said as much to Melo in their exit interview on Thursday.
Jackson said he told the 32-year-old All-Star, “you don’t want to end up your career not winning.”
That suggests the Knicks aren’t focused on another quick-fix offseason of spending to build again around him. Jackson on Friday spoke as if the franchise was going back to the original plan from his first year on the job: a full-on rebuild.
“Something that would benefit us moving forward is a younger, developing team,” Jackson said.
Of course, none of this can be done without Melo’s consent. He holds the power of the no-trade clause. Melo said on Wednesday night that he preferred to stay with the Knicks, but only if winning was the main priority.
Melo admitted he would put a lot of thought into considering an escape.
“It would have to be a decision I really sit down and think about and figure it out,” he said after the season finale. “I’m going to have to do a lot of figuring things out right now — sit down with my team, sit down with my family, really figure this out, kind of really put what’s important to me at this point in my career, which is winning.”
Don’t get caught up in the feigned outrage over Jackson admitting the obvious or Melo posting Instagram messages. Both men knew this was coming. You did, too.
So did the entire NBA, so dismiss the fears of ruining any trade “leverage” by publicly announcing the intent to trade a star player on a max contract. It’s not as if there is a 29-team market for him, or did you already forget he holds the only leverage that matters in the no-trade?
Jackson revealed there was interest in Melo before the trade deadline, but nothing that was amenable to Melo or the team at the time. It is a very limited — less than 15% of the league — market for the Knicks because Melo’s criteria (contending team in a major market) eliminates most of the NBA.
It is very possible that whatever the Knicks get in return will most likely fit the “addition by subtraction” description.
“Right now we need players who are really active, can play every single play, defensively and offensively,” Jackson said. “That’s really important for us.”
Which leads us to something else Jackson mentioned that was quite curious and completely incompatible to what he was saying about the mission to rebuild and get younger and tougher: the possibility of re-signing Derrick Rose.
Jackson said Rose — who, if you remember, spoke with disdain about the Triangle Offense — expressed an interest in coming back.
“He wants to redeem himself as a player,” Jackson said, “which I like that attitude.”
Other takes from Jackson’s media address:
- Talked about a lack of identity for the team all season and felt the Triangle was blamed too often. He then tried to explain the Triangle and his devotion to it, with an explanation of why it didn’t work. His answer? “We face resistance,” he said. “We faced it from the top.”
- He admitted it was a “valid point” to consider his on-court presence in holding Triangle tutorials as undermining Jeff Hornacek. He also noted a “disconnect” and “rebelliousness” from the team toward Hornacek. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand?
There’s a lot more to digest from Jackson’s media address. I’ll post another blog soon with thoughts beyond the Melo topic.