Knicks’ pursuit of Jackson marks act of desperation

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It is now time to christen the New York Knicks’ 2014 campaign an unmitigated disaster — the tenants of Madison Square Garden sit at 24-40 on the season, 10th in the NBA’s beleaguered Eastern Conference and four games out of the playoffs. The Knicks have suffered separate nine-game and seven-game losing streaks, including a 41-point loss to the division rival Boston Celtics on their home floor on Dec. 8.

For a team that began the season as the favorites to once again win the Atlantic Division, led by scoring champion Carmelo Anthony, and filled with on-paper talent, the very notion of missing the playoffs is shocking. Not so shocking are the rumors of the Knicks’ pursuit of former Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson for a position in the front office as president of basketball operations.

Jackson, an 11-time NBA champion head coach and former coach of the year, is no stranger to success. Jackson helped shepherd Michael Jordan’s Bulls to six NBA championships in the ’90s and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers to five titles in the 2000s. Jackson’s ability to manage superstar egos and curb locker room infighting is nearly unrivaled, giving him the nickname “Zen Master.” By bringing in Jackson to oversee head coach Mike Woodson and his players, the Knicks are hopeful that this season can be saved and that another run at an elusive NBA title can be mustered.

Despite Jackson’s prowess as a leader and tactician, not even he can salvage the sinking ship that is this year’s Knicks. The Knicks are certainly talented, but they suffer under Woodson’s coaching.

Anthony, while indeed a prolific scorer, has shown an utter lack of willingness to make his teammates better. Moreover, his lackadaisical defense puts pressure on the rest of the team to keep up with opponents’ ability to score at will. To make matters worse, shooting guard J.R. Smith’s complete disregard for anything related to the idea of a “team” has doomed the Knicks from the outset. His highly questionable shot selection and childish on-court and off-court antics have only lent credence to the media image of Smith as a poor man’s Anthony, a volume scorer with little else but a toxic attitude.

While Anthony and Smith’s gameplay epitomizes the Knicks’ failings in 2014, the responsibility must be shouldered by the entire roster. Injuries are to blame as well, as the Knicks have gone stretches without center Tyson Chandler and power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who are both keys to their interior defense. That being said, the damage has been done to the Knicks. This season might as well be written off as a lost cause that Jackson’s greatness cannot revive. Any move by the Knicks to procure him amounts only to an act of desperation to appease an increasingly discontented fan base angry at decades of front-office debacles and on-court failings.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 10 print edition. Charles Surette is a contributing writer. Email him at sports@nyunews.com.

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