All posts by aknighton12

Melo and Jackson: A Classic Knicks Story

Ever since Carmelo Anthony decided to re-sign with the New York Knicks before the 2014 season, the Knicks organization has been in complete chaos. Carmelo has seen coaching changes, teammates come and go, Knicks legends getting escorted out of the building by security at the owner’s request, and plenty of terrible front decisions.

That summer of 2014, the Knicks were able to persuade Zen-Master Phil Jackson out of retirement to join their front office as the President of Basketball Operations. He was given the keys to the castle. While Melo was visiting with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, it was the signing of Phil Jackson that drew Melo back to the New York Knicks in hopes of bringing the team back to its glory days of the 1970s; when Jackson won two titles as a player for the franchise.melo-game3.jpg

Jackson and Anthony spoke at length about where they envisioned the direction of the Knicks to go. Jackson’s resume spoke for itself.  He won two titles as a player and is the proud owner of nine rings as a head coach.  His signature offense is the triangle. He ran it successfully in the Jordan/Pippen era, and he ran it with Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles. That success has not translated with the Knicks, due in part to the fact that he is relying on his coaching staff to teach the triangle offense while he was in the office.

One could say that Jackson hasn’t had the best of luck since joining the Knicks.  Carmelo Anthony is the only player on the roster remaining from that 2014-2015 season; the summer he rejoined the Knicks.

They have tried signing veterans and have struck out.  Players like Andrea Bargnani, Brandon Jennings, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and more have suited up as a Knick and have failed to reach expectations.  Most of the veterans that they brought in were once prolific scorers, former MVPs, or prominent defenders. They all had perfected their craft at one point or another in their career. However, when they arrived in New York, they were washed up or injury prone.  None of these players made a difference.  Some of them (Derrick Rose) didn’t seem to take the organization seriously enough that they just flat out skipped a game with no means of communication.

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The Knicks haven’t had any luck in the draft either. In 2014, they had two second-round draft picks, which they used to take Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Early played two seasons with the Knicks (really a season and a half), before getting demoted to the D-League. Antetokounmpo (The Greek Freak’s brother) bounced around the D-League before a brief stint with the Knicks in 2016. After that season, he returned to Greece because he wasn’t fitting in on the Knicks roster.

They did hit a home run when they drafted Kristaps Porzingis in 2015 with the fourth overall pick in the draft. The 7’3” center from Latvia has a very unique skillset. He can shoot, rebound, defend and run the floor at his huge stature. In his two seasons with the Knicks, Porzingis averaged 16.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds. He also added 1.9 blocks and shot 35% from the three-point line. Kristaps Porzingis is the real deal, and even though he was booed on draft night by many Knick fans, Phil Jackson saw something in Porzingis that other teams didn’t. He is a versatile player that plays both sides of the ball extremely well. Knicks fans have claimed that Porzingis is the face of the franchise, surpassing Carmelo Anthony.


With all of that being said, many rumors floated around this summer that Phil Jackson was shopping Porzingis around the league to gauge interest and see what teams would be willing to give up to add Porzingis to their roster. Jackson was upset that Porzingis skipped his exit meeting after the season had concluded. Porzingis was fed up with the Melo drama and the franchise’s lack of clear direction. So, what does Jackson do? He puts Porzingis up on the trade block and he lets it be publicly known that Porzingis, the face of the Knicks franchise, is not untouchable.

This move put Knicks fans over the edge. Phil Jackson had to go. Many of Jackson’s moves up to this point in time were questioned, and some moves were hated, but this was the final straw. Jackson’s legacy in New York will forever be tarnished. He won’t be remembered as the player who won two championships back in the 1970s; he’ll be remembered for his failed tenure in the Knicks front office. When he came to New York in 2014, Knicks fans were hopeful and ready to become legitimate contenders again. However, since Jackson arrived, the Knicks have not only failed to improve, but have also failed to define a clear direction for the team. They have changed head coaches and player personnel so that the current chemistry is nonexistent. The Knicks haven’t made the playoffs since the 2012-2013 season, before Jackson’s arrival to New York. The one good thing that Phil Jackson did for the New York Knicks’ franchise was drafting Kristaps Porzingis. He is supposed to be the future of the Knicks, and Jackson was trying to take that away.


The media circus continued around Phil Jackson and the Knicks. In the 2017 draft, the Knicks took French international, Frank Ntilikina in the first round, eighth overall. In the second round, they took Damyean Dotson from the University of Houston and Ognjen Jaramaz from Serbia: Two point guards and one shooting guard total. We don’t know how these draft picks will turn out. None of the picks were highly praised by draft experts and media members, except for Ntilikina’s potential in a triangle offense, which the Knicks presumably look to abandon, considering their lack of success with it since Jackson’s arrival.

Just six days after the draft on June 28, Knicks owner James Dolan fired Phil Jackson. In the three years that Jackson was the president of the team, the Knicks won only 80 games. Phil Jackson was run out of town. Now, let’s not be too quick to praise Dolan for this move. Yes, it was necessary and he had finally made the right decision, but Dolan isn’t a saint. Knicks fans have constantly viewed him as a very unpleasant person. He is easily triggered by fans who may heckle him at a game. Countless fans have been kicked out of the arena for their verbal engagements with Dolan. Most notably, this past season, Charles Oakley was removed by security after a verbal altercation had occurred between Dolan and Oakley. This ejection was per Dolan’s request, and Oakley was banned indefinitely from Madison Square Garden after the incident. Oakley was noticeably very angry during this situation and may have gotten a bit physical with some of the security guards as they were escorting him out of the building. He now has a court date for this altercation with Dolan. Charles Oakley claims that Dolan threw him out for no reason. Oakley, a beloved former Knick, stirred up outrage from Knicks fans because of Dolan’s actions.


Dolan claims to be a “hands off” owner and stays out of the day-to-day operations. Scott Perry, the new GM of the Knicks, was hired on July 14. During an interview almost a week later, Perry was asked a question about meeting with James Dolan during the hiring process and Perry replied stating that he had not yet met with Dolan. Dolan hired a man to run his organization, signed him to a five-year deal, trusted him with all of the powers that a general manager possesses, and didn’t even meet with him before or even soon after Perry was hired.

The Knicks are in a tough spot. They don’t have many assets, outside of Melo and Porzingis. They don’t have a draft pick next summer. The disconnect between the owner, the front office, the coaches and the players is still an issue. Fans want answers. What is the goal for this season? Are the Knicks tanking for a top pick in the draft that they don’t have? They’re clearly not even playoff contenders in an Eastern Conference that is weaker than it was the season before. So, what IS the plan?


Carmelo’s numbers are still solid. The 33-year-old still averaged 22.4 points on 43% FG and 36% from three. He averages 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. They aren’t the numbers that he once produced, but Melo will always be a pure scorer. He will always get his points, but it seems to always be at the expense of the teammates around him. Melo has never been a vocal leader or someone who will fire up his teammates. It has been reported for years that Melo is more worried about his paycheck than he is about winning.

In all honesty, I don’t think that Melo leaves New York. He has a no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to axe a trade if he doesn’t want to go to that particular team. He has said in the past that he would waive his no-trade clause for the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I don’t think that Houston is willing to give up two or three assets to receive an aging Carmelo Anthony and have it turn out like the Dwight Howard saga did. I could see LeBron James telling the Cavs front office to go after Melo, but will he be the difference-maker that they are looking for to beat the Warriors? I don’t believe so, especially if they have to give up a big piece in order to acquire him. They are also dealing with their own media circus after the news broke that Kyrie Irving wants a trade and doesn’t want to play with LeBron anymore. He did mention that the Knicks are on his list of teams he’d like to be traded to, but if the Cavaliers traded Kyrie for Melo, they’d regret it for years to come. Kyrie hasn’t reached his full potential as a player; he’s only 25. Melo is 33 and has seen his play decline, in addition to dealing with some injuries. In any case, Kyrie seems to be headed to Boston, which would put a damper on any Kyrie-for-Melo speculation I don’t believe that he could help them get further than Kyrie could. All in all, Carmelo Anthony is stuck with the Knicks for a few more years. The circus continues in Manhattan and the Knicks are sinking.


Are the Timberwolves Finally Legit?

It is well known to basketball enthusiasts that in recent history, the Western Conference has been far stronger that the East.  The Golden State Warriors are coming off of their second championship in three years and show no signs of slowing down.  The San Antonio Spurs always seem to find the right players to fit in their system that make them perennial contenders. Houston has added a floor general in Chris Paul to team up with the MVP runner-up, James Harden. Paul George was traded to the Thunder to share the floor with “Mr. Triple Double”, Russell Westbrook.  Portland has a premier back-court with Damian Lillard leading the way.  The Memphis Grizzlies, who are usually in the mix, come playoff time, have a way of slowing down their opponents to play at their own speed.

Teams like the Grizzlies will definitely make the path for Western Conference teams tougher.

However, the pressing question throughout the Western Conference is, are the Minnesota Timberwolves legit?  Have they added the right pieces to make their roster complete and make a real push for the NBA title? Nobody denies the potential of the Timberwolves if they can keep Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns on the roster.  Now, they’ve added one of the best two-way players in the league, Jimmy Butler, a move that could certainly increase their chances of making the playoffs this season.

When the trade came through on draft night, head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau was reunited with one of his former players.  Butler had played for Thibodeau for four years in Chicago.  Butler was the rising star, coexisting with Derrick Rose, to fill out the back-court.  When Butler was traded for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, two young players with some potential, it was clear to most analysts and NBA fans that Minnesota got the better end of the deal.  Thibodeau and Butler won a gold medal for Team USA together in the Olympics last summer.  They had a great run in Chicago.  They reached the playoffs all four years and Butler won the 2014-2015 NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, which doubled as Thibodeau’s final season in Chicago. It was clear that Thibbs was in favor of a reunion with Jimmy Butler, so he convinced management to make a move and go get the three-time all-star.

Jimmy is a special player. He is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, being a great perimeter defender as well as a capable scorer.  Each year, Butler continues to improve as one of the league’s top players. Towards the end of his career in Chicago, Butler took on the leadership role for the team, averaging 23.9/6.2/5.5.  Derrick Rose, having never returned to the MVP-caliber player he once was, got traded to the New York Knicks at the end of the 2015-2016 season. This forced Butler to assume that leadership role. It gave Butler the opportunity to be “The Guy” for the Bulls.  The last few years that Rose and Butler were teammates, there had been reports of the two not getting along.  Regardless, Butler still led the team to the NBA playoffs as the eighth seed in 2017.  They faced the top seeded Boston Celtics and held a 2-0 lead in the series before Boston came back and won four straight. Overall, it was somewhat of a frustrating season for the Chicago Bulls.  They had veterans Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo mixed with a young group of mid-level talent. Following a few locker room arguments that got blown out of proportion and a regular season record that most likely displayed an underachieving year, it was time for Butler to get a fresh start. Butler is under contract until 2020, giving the Timberwolves a few seasons to build around and the already established core.

Another piece that Minnesota added was point guard Jeff Teague. The eight-year veteran is coming off just a single season with the Indiana Pacers, in which he averaged 15.3/4.0/7.8 per game.  Teague helped the Pacers claim the seventh seed in the playoffs.  They eventually got swept by Cleveland, but there were a few games that could have gone either way.  Before the ’16-’17 season, Teague spent his first seven years in Atlanta playing for the Hawks. He’s had a solid career as a guy who can knock down shots, run the offense and spread the ball. He also comes with ample playoff experience and even made an all-star appearance.  He’s not necessarily going to take over a game, but he’s a solid point guard who could be considered an upgrade from Ricky Rubio.  He will work well with Butler and Wiggins. Teague is locked up until the summer of 2020, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Karl-Anthony Towns recently had another spectacular season. He finished the starting all 82 games, and continued to improve with 25.1/12.3 numbers on 54% shooting, and averaged 3.6 offensive rebounds to go along with 1.3 blocks per game. His name has continuously been thrown around by many NBA analysts and reporters as the player that they would personally choose to build a team around. He is athletic and effective on both sides of the ball.  The seven-footer has been compared to Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and Amar’e Stoudemire back when he was a monster for the Phoenix Suns. If he stays healthy like he has in his first two seasons, Towns will become one of the all-time great big men in NBA history. KAT is locked up for the next two seasons before becoming a restricted free agent. Minnesota would like to offer him a huge extension before that 2019 summer. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t match any offer that Towns received from another team.

Andrew Wiggins has had a nice start to his career.  Last season, he averaged 23.6/4.0/2.3.  Like Towns, Wiggins started all 82 games. In fact, he has only missed one game in his three-year career. Wiggins is a long, athletic small forward that is willing to take on tough assignments on the defensive end. However, his defensive ability has indeed been questioned as of late, and he must step up in that regard. He matches up well with offensive superstars like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Kevin Durant. Wiggins has one more year on his contract before becoming a restricted free agent. Much like Towns, expect the Timberwolves to make a strong effort in persuading Wiggins to sign an extension before he can test the free agent market. 

One of the other additions they T-Wolves made was signing former sixth-man of the year, Jamal Crawford.  Crawford is a crafty dribbler and elite scorer.  He averaged 12.3 PPG on 26 minutes per game last season.  The 37-year-old will add a much-needed veteran presence to the young locker room.  He will most likely be one of the primary ball handlers down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota also added Taj Gibson, who will add 10 points and 6 rebounds a game. Gibson is coming off of a season where he started with the Chicago Bulls and finished with the Oklahoma City Thunder. During his 23-game stint in OKC, Gibson saw his numbers drop slightly due to the fact that he had to figure out his role down low with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. Gibson is generally utilized for his defensive contributions and his toughness that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, anyway. Gibson is an eight-year veteran that has played with a few superstars throughout his career. This season, he will be reunited with Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau.

In recent news, there has been talk of Kyrie Irving wanting to team up with Jimmy Butler in Minnesota. It stems from Butler and Irving’s great relationship that they built while they were teammates on Team USA. I would love to see Irving on the same court as Butler, Towns and Wiggins.  However, I believe that the Timberwolves would not be able to acquire Irving without giving away established and vital pieces, which would generally have to include one of their three stars. One of the trade talks drummed up by the media mentioned sending Wiggins back to Cleveland. Wiggins was initially drafted by Cleveland in 2014, but was then part of the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers. Another trade scenario revolved around adding Teague to the trade package. He can’t be dealt until December, so that doesn’t look like it is going to happen.


I think that the Timberwolves are a much stronger team since adding Butler, Teague and the other pieces. This group has at least a two-year window before contracts start expiring.  If they can keep the core players together, Minnesota could be a real contender in the years to follow. I could imagine the Timberwolves claiming the fifth or sixth seed in the West, and even better if they gel together in their first season. I think that if they can match up with the Houston Rockets, it would be their best chance of advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.  However, if they match up against Golden State or San Antonio, I don’t believe that they have a deep enough bench to overcome those already established teams.

The future is bright in Minnesota.  They have a great young core.  Tibbs is a players’ coach.  If they were in the Eastern Conference, I would put them in contention with Cleveland and Boston to advance to the finals.  Unfortunately for them, their path to the NBA finals is extraordinarily tough due to the competition out West.