Phil Jackson is either experiencing issues with impulse control or calculatingly laying the groundwork for his exit from New York at this season’s end. Whatever the reason, he continues to make statements that are on the surface counterproductive to the Knicks’ progress. The team continues to trend upward as they enter the lion’s den tonight (Thursday) to challenge the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors.
In a recent interview with the CBS Sports Network, Jackson’s assessment of Carmelo Anthony’s propensities within the team’s offensive philosophies was an obvious negative criticism couched in a backhanded compliment.
“Carmelo, a lot of times, wants to hold the ball longer than … we have a rule,” said the Knicks’ team president and seemingly self-appointed resident annoyance. “If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense,” Jackson explained. “So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop.”
Jackson continued, “That is one of the things we work with. But he’s adjusted. He knows what he can do and he’s willing to see its success.”
Although Jackson’s viewpoint was accurate in that Anthony does at times look for isolation opportunities, stopping both ball and player movement, his candor was unnecessary and ill-timed.
Although Anthony has labored over the previous two games versus the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday and the Phoenix Suns Tuesday, shooting a combined 7 for 31, he has had an effectual season thus far, leading the Knicks in scoring at 22 points per game. However, at 42.1 percent in 25 games played, his field goal percentage is down considerably from his career average of 45.2 percent. Additionally, his cumulative points per game average in 13-plus seasons is 24.9.
Nevertheless, the Knicks began their nine-day, five-game road trip with wins against the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers before falling to the Suns in overtime by 113-111, ending a four-game winning streak on the road. Overall, the 14-11 Knicks have won six out of their last eight games, heading into tonight’s game under the steady direction of head coach Jeff Hornacek. They were fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division behind the Toronto Raptors.
The Knicks faced the Kings and all but 10 minutes of the game versus the Suns without starting point guard Derrick Rose, who has been experiencing back spasms. The 28-year-old Rose has been a standout in his first year with the Knicks, averaging 16.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4 rebounds in 23 games.
As for Anthony, he took the high road in responding to Jackson.
“I don’t even know what was said to be honest with you,” he replied after initially declining to address Jackson’s comments. “I just don’t even want to talk about that, what he’s talking about exactly. I want to stay away from that at this point. My focus is my teammates and winning. We’ve been playing great basketball and that’s the only thing I’m focused on.”
Good advice for Jackson to follow.