Phil Jackson's tenure as General Manager for the New York Knicks has been highly criticized. When you sign a 5 year/$60 million dollar contract to lead the front office, high expectations come with it. Sprinkle in the fact that he's in New York City, arguably the toughest market in the #NBA, and the expectations are even higher.
In his first season as GM, the Knicks went 17-65, the worst record in Knicks history. Considering how incredibly mediocre they've been the last 15 years, that's actually saying a lot. In his second season, the Knicks went 32-50, missing the playoffs again. Phil Jackson has won 11 championships as a head coach, but his executive career is off to a shaky start. So how is it humanly possible that Phil, who has a combined record of 49-115 in his first two seasons, has succeeded as General Manager of the Knicks? Two words:
Coming off that abysmal 17-65 season, the Knicks put themselves in contention for a top pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks managed to tank the NBA season, and somehow still not snag a top 3 pick. At the time, I thought it was a disaster. There are 3 great picks in the draft (Karl Towns, Jalil Okafor, D'angelo Russel) and we got the 4th pick. Forget it, we're toast. We spent an entire season trying to lose and we're going to have nothing to show for it. But then...
With the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select Kristaps (Porshingis) Porzingis. The draft was held at Barclay's Arena in Brooklyn, which made this pick so much more meaningful for Knick fans. As soon as they heard a name they could not pronounce, they lost it. Looking back at it now, I cannot believe how loud Porzingis got boo'd that night. Imagine being a 19 year-old, 7 foot 3 inch Latvian getting drafted in New York and getting boo'd out of the building while your family sits awkwardly at their table.
As much as I hate to admit it right now, I was one of those fans. I had no idea who Porzingis was, never even watched a single highlight before. I honestly thought we had drafted the next Darko Miliic. The New York media was in a frenzy and everyone was freaking out.
Everyone except Phil Jackson
To this day, I have never been happier about being wrong. Kristaps Porzingis is a stud! In his rookie season, he averaged 14.3 points, 1.9 blocks, 7.3 rebounds while shooting 83% from the free throw line. To come out your rookie season and perform at that level after getting boo'd like that on draft day is impressive. I should of known the kid had grit when I heard what he said at the end of his draft interview.
She asked, "What do you want people to know about you and your game?"
"For those people who don't know me," he says, "They may think that i'm soft, a European who likes basketball. There have been busts before, but I'm different."
Phil Jackson: Year 3
After Porzingis' second year, Phil Jackson went out and shook up the roster in the offseason. He added former MVP Derrick Rose, former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, back-up point Brandon Jennings, a formidable wing player in Courtney Lee, and a brand new head coach in Jeff Hornacek. Throw Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis in that mix, and you have the makings of a playoff team, on paper at least.
Where the Knicks go from here? Sitting at 7-7, 14 games into the season, it's still hard to tell. Either way, Phil has already won. In my opinion, Phil drafting Kristaps will prove to be the best Knicks draft pick since Patrick Ewing in 1985.
Does Phil Jackson need to win a title in New York to validate his tenure as a success? No. The Knicks play in the Eastern Conference, and so does LeBron James. Unfortunately for us, as long as that man is in his prime playing alongside Kyrie Irving, the rest of the East is screwed. But Kristaps, who is 21 years young, will be playing long after LeBron's prime is over. Pay the man, build around the man, and one day, the man will deliver. #InKristapsWeTrust #LebronJames #nba 2016