A Zen moment

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Raffy Ledesma

Raffy Ledesma

New York Knicks owner James Dolan finally made a good decision by bringing in Phil “The Zen Master” Jackson recently as president of the franchise.  This is a breath of fresh air for millions of Knicks fans who have seen the team turn from a perennial powerhouse to the resident laughingstock in recent years.

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Dolan is considered one of the worst owners in professional sports.

Under his management or some say mismanagement, the Knicks failed to make the playoffs 8 times in 13 seasons and they have never gone past the 2nd round despite having one of the most bloated salaries in the NBA. A few years back, former NBA Commissioner David Stern even openly criticized Dolan’s management of the Knicks saying, “they’re not a model of intelligent management.” Embarrassingly, Dolan was also part of a sexual harassment suit, in which he had to pay $3 million, by one of his own female executives.

During a press conference announcing Jackson’s appointment, Dolan admitted that “he was no basketball expert” and that he is “willingly and graciously” allowing Jackson to run basketball operations. Full control.

That and $60-million over 5 years was the price for Jackson to come out of retirement. He was first offered the job of head coach but wanted an executive position – one where he would be in charge of personnel and coaching decisions.

Of course, Jackson has the leverage. After all, he is the only coach in NBA history to win 11 championships. If you include his 2 championships as a role player with the New York Knicks, that makes him 13 times a champion.

Jackson will need all his talent to rebuild the team, a team that hasn’t reached the Conference Finals since 2000. Over the next two years, the Knicks don’t have draft picks and salary space to make any major moves.

Add the fact that the franchise has been under dysfunctional management, a losing culture, and the subject of external ridicule for years, and you know that Jackson has his work cut out for him. It will take some years and a lot of line-up changes before New York can become serious contenders.

If change was going to come, it had to be with a basketball guru who is larger than life to many.  Jackson’s philosophy is simple: fundamental basketball and team play based on the triangle offense.

His first order of business is to keep superstar Carmelo Anthony in the team who reportedly has one foot out of the door.  Anthony has the skill set that Jackson desires. He is a versatile forward who can score from anywhere playing multiple positions.  However, the knock on Anthony is that he plays individual ball and doesn’t have the leadership and killer instinct of say, Kobe Bryant.  The big question is if Anthony will “buy-in” Jackson’s philosophy.  Jackson doesn’t suffer any fools and he is intolerant of egos bigger than his.

The next few months will be a period of change and excitement for the Knicks.  Phil Jackson has finally arrived.

raffyrledesma@yahoo.com

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