By Charles Glover, Jr.
The New York Knicks formally introduced Phil Jackson as president of basketball operations on Tuesday, March 18, sparking feelings of hope in the minds of optimistic fans. But there are plenty of skeptics who point to the tall task ahead of the “Zen Master” and many of the questions at the press conference were aimed at figuring out Jackson’s commitment to his first position as a basketball executive.
There were a few noticeable takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference. Knicks fans must have felt annoyed to hear Knicks owner James Dolan almost gleefully admit: “I am not a basketball expert,” when he was asked specific questions. Dolan, however, recognized that it was time to hire someone who knows the game and he seemed happy to offer the position to Jackson. For his part, Jackson did not avoid the challenge with being present in New York year round, stating, “I plan to establish myself here [in New York] but I do have doctors and …other family I am committed to in L.A. as well.” With Jackson in the fold, there is a legitimate question as to which marquee, but underperforming franchise has a brighter immediate future: the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers?
While Phil Jackson has plenty of experience as a basketball player and coach, current Knicks General Manager Steve Mills is in his first year in the position. This is in stark contrast to the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak who is far more experienced. Kupchak is a former player and champion for the Washington Bullets and Lakers. He has been an executive for the Lakers since the late 1980’s. Kupchak learned directly under one of the best NBA executives of all times in Jerry West and has been the GM since 2000. This wealth of experience should give Lakers fans hope that Kupchak can fix the current mess the team finds itself in.
There is a great deal of focus on the upcoming season and how these franchises will rebound, yet the Knicks still have a chance to make the playoffs this year. Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson will have a hard time retaining his position regardless of the team’s final win-loss outcome. The Lakers are already eliminated from playoff contention and their coach, Mike D’Antoni, will have a difficult time convincing Lakers’ management to continue being patient with him, if the Lakers finally come to their senses. Neither team can know what direction their team is headed before they know who the leader of their team will be. Both franchises have to figure out the coach of the future to help create structure for these teams.
The Lakers will have only Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash definitely on the roster for next season. They will have plenty of cap space and their first round draft pick this year. Meanwhile, the Knicks will be over the salary cap next season, whether Carmelo Anthony opts out of his contract or not, and they do not have a first round draft pick this year. Both teams have publicly stated a desire to wait until the summer of 2015, when a host of all-star caliber players become free agents, before they spend the money the team has available under the cap. This process may seem prudent but may not work for the stars of each prospective franchise. Bryant has only two years left on his deal, and maybe in his career. He has been clear in recent comments: “no I’m not that patient…I don’t want to be a part of another season like this,” he has said. Anthony has also been on the record stating, “I want to win championships…in the near future.”
Both teams have several decisions to make about players, personnel and coaches. The Knicks now have a brilliant basketball mind in the front office and a top 5 scorer currently under contract. However, the Lakers will have 2014 and 2015 to strategically spend free agent money, make trades, draft players, and build a championship contender, like they normally do. It’s a toss-up to see if the personnel/coaching/player movements will achieve the desired results for either team.–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.