Steve Kerr made the right call by almost every measure. Golden State’s roster is well constructed, with Stephen Curry leading the way, Klay Thompson bombing away on the wing, and two top-flight defensive players and passers in Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut holding down the fort. The front office showed an ability to go out and acquire talent even when they didn’t necessarily have cap room by working multiple deals to land Iguodala. The Warriors were even able to make the playoffs and nearly win their series with the L.A. Clippers as their coach feuded with management and fired assistants left and right.
The Knicks situation is…different. Notable residents of MSG next season include luminaries as J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani, and Raymond Felton. Amare Stoudemire will make over $23 million next season, and while his play improved this season he will never be worth that much again. Even the team’s good players come with asterisks. Tyson Chandler is still very capable of anchoring a defense and drawing in defenders when rolling to the rim. He just has to be on the floor to do any of that, and he hasn’t missed less than 16 games in each of the three regular seasons he has spent in New York. As for Carmelo Anthony, he is a major flight risk in the upcoming free agency period.
The front office has been notoriously poorly run for years, and James Dolan has constantly chased a win-now approach and tried to spend his way to an immediate turn-around. That strategy can yield some short-term gains, as the Knicks saw in 2012-13, but when things start to fall apart it can get rough, and there’s no sustainability built into the current approach.
Phil Jackson is supposed to change all of that. His steady presence in the front office is a sign that Dolan is interested in having a long-term strategic focus for the franchise. Jackson’s credentials for such a task have rightfully been questioned, but he could well be an excellent fit for the position. We just won’t know for a while. What we do know is that his mere presence isn’t going to be enough of a draw to pry talent from other teams.
The Jackson-Kerr connection was thought to be enough to get Kerr onto the Knicks’ bench next season. Instead, once he became a hot commodity (without even having any experience), Kerr chose greener pastures. Jackson should get used to it – he may have a relationship with Kerr, but he doesn’t with most active players. He’ll be banking on all those rings to pull talent in, and that will only work if he can show that there is a foundation in place for acquiring and developing talent. No one will be interested in what he did five years ago if they don’t think he can help them accomplish the same things.
There’s no silver bullet fix for this team, and the Kerr situation will hopefully stick with Jackson and the rest of the front office as a reminder. Every personnel decision needs to be carefully weighed, even seemingly simple ones like whether or not to bring back Melo (given the opportunity). The books are surprisingly clear after next season, and starting completely from scratch then wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Quick fixes and throwing money at the problem are just going to slow down what could already prove to be a slow process, and a rebuild from the ground up is long overdue. Of course, first thing’s first – they still need a coach.