The New York Knicks will always be the subject of NBA rumors, but the team is particularly susceptible when things are going badly. The team has suffered through a season that has seen their star player, small forward Carmelo Anthony, become the center of gossip stating that the Knicks tried their level best to trade him before the deadline in February (per CBS New York). New York was trying to unload Anthony, and he knows it. Now, management must cope with the fallout from all the trade rumors that surrounded Anthony, and the perception that the team is more than ready to move on from him as their marquee player.
The Knicks are losing, currently sitting at 27-41 and well out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. There appears to be a power struggle between team president Phil Jackson and head coach Jeff Hornacek over the use of Jackson’s preferred triangle offense. According to ESPN, Hornacek began to use the triangle less and less during the season’s first half, only to backtrack and begin to make more use of the offensive sets that were instrumental in the Chicago Bulls’ dominance when Phil Jackson was the team’s head coach. Earlier this week, Jackson even took the unusual step of moving from his office to the basketball floor in order to tutor the Knicks’ players on the triangle offense.
Jeff Hornacek is the first to admit that he is not an expert in the triangle offense, and it is very telling that Phil Jackson decided to take the floor and essentially run a clinic on the triangle (primarily for New York’s guards). The Knicks seem to be afflicted with dysfunction on and off the court, so the drama has continued to build in Gotham. There are fresh reports emerging that indicate trades and free agent signings may not be the only changes on the horizon for New York as they attempt to become relevant again.
The New York Daily News reports that Phil Jackson has never been completely comfortable with Jeff Hornacek as his head coach, and Jackson is likely to be planning a change after the season ends in April. Hornacek was basically hired by default, as Jackson either didn’t favor some of the other available candidates, or the job was turned down by coaches that he did have an interest in. Jackson has never allowed Hornacek to take full control of his own team, insisting that Hornacek retains former Knicks interim head coach Kurt Rambis as part of his staff. Jackson then stepped on Hornacek’s toes even further by conducting a recent practice session himself when the team president became dissatisfied with New York’s recent play.
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The writing is clearly on the wall: it is not a matter of if Jeff Hornacek will be fired by Phil Jackson, but when. Fox Sports shares a particularly gloomy take on Hornacek’s status with the Knicks franchise.
“Hornacek’s days in the Big Apple are very obviously numbered. The only way he can save his job is to change his name to Tex Winter, embrace the triangle offense like it’s his own child and cede complete control of coaching decisions to the Zen Master (Phil Jackson).”
Many in the media, including Harvey Araton of Yahoo! Sports, feel that the only way this should play out is for Phil Jackson to take the reins as head coach once he fires Hornacek. Jackson is now 71-years-old and may not be up to the day-to-day grind of being an NBA head coach, but if he is not willing to accept that responsibility, he should stop undermining the man who is his head coach — whether it be Jeff Hornacek, or his imminent replacement.
NBA rumors will dog the New York Knicks as long as their sideshow continues, and considering the state of the front office, coaching staff and player roster, it appears that there is no end in sight to the drama surrounding Phil Jackson, Jeff Hornacek or Carmelo Anthony. Jackson may have acquired a reputation during his career as a basketball genius, but he doesn’t have Michael Jordan to make all his decisions look brilliant — and ultimately, that might be Jackson’s undoing in New York.
[Featured Image by Frank Franklin II/AP Images]