The New York Knicks have played just nine games this season yet the team is already dealing with several concerns about the triangle offense the offensive system team president Phil Jackson wants utilized. Jackson has reportedly expressed frustration with how little the Knicks run the triangle. Which in turn prompted Carmelo Anthony to tell the media in New York that he doesn't even want to talk about the triangle anymore.
Jackson though is undeterred by what his superstar player thinks. In fact, Jackson says he is not frustrated at all by the Knicks not always running the triangle. But he does still strongly believe that the triangle offense can be effective in the NBA. Especially if run "the right way."
From Jackson's conversation with ESPN's Jackie MacMullan:
JM: There have been reports you are frustrated that (Knicks coach) Jeff Hornacek isn't employing the triangle offense enough. Is that the case?
PJ: No. But when they run it I want them to run it the right way. If you are going to do it, use your skills and run it the right way. I'm not frustrated at all. Derrick Rose missed three weeks of training camp (because of a civil trial). It's totally understandable where we are as a ballclub. We have guards that do a lot of stuff off the dribble. I want them to understand they can do things off the pass. It has to be a combination.
JM: Can the triangle still be effective in today's game, which has gone the "space and pace" route?
PJ: If you want to learn the fundamentals of the game, you don't bypass any of the basics, like how to make a post pass, how to set up a screen, what pivots you can use to escape pressure and force defenses to react. What are the passing lanes? You have to acknowledge that. You have five players on the floor. If you are going to drive you have to know where players will be on the court. If you are going to make a pass you need space between players and have a certain amount of lanes open. Appropriate space between players is 12-to-16 feet. Eighteen-to-20 feet is a little long to make an appropriate pass. We've extended that to create long lanes to allow players to roll to the basket and stretch the floor.
JM: So, is it safe to say the Knicks will not be a "space and pace" team any time soon?
PJ: It's my feeling when everybody does the same damn thing it becomes, 'Who has the best Rolls Royce? Who has the best, fastest stock car in this race we are running?' So if you have LeBron, wow, we're going to do the same thing even though we don't have the Rolls Royce? You have to be unique. You have to have something no one else is doing to have genius in this game. It becomes an ownership. I don't care about the triangle. I care about systematically playing basketball. If the spacing isn't right, if guys are standing on top of each other, if there aren't lanes to be provided, or rebounders available to offensively rebound the ball, or we don't have defensive balance when a shot goes up, all of these things are fundamental basketball. I follow it. I'm not railing, 'This is inadequate' or 'This isn't right.' Just show me what will work. Are we running around for no reason? Can we hit the first cutter? Do we have the ability to hit the second option or are we just bypassing plays so someone can hit a 3-point shot? It doesn't make sense to me.
This is more of the usual thinking from Jackson, which does have its merits. Jackson's thoughts on spacing and having a unique offense are quite valid. He is right also that Derrick Rose missing most of training camp and preseason due to his sexual assault trial has held the Knicks back a bit. The Knicks also incorporated a slew of new players this season and are still coming together as a team. Plus, it is still early in the season so the Knicks have the time to learn how to run the triangle the right way like Jackson says.
But based on his track record and everything he's said since getting hired by the Knicks, it is hard to see Jackson not caring about the triangle. After all, the triangle was the system Jackson used when he won 11 championships as a coach. The triangle was quite successful for Jackson, so now all of sudden he doesn't care? Seems a bit far-fetched.
Jackson of course doesn't coach the Knicks. That's Jeff Hornacek's job. But it seems like Jackson will continue to have his strong beliefs on what will and won't work with the Knicks, which in turn is making Hornacek's job harder. No wonder the Knicks have the most auspicious start to the season.