Where things went wrong between Phil Jackson and Kristaps Porzingis
The unicorn and zen master came to be at odds, leading to unexpected trade rumors
It seemed impossible two weeks ago. Not even the Knicks would trade 21-year-old Kristaps Porzingis. No matter what mistakes Phil Jackson has made, he wouldn't go this far. And then rumors surfaced that the Knicks were seriously considering dealing Porzingis, even if the cost was high. How did it get to this point? Here's a look:
Jackson had to be talked into the Unicorn
Whether Jackson wanted to draft Porzingis is debatable. Jackson bragged months later that he told the Lakers, following a Porzingis workout, they would "be sorry" if they didn't draft him. But the man commonly credited for convincing Jackson to take Porzingis is scout Clarence Gaines:
But Gaines shut out the noise, saw the very rare combination of a 7-foot-3 player who can shoot from deep, pass well and had an excellent vertical. After watching him live in Spain that February, he texted Jackson that Porzingis should be considered the No. 1 pick.
"His argument for Kristaps Porzingis convinced me to make that out-of-the-box choice,'' Jackson admitted in the email.
Taking Porzingis was a risk and Jackson signed off on it. But when you consider how things have soured, it's worth noting Jackson may not deserve all the credit.
Shawn Bradley comparison
After the draft, Jacksonhardly a ringing endorsement, and expressed reservations about whether he could effectively add strength. Jackson seemed to be overlooking how Porzingis would work in today's game with his ability to hit 3-pointers, which was evident in workouts before the draft.
Instead, Jackson compared him to a relatively stiff (but somewhat underrated) 1990s center. It points out the divide between Porzingis' capabilities as a modern player and Jackson's inability to comprehend it based on his experience.
When Porzingis exploded out of the gate, JacksonHe said Porzingis . Porzingis averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds that first season.
This past season, he posted better scoring and shooting efficiency numbers while maintaining his block rate, though his rebounds dipped slightly. Perhaps more telling, he averaged only 0.8 more shots per 100 possessions as Jackson continued trying to.
Toward the end of the season, this column with quotes from Porzingis appeared in the Post:
Only Porzingis sounded nine kinds of miserable afterward. Like this:
"There's a lot of confusion. A lot of times it's basically one-on-one. Whoever, me, myself, Carmelo [Anthony], Courtney [Lee], we try to make something happen, and that's not how it's supposed to be."
In case the point wasn't plain enough, there was also this:
"The situation is tough. We're not doing the right thing. We're just not working together right now."
In case his frustration still wasn't crystal clear, there was this, speaking specifically about the Knicks' offense, which should come with an NC-17 rating:
"It's pretty random. We have some plays that Jeff draws up, but most of the time it's after free throws or so, we're running triangle. But we never really got it all together and were able to execute the way we should have. It's been a lot of confusion."
And then, the kicker: "First of all, we don't know the triangle that well."
The Knicks faltered for the second time in two years. Jeff Hornacek was handcuffed by Jackson's obsession with the triangle, Kurt Rambis failed as the defensive mentor (installed by Jackson) and frustration grew. Then came the end-of-season exit interviews and Porzingis didn't show because he. The Knicks parted ways with an , and now comes word that the team is open to trading him. The price is supposedly too high, but fact it was leaked set off panic among Knicks fans.
The big problem
Jackson has struggled to connect with today's players, clings to an outdated offense and has gone through three coaches in two-plus seasons. On Wednesday night, Jackson had a chance to shut down the Porzingis rumors, but couldn't pull it off -- instead admitting the Knicks were taking offers for the budding Latvian star, and intimated it was because Porzingis missed that exit interview.
Jackson said the Knicks are looking for two starters and a pick for Porzingis, an unlikely prospect given their compromised leverage. Maybe Jackson salvages this situation, but it seems unlikely because of his track record with the Knicks.
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