The Knicks are fun. After beating the Lakers 118-112 on Sunday, they moved to 14-10 and look like a real threat for a playoff spot. Derrick Rose looks like at least 70 percent of of his old self, Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as the team’s best player and the bench is no longer a total malfeasance.
The conversation has been about Rose and Porzingis, but also about Carmelo Anthony’s clutch shooting, and Phil Jackson. Little has been made of how the mismatched, misfit toys box Jackson put together has worked out. Much more has come of Jackson’s incessant penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. First by his comments about LeBron James’ business associates (and friends), then about Carmelo Anthony’s habit of ball-stopping, as if Anthony is suddenly going to change his stripes after being the same tiger for 13 years.
What has gone wholly underneath the radar is Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek was brought in and has breathed ball movement and tempo into a team that for so long has played the dredge basketball made famous in the early 2000s.
What’s interesting is that the continuing media narrative and questions have been about the Triangle. That’s mostly the product of Jackson’s continued insistence on talking about the wonders of the Triangle, despite its absence of a successful model team that did not have Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal. The funny thing is, however, as Jackson continues to hold onto his old ways, the coach he’s hired hasn’t really installed those concepts.
Instead, the Knicks are finding success by catering to what the players are more comfortable with. From the New York Daily News:
But with enthused players behind him, Hornacek installed something much different and modern. It’s more akin to the pace-and-space rage across the NBA.
“I mean we never said we were running the triangle the whole time. We try to mix it in,” Hornacek said. “Sometimes we run it. Sometimes late in games maybe we run it a little bit more. We run it out of timeouts. Sometimes when the pace is slowed a little bit we’ll call it while they’re going.”
“(Hornacek’s impact) means a lot,” Anthony said. “We want to play fast. That’s something that he wanted to do. I think we have the right guys to do that. Derrick is playing the way that he playing. It seems like his legs is getting back underneath him. You put Brandon in there. The ball is in his hands and we’re playing off of them.”
Source: Hornacek has reason to stick out his tongue at Suns GM in Phoenix – NY Daily News.
On one level, Jackson probably deserves credit for establishing a system that enables Hornacek to modify the Triangle and make it work. He could be more overbearing, could be constantly harping on it, but outside of a few comments here and there, for the most part he’s left it alone (at least as far as we know). On the other, it’s important to credit Hornacek and not act like suddenly the Triangle works.
But Hornacek was a good coach in Phoenix with what was pretty clearly a poisoned well (that remains toxic) and he’s getting the most out of this Knicks team. Melo’s happy, Rose is back, Porzingis is unlocked. And somehow, through it all, Phil Jackson remains the big story. Ain’t that the way it goes?