Josh NewmanThe Knicks are in the middle of one of their best stretches of the season, having won seven straight games following a 92-86 decision over the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers on Wednesday evening.
They are four games back of the eighth — and final — Eastern Conference playoff spot and all pistons appear to be firing, but no one seems to care.
The reason for that is pretty simple as Phil Jackson was introduced Tuesday morning as the team’s new President of Basketball Operations. The winning streak has gone by the wayside in favor of visions of the future and what Jackson, an 11-time NBA championship-winning head coach, can do to turn around a franchise which has been without a title since 1973 and been largely in complete disarray for most of the last decade.
Still, there is a season to play and a playoff spot to chase, an uphill climb that hasn’t been made an easier with Jackson riding into town and the circus that has ensued.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Phil, but that’s besides the point right now,” Carmelo Anthony said during a rare pregame interview session with reporters. “It’s kind of hard for me to sit here before the game and talk about the Phil Jackson situation when I got a game to go out there and play and we still have 15-16 games to try and make this push and get into the playoffs. It’s a grat situation in one hand, but it’s an unfortunate situation what I gotta sit here and talk about that rather than focus in on playing basketball.”
Jackson said on Tuesday that he considered Anthony part of the team’s future plans, but Anthony’s impending free agency and whether or not he will re-up for in New York for the maximum five years and $129 million is among a myriad of issues Jackson will have to deal with once this season ends. Realistically, nothing is getting accomplished until the Knicks are done playing this season and Anthony’s status isn’t likely to be first on the agenda.
It was revealed on Tuesday during the press conference and an extensive media tour afterwards that Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman James Dolan offered Jackson the head-coaching position first before the conversation ever got to a job in the front office.
That makes it sound like Mike Woodson’s days as Knicks head coach are numbered. Whether or not that is true, Woodson has continued to stay the course, saying nothing controversial while trying to push forward over this final month of the season with the Knicks still in playoff contention.
“Mr. Dolan, this is his team, he has that right to talk to anyone about a coaching position,” said Woodson, who admitted he didn;t know Dolan offered the position to Jackson until Tuesday. “It happened, obviously, but I’m the coach of the Knicks right now. I still have a job to do and as long as I’m coaching this team, I’m gonna try to put my best foot forward in terms of moving forward and getting this team in the playoffs. That’s what’s first and foremost at this point.”
Jackson addressed the coaches and team at their practice facility in Greenburgh on Wednesday morning. Woodson, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire all labeled the encounter and brief and introductory, which is standard and an obvious sign that nothing radical will be taking place with Woodson, Anthony or otherwise until the offseason.
“I’m very grateful and happy to be a coach in the NBA and Jim gave me this opportunity two years ago and I’m still coaching the Knicks and I’m very grateful for that,” Woodson said. “We’re in the midst of trying to get this team in the playoffs and we are playing better basketball, but I’ve still got a lot of work on my hands. I’m up for the challenge as long as I’m still the coach.”
“As far as the future goes, that’s gonna handle itself,” Anthony said. “We’re gonna deal with that as an organization when that time comes. Everything else is put to the side. We’re just trying to win basketball games and make this late-season push.”