Harris DeckerThe smile on Shannon Brown’s face doesn’t tell the story of the season he’s having. After 10 games with the Sacramento Kings, he latched on with the Knicks and has been a fill in since the release of Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. The two-time NBA Champion doesn’t seem to care about his lack of minutes or what the future holds for him. The smile on his face is for a different reason: Brown’s former coach is now running the Knicks.
His gratitude is palpable as he begins to discuss Phil Jackson in ways that only a former player could.
“I won two championships with him” Brown said. “He’s the first coach that ever told me to just go out there and play basketball. From a players standpoint that’s huge.”
During two of Jackson’s championships with the Lakers, Brown played a key role off the bench. He averaged under 10 minutes per game but was a dead-eye shooter from behind the arc. In the triangle offense, Brown shot nearly 68 percent on 3-point attempts during 18 games in 2009 and continued that roll into the playoffs.
The next year with the Lakers, Brown would double his points per game from the previous season and help hang another banner in the rafters of the Staples Center. When asked about what kind of impact Jackson could have on the Knicks, Brown didn’t miss a beat.
“His resume pretty much speaks for itself,” he said. “He’s a student of the game of basketball. It stood out to me when we were doing the scouting reports and stuff like that when I played for him. He knew everything about every player. He knew his strengths his weaknesses.”
Brown finds himself in a precarious situation. After all, when I spoke to him, the Knicks were less than an hour away from tipping off against the Indiana Pacers as they try to claw their way back into the playoff picture. The game seemed secondary at this point. He believes Phil is here to do one thing: Win a championship. Brown believes that Phil has the power to do just that.
“I think he will, I think he should. I don’t think he would’ve taken the job if he didn’t but I think that the organization has a lot of faith and trust in him, that he’s going to come in here and make a positive impact,” Brown said.
A victory over the Pacers in the hours that followed our discussion will likely be the first of many Jackson will oversee as president.
While he’s only played a few minutes per game, Brown suddenly finds himself in the spotlight, at least among his teammates. Brown said that people have been asking him what to expect from Phil.
“He’s just a laid back kind of guy but he knows basketball. If you want to deal with somebody who has a great knowledge of basketball, of individuals and obviously of winning championships, Phil’s the guy that can make it happen,” he said.
What’s odd are the types of questions players have been asking him. “What type of practices do we have?” seems like something you’d ask a player about a new coach, not a team president. Clearly the players see the writing on the wall. This is Phil’s team now, from top to bottom.
Despite the win over the Pacers, it’s likely that Jackson will seek a new coach in the offseason who will implement the triangle offense. While Brown said that they haven’t explicitly been told they’d run that system, he said that it makes sense.
“When you’ve won 11 championships with it, why go away?” Brown said.
Once the coach is in place, Jackson will try to bring in players that work within that system. Brown believes those players may already be here.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of athletic guys lot of guys that you know, the triangle is gonna make the offense simple for them… There’s definitely a lot of guys in this locker room that are going to fit into whatever Phil’s trying to bring in,” he said.
Brown smiled throughout our discussion. He’s clearly happy to have Phil Jackson in New York, and several times during the game various players acknowledged Jackson’s presence in the crowd. Tim Hardaway Jr., spent a few extra seconds wiping his shoes before checking in, staring up into the crowd towards Jackson. Amar’e Stoudemire joined in with the applause when he was introduced and of course, Brown was there to witness it all. In his seventh year, Brown seems happy in New York. It’s not because he’s playing well or because the Knicks are possibly playoff-bound. Instead it’s because his coach, the coach that put his arm on Brown’s shoulder early in his career, has returned to New York. He knows it’s a recipe for success and believes Jackson will get it done.