Phil Jackson doesn't actually say much -- or much that he hasn't said before -- in this interview with Harvey Araton, but these are the messages he's choosing to broadcast, so I suppose they are things to keep in mind as the trade deadline, season's end, and free agency approach. Here is what stood out to me and what it made me think:
1. Jackson's eagerness to say stuff like this unsolicited:
"Like nothing I've seen before," he said of the Knicks' first 41 games, of which they lost 36, a half-season of hell. "So far, my experiment has fallen flat on its face."
... continues to strengthen my belief that plans have never changed, and that this sort of season was a long-considered contingency. Perhaps that's counterintuitive, but I see an organization that passive-aggressively put its roster and coach at a disadvantage from the very beginning of the year, understanding that losing into a top pick was a strong possibility.
I don't buy a switch from Plan A to Plan B when Plan A was "hey, you never know, maybe these frogs with wings taped to them can fly" and Plan B is "oh gosh, guess I gotta get rid of these frogs and buy some birds." Phil rightfully takes blame for all the losing, but I don't think blame equals regret or even surprise. The way he talks about the Tyson Chandler trade bolsters that idea somewhat.
2. Phil says this:
"I think it's still debatable about how basketball is going to be played, what's going to win out," he said, leaving no doubt of his disdain for the point guard dominating concept of "screen-and-roll, break down, pass, and two or three players standing in spots, not participating in the offense."
... and also recalls a conversation with Bill Fitch about the way the game was changing to a "less pure" (Araton's words) form. Predictable, filled with threes, etc.
3. But then this:
As much as he disliked the emerging overreliance on the 3-point shot, he saw the game moving in that direction and "we did more with it during the last two championships in L.A." Now, he said, he would even endorse a 4-point shot being implemented a few feet behind the 3-point line.
Jackson has told Fisher that he is free to tinker, create his own version. "I did things that were altogether different from what Tex ran with his old teams," he said. "So I told Fish, you're going to have your own stamp that you put on it but players need to know that they have a base to perform out of. That's his role, to do the innovation with today's type player."
I think this checks out with what we've seen this year. Derek Fisher's Knicks started running a rudimentary Triangle offense, but have worked in a lot more familiar spread pick-and-roll and created more opportunities for threes. They still don't behave like most modern offenses, but I don't worry (yet) about next year's team forsaking efficiency to run the purest possible version of Tex Winter's offense. There's room to be cool in the Triangle.
3. I'm glad this is at least still on the table:
Anthony, 30, has been slowed with a balky knee, which Jackson said might require shutting down after the Feb. 15 All-Star Game in New York.
Also nice that Phil met with Melo privately in London.
4. Jackson never says it -- he can't -- but Araton repeatedly mentions the Knicks' desire to trade Jose Calderon. That's also been widely reported, though there still isn't a sketch of a possible deal out there in the rumor cloud.
5. We've heard this before, but it's still nice to hear it:
Not that he would turn down Gasol, Aldridge or especially Kevin Durant, a prospective 2016 free agent, but Plan B, he said, might in the long run be better.
"You do need great players to win the championship, but having to always chase the best talent in free agency eventually becomes a mind-set of, well, the best talent wins as opposed to who plays the best team basketball - which is what San Antonio showed last season," he said. "Their play was special, a team that really values passing, a system where they're not just standing around, spacing out shooters. That's also what Atlanta and a couple of other teams are showing this year."
[never-ending line of prayer hands emojis and 100 emojis]
6. Not that we expected otherwise, but it doesn't sound like Jackson plans to stay in New York past his current contract, should he last that long:
"That was exactly what I'd been thinking of, building a foundation, a way of playing basketball, getting a bunch of guys that can do it. If I'm not here four or five years down the road, then I have a young coach I believe in who will complete it."
There's much more here. You may not learn much by reading the conversation, but I think you might find it heartening.