Phil Jackson does not care. He'll say whatever. It's fun, and kinda fascinating. Jackson's inscrutable comments and his office's bizarre leaks totally baffled reporters (and us!) during the draft and free agency. His conversations with Charley Rosen -- published serially months after they took place -- are a whole other creature. The latest, from just after the trade deadline, went up this week.
It's rich. Jackson returns fire at Jerry Krause and Kobe Bryant (again, 5 months after they initiated), explains some tweets, and offers earnest, often critical thoughts on guys the Knicks had, still have, wanted, have acquired since, and missed on. All kinds of guys. As with previous episodes of The Phil Files, Rosen has Dad saying some things that will irritate the subjects, some things that make him seem bitter, and some things that might cross the line of etiquette (and even tampering, in retrospect).
For Knicks fans, this project has a lot going for it. We've always wished for a transparent organization, and Jackson's damn near see-through if you give him time. The opinions and background details he shares through Rosen are often illuminating -- an intimate look at how people handled a miserable Knicks season and a glimpse of the process behind the last 6 months of change.
I find myself agreeing with Phil often, or at least gleaning a better understanding of why he did what he did (when I believe him). And while I worry a bit about the people who *aren't* us who read this stuff, I appreciate how Phil's candor might ward off the kinds of sensitive characters who wouldn't thrive here anyway. I know he's written stuff this brazen before and succeeded just the same.
Still, I see a downside worth considering -- one that falls mostly on the audience who isn't rooting for the Knicks, and isn't just reading for insight and entertainment. A few things on that front:
1. Phil's comments spread further and faster than they did before.
Chunks of these pieces will get taken out of context. That was always true of stuff he put in his books and said in the papers, but it's even more true with the advent of the World Wide Web! J.R. Smith and his agent definitely caught wind of Phil airing out his "issues with his gal" and "delinquent behavior." Samuel Dalembert and his agent know Phil told everyone Sam fell asleep at a pre-game meeting. Jose Calderon and his agent knew they were in trade rumors before, but now they've seen Phil confirm those rumors directly. Every Duke person knows Phil talked some shit about Duke (although he paid them some compliments this week!) Even subjects of totally random shots like Glenn Robinson and Joe Barry Carroll are probably catching wind of this stuff already. All these people and the people they know will remember this stuff.
Maybe Phil's fine with that. And again, maybe putting these thoughts out there screens players and agents too touchy to play for a forthright team president, but ... man, that list may end up including everyone who's ever worked in the NBA by the time Rosen's series reaches present day.
2. Phil's not the coach.
I hope Derek Fisher's fine with all this banter and snitchery, because he's the one who actually has to talk to these guys every day. He has strong relationships from his days as union leader and makes a point of being relatable as a young coach with unusually recent on-floor experience. Fisher's also been impressively tactful -- honest, but constructive -- in his public comments about his charges and opponents, even as the Knicks played their worst basketball of all time.
There are merits to both styles -- Phil's brain diarrhea and Fisher's calculated diplomacy -- but they definitely contrast, and I hope Fisher, the guy who actually works on a basketball court, isn't put in awkward situations because of stuff he didn't say.
3. Some of this stuff is wrong.
- These estimates of how the Knicks could use their cap space after an imaginary Marc Gasol signing are wrong, even for February.
- It has since been edited, but this story said for a while that the Knicks got a first-round pick from Oklahoma City.
- It has since been edited, but this story previously said the Knicks acquired Quincy Acy from Denver.
The stuff that makes Jackson sound petty is his own thing, but the bits that make him look sloppy kinda suck. If Phil just doesn't grasp the details, then maybe this level of transparency isn't for him. If Rosen is this careless, then maybe Phil should authorize a different buddy to broadcast their conversations!
I understand Phil Jackson is smarter and better than I am. I understand that this has been his style forever. I understand it's ironic for a lifelong fan of James Dolan's Knicks to be whining about transparency. I just hope Jackson understands that things have changed, and that his words could have quicker and more profound consequences for his front office and for the people working below him. I hope there's some value for the Knicks themselves in all this openness, and not just for those of us intrigued by the sight of their innards.