We have been waiting for Phil Jackson to actually reveal something of interest in this volume of “The Phil Jackson Chronicles”, which has been surprisingly free of the scandalous candor that has become his trademark.
Ah, but this is still the Zen Master we’re talking about here. Like any great showman, he waited until Part 7 — the 2015-16 season postmortem — to drop a bombshell about the 2014 Tyson Chandler trade:
I don’t consider hiring Fish a mistake because he worked hard and got the guys to stay as positive as possible while the losses piled up. I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.
... the Aristocrats!
Jae Crowder, as you may have heard, is now an excellent forward on a tremendously cheap contract. He now plays for the Celtics, who are the physical embodiment of evil.
Like many things Phil says — ex: the infamous Steph Curry/Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf comparison — this looks way worse than it actually is. Crowder was coming off a pair of unremarkable seasons in Dallas, and the Mavs seemed extremely cool with moving on from him. The pick Phil chose instead was No. 34 overall — near the top of the second round, and without the guaranteed salary requirements of picking a late first-rounder at, say, 28 or 29.
Cleanthony Early seemed like a strong pick at the time — this being the Knicks, however, he failed to stay healthy and even suffered a gunshot wound to the knee. Had Phil chosen Crowder, the dude probably would have been crushed by a falling anvil.
The P&T staff, trying our best to avoid the bias of hindsight, ended up fairly evenly divided on the “unproven Crowder vs. No. 34 pick” choice. Had Crowder ended up thriving in Dallas, or basically any place other than Boston, this would sting a whole lot less.
That said, I’m growing tired of Phil being so aggressively candid. Only he could manage to turn a simple “Do you regret hiring Coach X” question into a revelation that he chose the wrong player in a trade two years earlier, resulting in said player winding up on the Knicks’ most hated rival. We get it, dude. You speak your mind. You don’t care what people think.
Let’s just start the season already.