Now that another Knicks season has come and gone without a title, the question remains: how to fix these Knicks?
The good news is that they’re improving, as a whole. Former general manager Donnie Walsh did an incredible job in rescuing them from the salary-cap trap they were in under the previous regime. Now that former interim general manager Glen Grunwald has been given permanent status the Knicks seem like they’ll continue in good hands.
Under Grunwald’s watch they’ve made several good moves, including waiving point guard Chauncey Billups under the NBA’s amnesty rule so that they could then sign center Tyson Chandler. Chandler’s infectious energy on defense changed the team’s whole look on that end of the floor (especially when D’Antoni left) and led to him winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Signing Jeremy Lin was another great call by Grunwald. Every NBA team has had a chance to either draft or sign him over the last couple of years but few saw his potential as an above-average point guard that could be an All-Star starter in the near future.
Finally, naming Mike Woodson as interim head coach worked out well, maybe even better than Grunwald had imagined. After D’Antoni resigned following an 18–24 start to the season, Woodson won 18 of 24 regular season games, emphasizing defense first, and then became the first Knicks coach to win a playoff game since 2001.
So the point is, the Knicks look to be in good hands with Grunwald. Now, to the future. What about this offseason and what moves should they do?
1. Don’t wait too long on Phil Jackson.
Mike Woodson did a tremendous job after D’Antoni left. He saw a way to win with defense, as the Knicks just happen to have one of the NBA’s best defensive centers (Tyson Chandler) and guards (Iman Shumpert) in the league.
In addition, he has a good track record. He did a tremendous resurrection job in Atlanta going from 13–69 in his first season in 2005 to 53–29 in 2010, his final season, so his permanent hire would seem a no-brainer if it weren’t for the rumored-possibility of hiring coaching legend Phil Jackson.
Jackson, a former Knick who learned his craft from Knicks’ coaching great Red Holzman, takes a back seat to no one. The 66-year-old’s resume is well-known—11 titles in 19 seasons as head coach—and has no problems with high expectations that come with coaching at Madison Square Garden in New York.
This may be the only job he would come out of retirement for, but there’s no guarantee he would take it.
The Knicks will have to set a cutoff date soon to have either Jackson or Woodson as head coach. If they wait until after the playoffs end it may be too late and both might be out as options.
The rest of the NBA witnessed Woodson’s success and he would probably be near the top of most team’s wish lists of coaches for hire come June, while Jackson’s hire is no certainty at all.
2. Find a taker for Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract.
Stoudemire is one of the game’s best offensive big men. Don’t let this year’s down numbers fool you. He put up 17.5 points (worst since his rookie season) and 7.8 rebounds per contest this season despite a back injury and an unsure role alongside Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
If he’s healthy and has room to roam on offense, he looks like he’s still good for 20–23 points and 8–10 rebounds a night.
It’s uncertainty about his role that seems to be the biggest hindrance to making this work for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony is the biggest talent on the team and the offense runs through him. Unless point guard Jeremy Lin, who is currently unsigned for next year, can come back next year and find a way to include everyone in the offense, much like Steve Nash does with the Suns, it doesn’t make sense to keep Stoudemire.
Trading him and…