The New York Knicks have had a very bad week. A terrible blowout loss in which everyone agreed no one had tried hard gave way to team president Phil Jackson appearing to agree that star Carmelo Anthony lacks the will to win, a bad story that was itself eclipsed on Wednesday night when Knicks legend Charles Oakley was arrested and charged for allegedly taunting owner James Dolan (and called a liar). It’s hard to pick the worst of the bunch — even if the Oakley arrest seems like the most symbolically meaningful — but the story that seems to exemplify the dysfunction of the basketball team (not the organization as a whole) is the ongoing feud between Jackson and Anthony. From this perspective, Phil looks committed to alienating Melo until he gives in and waives his no-trade clause (which The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported isn’t working). It’s a childish, needlessly mean way to get what you want.
As Jackson tells it, though, he’s just been misunderstood. Here’s what he tweeted on Thursday:
So after starting a ????storm with a misunderstood tweet, I offer this✌????our society is torn with discord. I'm against it. Let It Be
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) February 9, 2017
For those who weren’t paying attention, Jackson had previously seemed to co-sign a column from Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding that argued he had done all he could to try to turn Anthony from a me-first star into the kind of player who lifts up all those around him. The article didn’t remove all blame from Jackson, but it did suggest he was out of options to make the current situation work. Here’s what he said about it:
Bleacher's Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don't change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) February 7, 2017
Most people interpreted Phil’s tweet to say that he knew Melo wasn’t a win-at-all-costs type when he took the job with the Knicks in 2014. No matter the merits of that position, stating it in public was always going to create further animosity between him and Anthony and amplify what feels like a standoff for front office and player. Claiming an aversion to discord means nothing if that person only ever makes situations worse.
Sadly, that difference between philosophy and action has become Jackson’s new normal. The automatic respect associated with his “Zen Master” nickname is now long gone — Jackson increasingly seems like the kind of person who read “Siddhartha” 40 years ago and decided it made him enlightened. Lack of self-awareness and refusal to admit wrongdoing are now his defining qualities. If anything, it’s a wonder it took him and Dolan so long to find each other.
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