New York Knicks president Phil Jackson criticized today's NBA game in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report's Howard Beck.
Phil Jackson is not a fan of today's NBA game.
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Jackson, the New York Knicks president and 11-time NBA champion head coach , spoke his mind to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck in an exclusive interview released on June 22:
"The game actually has some beauty to it, and we've kind of taken some of that out of it to make it individualized. It's a lot of who we are as a country, individualized stuff.
"When I watch some of these playoff games, and I look at what's being run out there, as what people call an offense, it's really quite remarkable to see how far our game has fallen from a team game.
"Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball."
Jackson then singles out four-time NBA MVP LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, per Beck:
"I watch LeBron James, for example. He might (travel) every other time he catches the basketball if he's off the ball. He catches the ball, moves both his feet. You see it happen all the time. There's no structure, there's no discipline, there's no 'How do we play this game' type of attitude.
"And it goes all the way through the game. To the point where now guys don't screen -- they push guys off with their hands.
"It struck me: How can we get so far away from the real truth of what we're trying to do? And if you give people structure, just like a jazz musician -- he's gotta learn melody, and he's gotta learn the basic parts of music -- and then he can learn how to improvise. And that's basically what team play is all about."
Beck says Jackson's agitation with today's game is quite obvious. The Bleacher Report writer feels Jackson "is fighting for the soul of the game," a game he learned how to play efficiently under great head coaches such as Red Holzman during the Knicks' glory years of 1970 and 1973.
The 2014-15 version of the Knicks finished just 17-65 (.207) and missed the playoffs for two straight years. Beck stresses Jackson wants this team to have "five interchangeable players" who can do just about everything on the court.
With this, Jackson still marvels at how the 1970s Knicks teams he played on modeled the kind of basketball he is fascinated with, per Bleacher Report:
"I think that's the most remarkable (thing), thinking about that (1970s) Knick team, is that Jerry Lucas could push the ball up the court, Dave DeBusschere could push the ball. (Bill) Bradley, (Dick) Barnett, (Earl) Monroe, (Walt) Frazier.
"I think that's a very important part of basketball that has to be emphasized is that we want everybody to be able to make plays for other people on your team, and that they can play interpositional or interchangeable positions on the floor.
"It just kind of breaks the mold, and it gives you kind of a liberty, a license."
The Knicks have the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA draft which will be held on June 25. They also have $26 million in cap space to accommodate several big-name free agents, per Beck.
Nonetheless, Jackson told Bleacher Report his first priority is defense:
"Defense is the biggest remarkable change that you can make in a basketball team, from one year to the next. This game has to be really started from the thought that we're going to be a defensive-minded team.
"We're not looking for the instant gratification of trying to put together some piecemeal thing that may just work accidentally for one year, because we have something special coming in that just raptures our season.
"My charge is to build an organization that develops basketball players and survives beyod my (tenure). That's what Dolan asked me to do. So it survives beyond the coaching and the administration."
On June 19, Jackson told The New York Times (via NBA.com's Jonah Ballow) he's excited about the upcoming draft on Thursday and also hinted at the thought of acquiring several big men through free agency:
"We're enjoying the process, and that's the fun thing. I think if you get a high position, you're kind of locked in. You try to stay open-minded, but there's so much pressure about who's slotted to go where and how all the pundits think the picks are supposed to fall.
"Now, we have an open field and we're really exploring all our possibilities. So whereas before I was like, 'OK, we're going to draft big, now we have to be open to what's there for us that makes our team different.
"We have no big men. So we're seeing what we can add to our team that will move us along and make us a better team, and we'll have to fill out that big possibility with some free agents if we end up going smaller with wings and guards in the draft.
"But there's some good players. This is a draft that everybody feels like, in the lotter, from 1 through 14, there's really good players, and a lot of good players that will be there in the latter round of the first round, too.
"History tells us that 1 through 10 usually indicates that you're going to get a starter at some level."
Jackson has four years left on his deal with New York which reportedly pays him $12 million per year. His aim is to bring the Knicks back to respectability before turning the team over to his successor, per Bleacher Report.
The 69-year-old Jackson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
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