Jackson, not Anthony, is to blame for Knicks’ problems

Frank Isola, New York Daily News / Source, MSN Sports

We are headed for another Summer of Melo, which means another round of “will Carmelo Anthony waive his no-trade clause?” Sure, it’s getting a little repetitive at this point, but it’s still a lot more compelling than anything Phil Jackson has given New York since riding into town as the newest overpaid savior.

Anthony’s future will be the recurring storyline this offseason, which once again begins in mid-April for the fourth straight year under Jackson’s watch. The suddenly reclusive Jackson (which is a nice way of saying he refuses to make himself available to the media and take accountability for this disaster) would like nothing more than to make this losing season, which concluded with Wednesday’s 114-113 victory over Philadelphia, all about Anthony.

Jackson, of course, began laying the ground work last December when he took a pot shot at the team’s best player and it continued with Phil’s media cronies doing his dirty work throughout the season. Those were once regarded as capital crimes in Jim Dolan’s Madison Square Garden, but Jackson has been given the freedom to do as he chooses just as long as Dolan is being shielded from blame.

Remember how Dolan was so proud to be sporting a tee-shirt that said “Ask Phil”? Sure Jim. Your highest-ranking basketball executive hasn’t made himself available to the New York media since September. As of now, Jackson has not committed to a state of the Knicks address in the coming days. He’s got better hiding places than El Chapo.

But as Phil hides his mistakes — and we mean big mistakes — they keep catching up to him. There is a report that suspended Knicks center Joakim Noah, who is recovering from knee surgery, may need surgery to repair a rotator cuff. That would knock him out of the lineup for as long as six months.

This is the same Noah who Jackson signed to a four-year, $72 million deal last July. And you thought Eddy Curry owned a bad contract. Noah is already one of the worst free-agent signings in franchise history. Potentially the worst. It sure would be nice to “Ask Phil” about that one.

Jackson made four moves last summer for veteran players with the idea of getting the Knicks into the playoffs and three of them backfired famously. Brandon Jennings was released, Derrick Rose, who went AWOL, had season-ending surgery last week and Noah has been a bust.

The one healthy player, Courtney Lee, was average at best and will likely be remembered for missing a shot against the Washington Wizards and blaming it on being distracted by Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe. No word on who was responsible for the other 382 shots Lee missed.

You get the point; the culture here at MSG is about assigning blame. It comes right from the top and it includes Jackson, whose summer was the only thing worse than the Knicks season. And now we’re supposed to have faith that he’s the guy to turn this around?

Jackson is clearly embarrassed by this season and by the players he acquired last summer, especially Noah, who was coming off a 29-game season with the Bulls and yet still received a king’s ransom from Jackson.

The great misdirection is to focus on Carmelo. That’s how Jackson deals with his failures and insecurities: set up Anthony as the fall guy. It’s something Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich would never think of doing, that’s for sure.

Anthony has his flaws, absolutely. He’s never been a great leader himself. His best season in New York was when he had guys like Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace running the locker room. We all know he’s slowing down and, truth be told, the best thing for Anthony and the Knicks would be an amicable divorce.

But Jackson is responsible for re-signing Anthony and for agreeing to a no-trade clause. Carmelo is on Jackson’s resume now and that notion that Jackson would sprinkle magic triangle dust on Melo and turn him into Michael Jordan was always laughable. Carmelo was pretty good before Jackson arrived. A few years earlier, he finished third in the MVP voting.

Jackson’s job was to rebuild around Anthony and what was his solution? Adding a couple of broken down Chicago Bulls, whose best days are behind them. You want to say the same about Anthony now, go right ahead, although for the right team he can still be an asset.

But when the conversation is about a guy whose best days appear to be behind him, don’t ignore the facts like Dolan does.

Phil Jackson is at the top of the list.

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