Bondy: Jackson’s silent treatment speaks volumes of Knicks

By on December 8, 2014

It was all going to be different for the Knicks this season, except of course it hasn’t turned out that way at all. Phil Jackson was going to come in and shed light into every dark corner of the organization, use his wit and his wiles to turn the Garden into a brighter, smarter place. The world’s most paranoid arena was going to become something less afraid of the truth.

But a quarter of the way through the season, the Knicks have dropped eight straight games and stand at 4-18, and Jackson has been about as big a presence as a one-off halftime show. He sits in his seat above midcourt, watching the Knicks blow one after another. They lost another one down the stretch on Sunday, falling 103-99, to the faster, younger Trail Blazers. How Jackson feels about this mess remains a mystery. Jackson might as well be Glen Grunwald or Steve Mills, for all we hear from him.

He was charming enough in his introductory press conference back in March, though some reporters weren’t permitted to ask him questions. He’s spoken only once to the assembled media since the season started, when he said that decisions would be made on players sometime around Thanksgiving or Christmas. We’re well past that first holiday, steaming downhill toward the second, and the only glimpse we get of Jackson is if he’s shown on camera near a security guard. When reporters had the nerve to ask him questions after opening night, and when Jackson had the audacity to answer, Garden officials changed the postgame route taken by those writers to make certain the media would not intersect with him again.

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So Jackson hasn’t altered the Garden culture, and from the look of things he hasn’t changed the team in a good way, either. When he sent Tyson Chandler packing, he dumped the sharpest, toughest player of the bunch. Now Derek Fisher is left trying to teach a system to players who don’t own the skill sets to play it. As Hubie Brown once said of his 23-59 Knicks, “They’re trying. They’re just not good enough.”

The Knicks this season aren’t nearly good enough, which for some reason is surprising a lot of people. Is it surprising Jackson? Who knows? Let’s face it. Fans don’t care a bit what a team president says or believes, as long as the team is winning. But the loyalists pouring money into the Garden coffers certainly deserve some hint now at a blueprint.

That hasn’t happened. While Jackson may be in charge of the Knicks’ roster, James Dolan is still in charge of the atmosphere. Dolan’s war with his own Cablevision workers — a judge with the National Labor Relations Board last week found that Dolan had engaged in unfair labor practices — is indicative of how the CEO treats everyone under his employ other than the most high-profile, highest-paid celebrity/athletes. That image could be corrected, or at least modified, if only Jackson would become a true organizational front man. Jackson can be a quirky, fun quote, even as he talks down to plebian scribes. His air of superiority has been well-earned as coach, we all know that. We still aren’t certain, though, whether Jackson knows what he is doing in this executive role. Dolan might have hired the wrong genius for the job, might have brought in Mozart to paint the Sistine chapel ceiling.

For now, it would help to know, at least a little bit, what Jackson is thinking. Instead, we get only the glum, earnest Fisher, telling us in meta-coach-speak to stay the course. “There’s a level of attention to detail we’re still below in order to win these games,” Fisher said after Carmelo Anthony and Pablo Prigioni missed long jumpers at the end. “We have to keep coming back to what’s in front of us at the moment. If we’re fortunate enough to wake up tomorrow, we can only take control of Monday.”

Yikes. Any laugh would be better at these joyless games. A pleasant diversion is required. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants. Or maybe just a few words from the president of the New York Knickerbockers.

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