Is Phil Jackson Using the New York Knicks for Leverage?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2014

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Certainties don't exist for the New York Knicks, the signboard of ambiguity and distrust, their pursuit of Phil Jackson included.

Any union between the two parties could still fall apart. Until it actually happens, their marriage is hypothetical.

According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, though, it won't remain hypothetical much longer:

A week or longer is an eternity, especially in New York and especially this season, when Murphy's Law has prevailed like an edict sent down from higher powers.

"Anything that can go wrong has gone wrong for us," Carmelo Anthony told reporters in February, per the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence.

Everything the Knicks do, everything they chase is contingent upon them turning abstract theories into reality or averting obstacles that reduce seeming certainties into distressing failures.

Things could still go wrong. Very wrong. The Knicks could botch negotiations. Owner James Dolan could insist Jackson make one too many concessions.

Jackson himself could be playing another angle, leveraging New York's interest into another job.


Waiting on Something Else? 

AUBURN HILLS - AUGUST 6:  Joe Dumars, President of Basketball Operations, introduces new Detroit Piston, Brandon Jennings at a press conference on August 6, 2013 at Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

Is it too far-fetched to believe Jackson could have another destination or situation in his sights?

It would appear so, given the semidefinitive nature surrounding reports. But it's not like this has been a smooth process. 

The New York Daily News' Frank Isola says this started as a whimsical plea, with the Knicks seeking out Jackson to become their head coach, before progressing into a front-office position. That's a red flag right there. Aware that the Knicks are essentially settling for him in a front-office capacity, Jackson may have little inclination to stick around.

There's also no guarantee other offers aren't on the table. Jackson himself previously implied there were.

Does Jackson have other offers?
Does Jackson have other offers?Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

"There are a few (opportunities), but I shouldn't name them," he told USA Today's Sam Amick. "It wouldn't be right to talk about it, name anything. But yeah, there are some."

Jackson went on to admit he's an unofficial consultant for Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores. Incidentally, the Pistons could use another face of the front office with current general manager Joe Dumars having poured large sums of money into a fatally flawed roster.

Options aren't limited to Detroit, either.

There's no telling which or how many teams Jackson has been in contact with. The Knicks could be one of the few or only organizations promising to act on his availability now. His mere involvement could be a matter of circumstance.


Imperfection Situation

Richard Drew/Associated Press

New York is a curious location for Jackson to set up shop.

Fiancee Jeanie Buss co-owns the Los Angeles Lakers and as Isola reminds us, the 68-year-old Jackson splits his time between California and Montana.

At his age, it's difficult to imagine Jackson fully embracing the hustle and bustle of New York and the 24/7 aspect of the job. It's even more inconceivable that the Knicks would allow him to manage the team and fulfill his duties from afar.

The Knicks are a huge undertaking for an esteemed basketball mind like Jackson, who has made a career off finding near-perfect situations and generating ideal results. These Knicks are neither ideal nor near-perfect in their current state.

The absence of cap space and draft picks commingled with Anthony's imminent free agency make them more of a train wreck than anything. They're a heaping mass of expensive and constrictive problems, festering with each passing day and broken dream.

Put in that context, the Knicks aren't built for Jackson, or anyone of sound mind for that matter. They're a model for imperfection, the quintessential example of contrived thinking and detrimental tyranny. 

Jackson of all people should know this. He does know this. And yet he's serious about attaching himself to a smoldering nightmare.

We think.


What Leverage?

The more it's talked about, the more inexplicable Jackson's apparent decision feels. But the more inexplicable it becomes, the less likely it is that Jackson is playing a secret angle.

"Nobody will ever have full autonomy," a high-ranking league official told Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. "Donnie [Walsh] had it in his deal, and when he questioned it, it was, 'See you later.' "

Jackson knows this. More importantly, so does everyone else.

There isn't a single NBA front office unaware of how the Knicks do business. Once the NBA's crown jewel, the Knicks are now a laughingstock, chasing a fragile future Anthony can sabotage with one swift decision this summer.

It makes sense for the Knicks to court Jackson. Whatever they want from him, whatever they think he can give them is better than the status quo. There's risk involved, but most of it originates on Jackson's side of the fence. 

That's not leverage. Not overwhelming leverage, anyway.

NEW YORK, NY - April 5: Phil Jackson and Spike Lee share a laugh before the game between the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks on April 5, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

If he wants to associate himself with Dolan and the Knicks, if he wants to put his legacy on the line for a franchise frequently in shambles, then who's going to stop him? 

Maybe there was once a time when the Knicks could be used as leverage, when they were duped into drumming up the value of available players, coaches and front-office personnel. That time isn't now. They are not a revered organization. They are not the threats they once were.

More than an equal, people see an incurable disease not worth the time and energy it would maybe, quite possibly, take to remedy all that's wrong. 

There is no enisled ploy in New York, no leverage to be found there, in potentially empty promises of autonomy.

There is only what we see: a broken and dysfunctional franchise Jackson must, on some level, believe he can rescue.



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