Phil Jackson sent Kristaps Porzingis the basketball equivalent of a Sicilian message by declining to retain assistant coach Josh Longstaff, who was Porzingis’ workout guy and confidant.
Apparently, Phil can’t get to Porzingis so he hurt someone close to him. That isn’t Zen. That’s Tony Soprano.
It’s also a very risky game Jackson is playing with Porzingis, the future of the club. The relationship between the second-year forward and the Knicks is on the rocks. This makes things worse, not better.
It’s unclear if Longstaff, a holdover from the Derek Fisher regime, was shown the door before or after Jackson met with Porzingis’ brother/quasi agent Janis. The Daily News reported that the meeting did not go well.
Clearly, Janis and Kristaps like Longstaff, who traveled to Latvia last summer to train Porzingis and was asked to join the Latvian national team as an assistant coach. That would seem to be a good thing for the Knicks; they’d have one of their own monitor the team’s most important player during the summer.
But perhaps the Knicks — Jackson, Jeff Hornacek and Kurt Rambis in particular — felt threatened by Longstaff’s close relationship with Porzingis. Or perhaps as a way to cover their shortcomings they blamed Longstaff for Porzingis skipping his exit meeting with Jackson.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Knicks are big on assigning blame and don’t understand the concept of accountability.
Jackson is really one of a kind. His two best players, Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis, have no use for him yet Phil is more interested in settling petty scores with the media. (That’s another MSG tradition.)
His comments from a couple of weeks ago about a conversation with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver were telling.
“We have a number of issues that I think are important,” Jackson said. “The press is one of them. You guys want to knock us around a little bit and make it seem like we don’t know what we’re doing. But they’re comfortable.”
For one, Phil doesn’t know what he’s doing. But more importantly, the problem isn’t that the media thinks that way, it’s that Kristaps and Team Porzingis think that way.
As for Hornacek, he’s not exactly a “we’re all in this together” type of head coach. He has a history of not standing up for his assistant coaches, dating back to the Suns demanding that he fire Mike Longabardi.
Yes, that’s the same Longabardi, who broke in with Jeff Van Gundy in Houston, who has been the Cavs defensive coach the last two seasons.
So there is evidence that Hornacek, just like Phil, doesn’t know what he’s doing, either. Good luck repairing your relationship with Kristaps next season, Jeff.
After a highly disappointing season, it is very Knick-like to fire an anonymous assistant coach who from all indications was popular among the players, including Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook during his days in OKC, worked hard and did his job. Those values have never been appreciated at MSG.
But Longstaff’s future is bright. The Garden has a time-honored history of not knowing a good thing when it has it. Tom Thibodeau and Steve Clifford were also booted out in similar fashion. Remember that when Longstaff becomes a head coach.
And remember that the program and the culture that Jackson has been paid a king’s ransom to build has resulted in an 80-166 record and a 7-foot-3 disgruntled franchise player,
Porzingis wasn’t happy when the season ended and his mood won’t improve with the news about Longstaff.
It doesn’t make much sense but considering the way the Knicks continue to be run under Jackson, it makes perfect sense.