There’s never a shortage of drama surrounding the New York Knicks, and there’s been plenty more this week thanks to the Derrick Rose situation. In short, Rose skipped town and missed the Knicks’ ugly loss to the New Orleans Pelicans without getting in contact with the team. Rose ultimately let the team know he was back in Chicago to deal with a family issue and that he needed to be with his mother. He returned to practice the next day and was fined but not suspended. The point guard will start on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, so it appears the two sides are ready to move past this incident.
However, there were multiple reports saying Rose’s relationship with head coach Jeff Hornacek has frayed in recent weeks, in part because of some recent fourth-quarter benchings. There were also multiple reports suggesting Rose was considering taking a leave of absence to clear his mind because he was overwhelmed. While Rose is back with the team, it may not be the end of this story, and his future with the Knicks may be in doubt.
In addition to all this, the Knicks are floundering and sit at 17-21 on the season after losing eight of nine games. Several FanRag Sports NBA contributors got together to talk about the Rose situation and the future of the franchise.
1. Do you agree with how the Knicks handled the Rose situation?
Jared Mintz: Surprise, surprise, Knicks management looks foolish again. I think now that we’re a couple of days removed from this happening, it’s not the hugest deal ever. But considering we’re talking about the Knicks circus and Rose, who became a bit of a spectacle over the summer, the outrage level was relatively appropriate on this one.
With that said, how can any Knicks fan feel good that they STILL haven’t heard from team president Phil Jackson? Regardless of what Rose was going through, seriously, what does it take, less than a minute to fire out a text? The fact that he was reportedly AWOL when the Knicks tipped off Monday night makes him look incredibly unprofessional, and as much as you want leadership to comfort a player if they’re going through something bad, he was back with the team the morning after the debacle.
While our jobs don’t relate to NBA players, unexcused absences get you in trouble with your bosses. And with the off-court baggage that Rose had coming into the season, one would think the Knicks would want to send a message to him that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Rose walks away with a fine, and the boss of the Knicks goes without publicly addressing it at all. And you wonder why people associate the Knicks with dysfunction.
Thomas Duffy: It’s hard to knock anyone but Phil Jackson and Rose himself.
This was unheard of — a starting-caliber player not showing up to a game, and nobody having a clue where he was. Jeff Hornacek couldn’t criticize Rose, because there was a chance something terrible happened. What if he was unconscious somewhere? Kidnapped? Dead, even? The Knicks were left in the dark, and the players’ comments afterward were startling. Courtney Lee said he was “praying that everything is alright with” Rose.
Rose should’ve called, and Jackson should’ve addressed the issue. Their respective silences confounded things even more. The bare minimum would’ve sufficed — a text (a text!) from Rose explaining where he was, or a statement/brief media session from Jackson. It really would not have been hard.
The last we heard from Jackson, he was tweeting about his relationship status. And that’s perfectly fine — he’s a guy with a real life, too. But you can’t do that and then go mute when the point guard you traded for skips a game and boards a plane without telling anyone.
Jason Patt: Rose certainly put the Knicks in a weird spot with this whole ordeal. A lot of the hubbub could’ve been avoided if Rose simply communicated better with the team about his whereabouts, so then the Knicks could’ve given a better explanation for what was going on rather than just a vague “not with the team” statement while Woj and others reported confusion through sources. Rose’s excuse of needing “space” doesn’t really fly given he could’ve spent 10 seconds sending a text to the team or his agent.
Also, Phil Jackson should’ve at least given some kind of statement instead of just having Hornacek awkwardly answer questions after the game. Phil didn’t talk after the game or at practice the next day, which I thought was a mistake. I do kind of think there also should’ve been a one-game suspension rather than just a fine, but I understand why the team didn’t want to hand one down.
2. What do you make of the multiple reports suggesting Rose and Hornacek are at odds?
Jared: It wouldn’t be surprising if Rose is frustrated. After all, he’s on a losing team that’s been losing in a big way lately, but I’m not sure why he would be frustrated with Hornacek. Maybe Rose thought he was joining a better team than he was and he’s frustrated that he’s not getting more help? Otherwise his stats are very similar across the board from this year to last year; if anything he’s been slightly better.
To my surprise, Rose is actually leading all Knicks rotation players in net rating, per NBA.com, and has been far less of a negative for the team this season than he was last year with the Bulls. Hornacek’s a fan of playing uptempo, and Rose is really the only starter on the team who’s clearly comfortable pushing the pace and attacking defenses.
If this stems from Rose being benched in favor of undrafted rookie Ron Baker when the Knicks came back to beat the Milwaukee Bucks on the road last Friday night then that’s slightly understandable, but otherwise the first-year Knicks coach hasn’t done much to hamper his relationship with his starting point guard.
Thomas: It’s important to keep in mind Rose’s departure came after he got benched for Ron Baker against the Bucks. The pride of Wichita State played the entire fourth quarter, forcing Rose to the bench. New York won, 116-111, which is the only bright spot in an otherwise 0-8 stretch. It wouldn’t be shocking if Rose was pissed about that — both at himself and at the head coach for embarrassing him.
But Hornacek has stood by Rose all year. He threw him right into the starting lineup after the rape trial and has given him the most minutes he’s seen since 2011-12. While we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to believe Rose and Hornacek have this terrible relationship all of a sudden.
Jason: I do think it’s something to keep an eye on. These reports were corroborated by multiple members of the media, both nationally and in New York. And the follow-up reports about Rose’s mental well-being suggest that he’s dealing with some issues, and you have to wonder if some frustrations with the coach are playing into this, even if Rose denies it.
3. Do you think the Knicks should look to move Rose before the trade deadline?
Jared: The answer to this question lies in what direction you think the team is best off going in. Personally, I didn’t think the Knicks should have traded for Rose to begin with, as I thought they were better off getting a look at some younger point guards this season as they played their way to a high draft pick.
Phil Jackson thought otherwise, and he wanted to pair Rose with Melo and Joakim Noah in hopes that these hungry veterans would make a push for the playoffs.
The Knicks are still only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot and five games behind the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. The best version of this team was four games over .500 and playing well enough to make the playoffs, so if that’s the goal they should stay put. I’m not certain they can really get any kind of assets for Rose anyway, but if he’s going to be a malcontent off the court, and not overly productive on it, does it really matter what they get back?
I’m all for more minutes for Ron Baker, or even Chasson Rand…never mind.
Thomas: What could they get?
Rose’s contract is up at the end of the season. I think they’re best off riding it out, unless a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers wants to pony up something legitimate in return.
“We gotta get a point guard,” LeBron James told reporters after the team acquired Kyle Korver last week, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “It’s my last time saying it. We need a point guard.”
Otherwise, just roll with the punches and take the space come summertime.
Jason: Rose has little value on the trade market, but it wouldn’t hurt the Knicks to shop him around and see if they can get anything for him. It’s hard to see a buyout happening unless things really go south. So, with the Knicks still in the playoff mix and Rose providing at least competent play, New York will probably wind up riding out his contract and moving on in the summer.
4. Should the Knicks think about trying to get Carmelo Anthony to waive his no-trade clause?
Jared: I like the narrative that Melo can teach Porzingis a thing or two, but if the team isn’t competing for anything meaningful, what’s the point of rolling out the same big contract veterans on a nightly basis? The Knicks have needed to focus on the future for years-upon-years-upon-years, and you can’t do that with an aging/declining player who wants management to help him win now.
I understand why fans don’t want to see a rare talent like Melo leave New York without the team winning more than a playoff series with him, but how realistic is it that they can achieve more over the next year or two? I’m all in favor of them getting assets in return for Melo if they can, as the clock is definitely ticking on how much longer teams will be willing to give up anything of value for him.
With that said, Melo’s repeatedly shown that playing in New York is his No. 1 priority, so I’m not sure what it would take to get him to agree to being shipped out.
Thomas: They can try all they want, but Melo holds the power here. There are only a handful of teams he would conceivably green-light a trade to, and one that comes to mind is the Boston Celtics. Even though they’re in-division, an Anthony-for-picks swap would satisfy everyone.
It’s still unlikely. Melo’s kids are in New York schools and he seems to adore the lifestyle and opportunities the city provides.
Jason: As long as the Knicks stay close to the playoffs, Melo isn’t going anywhere. But if this season truly goes into disaster mode, the Knicks and Melo need to have another serious discussion about parting ways. He’s clearly on the decline, and the Knicks should be looking to build around Kristaps Porzingis rather than desperately trying to win now because of Melo’s presence. I know Melo loves New York and is raising a family there, but a move to another team could be good for both the Knicks and his career.
5. If the Knicks’ ship keeps sinking, should Phil Jackson be fired?
Jared: It’s tough to answer this question right now, as it’s almost like asking if you feel like you should break up with your significant other after a bad fight. Emotions are running high right now with this Rose situation, the team’s lost 11-of-14 games, and as of today, it looks like there’s a good chance that they miss the playoffs again.
In Jackson’s defense, he took over a team that was in bad shape, hasn’t even been there for three full years, and drafted Porzingis.
Against Jackson, what else can you say about this team moving forward that makes him look like a good decision maker?
Missing the playoffs in his first three years would be fine if he’d showed a commitment to rebuilding, but trading assets for Rose, re-signing Anthony, and giving a four-year contract to an over-the-hill Noah doesn’t exactly support a slow rebuild. Just because he hasn’t mortgaged the future in terms of trading away first-round draft picks like every Knicks exec before him doesn’t mean he isn’t doing a poor job, and with the team clearly lacking direction, what else do you need to see from Jackson before you know he isn’t making good on his contract?
Leashes are shorter for execs and coaches these days than they’ve ever been, and while I preached patience for Jackson’s “vision” through his first three offseasons, there just isn’t a whole lot to feel good about besides Porzingis when assessing the job he’s done to this point.
Thomas: Jackson seems committed. His relationship with Los Angeles Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss ended, according to their statement, because it was too hard to remain on different coasts all year.
If he didn’t care about the Knicks, he’d bolt.
Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding reported in December that PJax “fully intends to finish the two years after this season on his Knicks contract, according to NBA sources. Despite all the attention on his opt-out clause in 2017, he might even want to do a new deal that starts in 2019.”
But, three years in, the team is lacking direction. It was rebuild-rebuild-rebuild the past few seasons, but going all-in on Rose and Joakim Noah this offseason was a screeching left turn. It seems that the most successful front offices are afforded patience by team ownership, so I’d give Jackson at least the length of his contract.
If the cycle continues, owner James Dolan should then move on. It was worth the risk, but Jackson could never lure the types of players everyone thought he could simply because he was Phil Jackson.
Jason: I think Phil deserved the benefit of the doubt in his first few seasons. The Knicks clearly needed a restart, so patience was needed as Jackson built the team nearly from the ground up (other than having Melo there). But Phil clearly made a bunch of win-now moves this past offseason, and things aren’t exactly going well. Rose has brought more drama, while the Joakim Noah contract is horrid. I doubt Phil gets fired after this year even if the Knicks keep struggling and miss the playoffs, but the leash has to be getting awfully short.