For many teams in the world of professional sports, the talk of somebody coming from outside the organization to run things could be quite a big distraction. It was only ten days ago when news surfaced that the New York Knicks contacted Phil Jackson to join the franchise in some capacity, whether it was as President or Head Coach.
New York could have easily used the news of Jackson possibly joining the organization as another reason why they can't win any basketball games this season. However, the Knickerbockers have done the opposite as they are suddenly on their longest winning streak of the season. The team extended it's winning streak to a season high six-games by taking care of the Bucks 117-96 in a Saturday matinee affair at the Garden.
Carmelo Anthony led the way for the Knickerbockers scoring 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 33 minutes. New York has averaged 114.5 points during the winning streak, and have won six straight by at least 10-points for the first time since 1969. It was also a significant win because it was the first time all season that the team was finally able to win an early afternoon game. They had lost their previous seven games this season that started 3:30 or earlier.
"It was all mental today," said Anthony. "To come out and fight through the early start to create energy and momentum to start the game."
New York is now three games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks' will not play again until Wednesday night when they host the Indiana Pacers. Meanwhile, the Hawks will play three games before the next time the Knickerbockers take the court. The scoreboard watch has officially begun for Woodson and his team
"Our backs are against the wall," said Coach Mike Woodson. "We are trying to get in the playoffs. This year has been a roller coaster ride for for our ball club. We can still come out of this making the 8th spot and the only we can do that is continue to win"
Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his impressive rookie season scoring 20 points on 8-12 shooting. During the winning streak, Hardaway Jr. has averaged 15.2 points and is starting to become Woodson's top option off the bench. Iman Shumpert finally broke out of his scoring slump by scoring 15 points. It was the first time that Shumpert scored 10+ points since February 2nd against the Thunder. The tandem of Hardaway Jr. and Shumpert showed great chemistry on the court during Saturday's game. With J.R. Smith being inserted in the starting lineup, the youngsters will certainly be counted on to provide some jolt and energy like that in their win over the Bucks.
"It has been great. I kind of flipped it with J.R. in the starting lineup," said Woodson. " Iman is back to playing the way we expected him to play. He has been defending and making shots here and there. When he does that he changes the game because he normally energizes players around him getting after players. He and Timmy coming off the bench..they both scored well tonight."
With the Knickerbockers playing some of their basketball of the season in trying to make a late season playoff push, all of that has now become secondary with the news of Jackson joining the franchise as the President. New York will introduce the former Knicks player and 11-time champion at a press conference Tuesday morning. With how crazy the season has been for the Knickerbockers, Anthony feels the rumors and rumblings of Jackson's arrival may have been the best thing to happen to the team
"It's not a distraction at all," said Anthony. "If anything it made us come together as a unit to try to keep that outside. We are excited that it got done. We are ready for the next chapter but right now we have things to take care of."
Anthony said he hasn’t spoken directly with Jackson yet, but believes he can change the culture of the Knicks.
“Phil knows what to do, how to build teams, how to win,” Anthony said. “That’s the most important thing. When you know how to win, whether you’re a coach ,whether you’re in the front office that stands out.”
Anthony has said he plans to opt out of his contract this summer, and become an unrestricted free agent. With the way the team had been playing this season, many believe that he is as good as gone. But he was very impressed that the Knicks were able to bring Jackson on board and compared the move to the game of chess.
“I’m a chess player, so that was a power move right there,” Anthony said. “You know what I mean? Now what we gonna see what’s the next move, but that was a great power move.”