By Alex Horowitz
For the first time ever, Phil Jackson is at the helm of a losing team.
Entering December 1, the Knicks stand at a dismal 4-14 record and are 9.5 games out of the first in the division. Despite my overly optimistic feeling entering this season, this is simply not the Knicks year at all. One would think that a team with a star in Carmelo Anthony would lead his team to a decent record, especially when surrounded by players with enormous potential and leadership like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon, respectively. Not these Knicks, though. Even after acquiring Calderon from Dallas, a new point guard has not changed the team’s fortunes. Their offense ranks 23rd in the league, while the defense is even worse at 26th. But could this have all been a part of Jackson’s long-term plan for success?
Fast-forward ahead six months. It is right before the NBA draft and the Knicks have a first round selection. Yes, you read that correctly. Even though it seems as if the Knicks trade their prized first round selection each year, the NBA luckily prevents such foolishness from occurring on a yearly basis; teams are unable to trade away a first round pick in consecutive drafts. With a first round pick in their arsenal, the Knicks will have a shot at drafting Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl Towns, among other top prospects. The catch is, though, that they’ll need to be bad in order to have a chance at grabbing one of those guys- and really bad, at that. Okay, maybe not 76ers bad. But nonetheless, bad enough to be at the top of the lottery.
So, let’s theoretically say that Okafor comes to New York. Already a huge improvement over Samuel Dalembert. Jackson won’t be done just yet, however. It has long been known that the Knicks will heavily pursue Marc Gasol, who is one of the top available big men in the 2015 free agent class. His brother Pau played with Derek Fisher and was coached by Phil, so he’d be key in convincing Marc to come to Manhattan. The Knicks will have ample cap space too, so a max deal is definitely in the realm of possibility. Let’s go with 4 years / $85 million. Let’s also assume that they fill out the remainder of their roster through low key and minimum salary contracts. Here’s what the 2015-16 opening night starting lineup could look like:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Jahlil Okafor
C: Marc Gasol
Playoff caliber? No doubt.
Championship contender? For sure.
Realistic? Maybe. Obviously I’m banking on a ton of good stuff to turn in the Knicks favor, but hey, it’s the Knicks; they’ve been without a championship since 1973- they need some good luck for once. Knowing the capabilities of the Zen Master, this dream scenario may be anything but a dream come this summer.
During a lost season, it’s tough to find positives to look forward. And, quite frankly, I hate to root for my favorite team to tank. But I see what the Knicks’ plan is leading towards. It’s a process, and not one for the hasty minded fan, but if all goes according to plan, the end results will be basketball paradise.
For the first time ever, Phil Jackson is at the helm of a losing team. Hopefully it’s his last.
Alex Horowitz is a senior at Briarcliff High School and is an aspiring sports writer. As a lifelong sports fan, he has rooted for the New York Knicks, New York Mets, and Detroit Lions. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhorowitz3
By Christian Pierre-Louis
In the mere span of a few seconds Friday afternoon, Duke became the likely favorite for the 2014-15 national championship. That’s what happens when two of the five best high school players in the country announce their decision to be Blue Devils. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both headed to play for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. They chose the Blue Devils over Kansas and Baylor.
The two players always thought to be a package deal, never really wavered in that aspect of each one’s recruitment. Okafor and Jones didn’t play high school or AAU basketball on the same team, but represented USA Basketball together and became close friends from playing at elite camps and tournaments around the country. A couple of teams attempted to split them up, but it never worked. Despite various rumors to the contrary, Okafor and Jones followed through on their package deal.
Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center from Whitney Young (Ill.), is ranked No. 1 in most rankings including the 247Sports Composite, Rivals, and ESPN. He is an absolutely dominant force on the inside, and is the best back-to-the-basket player to come across the high school landscape in a very long time. He can get position on the interior, and then is able to score in a variety of ways. Okafor is also capable of passing out of double teams. He has terrific hands and is an outstanding rebounder.
Meanwhile, Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.), is among the top five in all the major recruiting rankings. It became clear a couple of years ago that he would be the best pure point guard in the country, given his high-level basketball IQ and ability to run an offense and control tempo. Jones is a great passer with vision, but he’s also very adept at scoring in his own right. He has good range to the 3-point line and while he isn’t overly explosive, Jones can change speeds effectively.
Okafor and Jones join previous commit Grayson Allen in Duke’s 2014 recruiting class. Regardless of who stays and who goes pro from this year’s Blue Devil team, it’s certainly not a stretch to say that Duke will be the favorite heading into next season. Okafor gives them the most dominant big man in the country, while Jones is clearly one of the top point guards in the nation. Even if Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood decide to go pro, Krzyzewski will have the pieces to win a national title.
Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.
Recapping the most important news from this past weekend
By Jared Bursky
Future Stars Make Their Decision
Last Tuesday, we were able to get a glimpse of how dynamic freshmen can make an immediate impact in college basketball. We also saw extraordinary talents in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle who represent the future of the NBA. Five ranked teams were in action Friday, including number one to be Michigan State, but that was hardly on the minds of many college basketball fans. Friday featured seismic announcements from four of the top high school basketball recruits in the country.
Committed to Duke
1. Jahlil Okafor (6-10, 265) ESPN 100 # 1
Whitney Young H.S.
Center/ Power Forward
2. Tyus Jones (6-1, 171) ESPN 100 # 4
Apple Valley, Minnesota
Apple Valley High School
Duke will be loaded next year with Okafor and Jones coming in as a package deal. They are the perfect compliments. A pass first, true point guard and a dominant low post big man along with returners mean big things for Duke next year.
Committed to Kansas
1. Cliff Alexander (6-8, 225) ESPN 100 #3
Curie High School
Illinois or Kansas? His choice was Kansas, but not before he mistakenly picked up the Illinois hat at first at his announcement. You know this one is hurting in Champagne, Illinois but for now, Kansas will plan on doing great things with Alexander.
Committed to Arizona
1. Stanley Johnson (6-6, 220) ESPN 100 #9
Mater Dei High School
Arizona got Aaron Gordon in last year’s recruiting class, now they have another stud to follow. Johnson is a great scorer and has the tools to make an immediate impact in an Arizona program that seems to be back near the top.
MSU Survives Columbia
Michigan State, coming off a huge win in Chicago against #1 Kentucky, struggled with a tricky Columbia squad for thirty-five minutes. The Spartans were able to pull away in the final minutes and finished with a 64-53 win. The fact that this game was this close is shocking.
Wisconsin Rallies against Green Bay
The Badgers overcame a seven point second half deficit to defeat Green Bay on Saturday. Green Bay junior Keifer Sykes scored a career high 32 points but it wasn’t enough against Wisconsin, who was lead by Frank Kaminsky’s 17 points.
Battle of Defense: #10 Ohio State shuts down #17 Marquette
52-35? Sounds like Peyton Manning just lead the Broncos to a win. However, Ohio State limited Marquette to 35 points due primarily to the great performance of Aaron Craft (10pts 7 reb 10ast 2stl). Marquette shot just 19% from the field in the defensive struggle.
Sunday Action (Upset City Edition)
Indiana State over #21 Notre Dame
The Sycamores had five players score in double figures as their balanced attack outlasted Notre Dame 83-70 in South Bend. Notre Dame received solid production from their starters but the bench could not contribute much as the Irish were sent to their first loss.
Belmont shocks #12 North Carolina
Another upset on the road. Belmont went into Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels 83-80 on the shoulders off J.J. Mann (28 points). UNC got a terrific effort from James Michael McAdoo who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. This was one of three home losses on the day for teams in the ACC.
#7 Michigan Falls in Ames
Not that this was not an upset; Michigan is a very good team, but Iowa State does have something brewing in Ames. #7 Michigan’s Mitch McGary made his season debut Sunday but in a losing effort, as the Cyclones defeated them 77-70. Melvin Ejim led Iowa State with 22 points.
Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10