Knicks president Phil Jackson has settled into his life away from Los Angeles and his competitive fire is lit, writes Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.
"Jackson's competitive fire is fully aflame now that the Knicks are on the upswing-they are 14-11 and have won 11 of their past 16 games entering Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors-but it's more than just feeling better about his work," says Ding.
"Jackson has settled into life away from Los Angeles and fiancee Jeanie Buss, exploring the varied non-basketball interests to which New York caters. Jackson is connecting over lively card games or stimulating dinner conversations with friends who knew him before he was famous, feeling the energy of the city."
Ding also weighs in on Jackson being an outsider and the faith he's placed in head coach Jeff Hornacek.
"That's difficult when Jackson is an outsider now, and he knows it," writes Ding. "He remembers how Jerry West felt back in the 2000 playoffs about Jackson the coach asking West the executive to leave the Lakers locker room for an intimate team meeting."
"This season, rather than try to have Derek Fisher recapture old Lakers chemistry with the Knicks, Jackson has a calm, competent coach in Jeff Hornacek and is putting $72 million worth of trust in Joakim Noah to build an original vibe."
Sources close to Phil have told me similar things as well over the past few years, but the reality with Phil is you just never know. He loves keeping people on their toes.
It's clear he's embracing the challenge and he's particularly proud of the decision he made in selecting Kristaps Porzingis. And he looks forward to seeing him hopefully become the franchise big man thanks to his trust in Clarence Gaines, Jr. and head of European scouting Kevin Wilson.
Looking forward while staying in the moment is an interesting concept when you're talking about Phil Jackson. And while his critics continue to nip at his heels, you can clearly see his positive impact despite not being with the team on a day-to-day basis.
The Knicks' locker room has come together and they are handling things internally in a very zen like fashion. No leaks, no rumors, just simple professionalism. And any issues have been handled behind closed doors, gauging from the player's only meeting they had three weeks ago. Since that meeting, the Knicks have gone 9-4 while playing their best basketball, and they are focused on continuing to build team chemistry.
Let's think about that for a second.
The Knicks essentially have a built-in quarterback controversy when you consider the fact that Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings are both playing for contracts. They also have a budding superstar and a superstar on the decline. On top of that, they have a new coach trying to make it all work that doesn't actually have a championship ring to flaunt around. It sounds really complicated. As complicated as the dynamics of the Joakim Noah signing -- one that fans are nothing short of distraught over.
The last part is particularly interesting as Phil is investing in Noah's off-court ability as much as his on-court ability. That is something casual fans can't grasp because many are emotional because they know how much money he makes -- and their immediate impulse is to attach that to his on-court statistics. His true, total value is unknown, but what Ding is saying makes sense when you factor in Noah and Jackson's history.
That history is all about New York and the Knicks, which is where Phil and Noah both call home.
Don't expect that to change any time soon.