Lupica: Phil Jackson's triangle obsession hindering Knicks

Phil Jackson shakes hands with James Dolan during his introductory news conference.Richard Drew/AP

Phil Jackson shakes hands with James Dolan during his introductory news conference.

So two years into this with Phil Jackson we are somehow still talking about an offense out of the past and not a basketball team built for the present, and the future, in the NBA.

Kurt Rambis, who clearly will have a job with Jackson in basketball as long as Jackson still has one, was the one doing the talking about the triangle in Philadelphia on Friday.

“We didn’t fully immerse ourselves into practicing (the triangle while Derek Fisher was coach), developing it, learning how to work with it, going through the breakdown drills to execute it properly,” Rambis says. “We kind of skirted over things. So the real learning process of it didn’t have enough time to take place. We also didn’t allow the players the kind of time that it needs to allow them to get comfortable with it.”

Well, there’s your recruiting pitch right there for free agents: Come and run an offense that Phil Jackson thinks is a surefire winner in the modern NBA and the rest of the league looks at like it’s an eight-track tape player. And don’t worry……it will only take you a year or two to get comfortable in it!

Then Rambis talked about how all you have to do is open your mind to the triangle and be receptive to it, as if it’s like some kind of cult we’re talking about instead of an offense that once – and only — flourished when Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant ended up with the ball.

Remember those first heady days when Jackson came back to New York – a city he’d left 40 years ago — and was really supposed to be on his way back to the Canyon of Heroes? Spike Lee actually did an in-house film on the triangle and pitched it as not just being an offense, but a way of life?

Boy, those were the days.

Now the question has to be asked, as the Knicks show that the real basketball cult at the Garden is the cult of missing the playoffs, something they now do for the 11th time in 15 years, a period when they have won one division title and one playoff series, is this question right here:

Can James L. Dolan actually think this is working?

Better yet, who at the Garden is telling Dolan this is working, other than Jackson, who has had two significant accomplishments in his time back in New York, drafting Kristaps Porzingis and getting paid?

Maybe this is the best question of all: When does Dolan start to think he’s getting played here?

For the last time, this is one Knicks’ fans can’t put on Dolan, because he so clearly gave them what they wanted when he hired Jackson for five years and $60 million to be the Knicks new Savior in Chief. People were begging Dolan to bring Jackson back, if not to coach the Knicks then to do something to restore them to past glory. The late Dave DeBusschere had run the Knicks a long time ago. Capt. Willis Reed had coached them. Now Jackson, a guy off the bench in the glory years who had gone on to win 11 titles in Chicago and Los Angeles, was going to be the last guy attached to those glory years to try to make the Knicks a winner again.

Not only was Jackson going to do that, he was going to change the whole culture at the Garden, open up the windows, let everybody breathe, make the whole place more accessible than a house tour. How’s that working out? Jackson is more available sending Woodstock spring-break pictures on Twitter than he is to the people covering the team.

Now he’s got a coach, Rambis, whose greatest skill so far seems to be as a teacher’s pet, talking about the previous coach, Derek Fisher. You’ve got an affable guy who’s 9-17 with the Knicks doing the team president’s bidding and pointing a finger at the coach who was 40-96 with the Knicks, even as there are all these colander-like leaks coming out of this brand-spanking-new culture saying that Jackson wants to bring Rambis back.

Kurt Rambis is Phil Jackson's man. But should he be?Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Kurt Rambis is Phil Jackson’s man. But should he be?

And why? Because Jackson’s coaching tree looks like a tree without leaves in the winter, that’s why, and Rambis is the best of His Guys available. But shouldn’t this be about the Best Guy? Or does hiring somebody outside the cult of the triangle not fit the narrative that Phil’s way is still the only way and best way in the NBA?

For a couple of years, there has been another narrative being pushed inside the Garden: That Jackson and Steve Mills, for some reason still the general manager of the team, were going to deliver Durant to the Knicks. Once the pipe dream here was about LeBron. Now Durant. Trust me, there are people in the league who believe that once Steve Kerr turned down the Knicks and went with the Warriors instead – wow, go figure – that Fisher became the logical choice because he had been a former teammate of Durant’s.

But if Durant isn’t part of a long-range plan here, with Carmelo Anthony about to turn 32 next month, you wonder what the long-range plan actually is, other than Phil continuing to be the Garden’s resident genius, just without an executive portfolio. Dolan said he would stay out of Jackson’s way, back when the word “autonomy” was being thrown around as often as “triangle.” And he has, by any measure, given Jackson that autonomy. He has stayed out of the way.

But for how much longer?

Now we hear, after another lost season, that Rambis is supposed to be some kind of answer with the Knicks. Maybe so. But if so, what’s the question? The Knicks were 22-22 in January and have been 8-26 since then, first with Fisher, then with Rambis. Say it again: There really hasn’t been two years like this for a rookie executive since John Idzik.

Kurt Rambis now says Derek Fisher gave up on the triangle too quickly. Wait, that’s a bad thing?

Who is Wright for Knicks, Tom’s swan song & Happy B-Day, Zach!

– It was kind of fun the first two days of the Masters, watching putts roll around like marbles in a bathtub.

You have to love the back-channel trashing of Tom Thibodeau by all the FOPs – Friends of Phil – out there.

Jay Wright is probably too smart to take the gig, but doesn’t anybody wonder if he could do for the Knicks what Brad Stevens has done for the Celtics?

Or would Jay be too much of a square for, well, a triangle world?

Don’t you get the idea sometimes that there isn’t a wet eye in the place on Kobe’s farewell tour?

I haven’t checked lately, or listened, but is D’Angelo Russell, the kid from the Lakers, still Public Enemy No. 1 in sports?

Or have we simply moved on to the next?

– One thing is certain in college basketball:

These big-time coaches never learn about putting somebody on the player inbounding the ball at the end of big games.

And that means all the way back to Grant Hill-to-Christian Laettner.

Go look at the replay of Villanova’s last play, in the last five seconds against Carolina.

The player closest to Kris Jenkins is the teammate who passed him the ball, Ryan Arcidiacono.

Jenkins basically ran up the middle of the court like a wide receiver running wide-open down the middle of the field.

I’m just trying to decide how much stock I want to buy in Carlos Correa.

You know what I never do, if the sides are remotely even in the AL East?

I sort of never write off Buck Showalter.

Bernie Sanders votes for shielding gun manufacturers from litigation, and when he gets called on that, he talks about gun-shop owners.

That’s not an answer, it’s a gutless head fake.

– How many fake golf experts, the ones who come at you in waves the week of a major, declared the Masters over when Jordan Spieth got to 8-under after the third hole on Friday?

All the people who thought they were being noble and pure by banning anchored putters in golf should go tell that to Ernie Els.

Watching Ted Cruz try to explain away his comments about New York values is starting to feel like watching an Olympic event in gymnastics.

Neil Walker can stay.

Wait, the Yankees are resting their Jurassic Park All-Stars already?

Just because of the hype, I checked in on the last few minutes of “Scandal” the other night, and it turns out that the show hasn’t just jumped the shark, it’s killed the shark, like it’s the end of “Jaws.”

I know it would be expensive, but can’t the great John Oliver put his own fans in the best seats at Yankee Stadium all season long?

– It was a very cool thing watching Tom Watson take that walk up No. 18 at Augusta National late Friday afternoon.

It is easy to forget sometimes that Watson ends his career having won one more major than the king, Arnold Palmer did.

What Spieth did by staggering to the clubhouse like he was staggering out of a bar, is this:

He put a lot of guys in play in the final round of the Masters, starting with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, who hit it better than anybody on Saturday.

It will be interesting to see if Spieth can be a green jacket guy — again — after making two double bogeys in the third round of a major.

He won the day from Rory McIlroy, just not the Masters.

Maybe Hillary should go talk to Imus the way her husband did back in ’92.

I was very happy to learn this week that Don Winslow, whose amazing novel “The Cartel” was like a textbook about the world of El Chapo, is putting the finishing touches on a new novel.

You think Mr. Dolan doesn’t even occasionally wonder if his basketball emperor is wearing any clothes?

– Finally: Our youngest son, Zach, turned 24 this week.

It seems like just the other day that he was the smallest point guard in his rec league, and the best.

At the time, it was very nice of him to let everybody think I was the one coaching the team, and not him.

Now he’s out in the world, which continues to find out something his dad and his family have known all along:

How big his heart is.

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