New York Knicks president Phil Jackson ranted about today’s NBA game, saying it has “no structure” and “no discipline.”

This was what the Zen Master, who won two NBA titles as a player and 11 championships as a head coach, told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck in an exclusive interview on June 23.

Jackson even singled out four-time NBA MVP and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in his tirade, per Bleacher Report:

The game actually has some beauty to it, and we’ve kind of taken some of that out to make it individualized. It’s a lot of who we are as a country, individualized stuff.

When I watch some of these playoff games, and I look at what’s being run out there, as what people call an offense, it’s really quite remarkable to see how far our game has fallen from a team game.

Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball.

I watch LeBron James, for example. He might (travel) every other time he catches the basketball if he’s off the ball, moves both his feet. You see it happen all the time.

There’s no structure, there’s no discipline, there’s no ‘How do we play this game’ type of attitude. And it goes all the way through the game.

To the point where now guys don’t screen—they push guys off with their hands.

Jackson then compares his ideal style of play in the NBA to how a jazz musician improvises. He tells Beck today’s players must apply the same thing on the basketball court and embrace the concept of teamwork.

When Jackson spoke, Beck says he was noticeably agitated. He adds the Hall-of-Fame coach “is fighting for the soul of the game.”

The Knicks president takes a trip down memory lane, reminiscing the time when he and his New York teammates executed to perfection in winning NBA titles in 1970 and 1973, per Bleacher Report.

Jackson raves at how he and his Knicks teammates of that era—Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Earl Monroe and Walt “Clyde” Frazier—were able to push the ball up the court and make plays for other members of their team, per Beck. This is precisely the model he wants his current Knicks players to emulate.

According to Beck, Jackson is aching for the day he can have “five interchangeable players” on his roster. These are players who can do just about everything—shoot, pass and dribble for the greater good of the team.

As the interview wore on, Jackson told Bleacher Report he has no regrets in trading key players such as Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. “This is a time for us to rebuild,” Jackson said.

Because of those trades, Beck stresses the Knicks now hold the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft on June 25 as well as $26 million in salary cap space—two opportunities Jackson and Co. have to turn the franchise’s long-term fortunes around.

Once the pieces are in place, Jackson emphasized to Bleacher Report that his Knicks will “be a defensive-minded team.”

Beck says Jackson— whose interests range from religion, art, politics, literature and music—just cannot remove basketball from his system.

Golden State Warriors champion head coach Steve Kerr attests to this when he tells Bleacher Report his former head coach with the Chicago Bulls “is unbelievably competitive.”

“He loves the game so much,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant told Beck on Tuesday. “He loves teaching the game. So that part of him is always there.”

Beck tweeted some parts of his interview with Jackson that didn’t make the final story on June 22. Some of the more thought-provoking ones include why he gave Carmelo Anthony a no-trade clause, how he suffered with the fans during the team’s dismal 17-win campaign and why he doesn’t miss coaching:


The Parting Shot 

It’s really hard to argue with the points Phil Jackson raised in his Bleacher Report interview with Howard Beck.

When he raises the fact that today’s NBA game has “no structure” and “no discipline,” you can’t help but agree. Many of today’s coaches allow their superstars to dominate even to the point of letting his four other teammates stand back and act as mere spectators.

Jackson taking a shot at LeBron James hurts the latter’s reputation, make no mistake about it. In years past, James took a lot of flak for being a flopper, but now he has to deal with one of the greatest coaches in NBA history blasting him for his ability to get away with certain things.


In fairness to James, he did one heck of a job in the recently-concluded 2015 NBA Finals against the Warriors. After averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in tow, you have to tip your hat off to him.

He was basically a one-man wrecking crew for the Cavaliers. Head coach David Blatt can only do so much.

The bottom line is this: Jackson’s rant should wake up today’s players and coaches. The 1970s Knicks and Jackson’s Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers were so successful.

Ditto the San Antonio Spurs, who have been so good for so long. They play the kind of basketball Jackson likes: unselfish and hard-nosed. If only there were more teams who could be like them.

As for the Knicks, Jackson could someday preach the benefits of delayed gratification if he and his staff make the right moves next season. New York has missed the playoffs for two straight seasons.

With somebody like Jackson at the helm and the Knicks’ reputation as one of the most successful franchises in the NBA, this misery must stop. It has to. Knicks fans know Carmelo Anthony, just like LBJ, can’t do it all by himself.

With the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, New York is in a good position to snag a good playmaker such as Emmanuel Mudiay or DeAngelo Russell. That ought to be a good start.

And if Jackson can possibly lure a free-agent big man such as DeAndre Jordan into the Big Apple, even better. Jackson’s vision of the Knicks becoming a versatile, defensive juggernaut will be off to a good start.

Rebuilding a proud New York Knicks franchise is easier said than done. However, if there was one man who is up to the task, it’s Phil Jackson.


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