It sounds like NBA legend Jerry West has some serious doubts about Phil Jackson's ability to turn things around for the New York Knicks.
In an interview on Sunday, West, who wasn't on good terms with Jackson when both men worked for the Los Angeles Lakers, took a few thinly-veiled shots at the Zen Master. West questioned the trades Jackson has made with the Knicks and wondered about his ability to succeed in a front office role.
“It’s a little easier for (Heat president and former Knicks and Lakers coach Pat Riley)," West said in an interview on Sirius XM Bleacher Report Radio’s “NBA Sunday Tip” co-hosted by Howard Beck and Ethan Skolnick.
“He’s had a lot more experience on both sides in coaching and now in the front office. With Phil, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens back there. They didn’t have the kind of year I’m sure they wanted to have. Everyone in the league feels like they made two trades that helped Cleveland tremendously and one that helped Dallas this year."
Jackson sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland in early January in a 3-team trade that gave the Knicks two second-round picks, two trade exceptions and two players they would cut and later re-sign.
Smith and Shumpert have been key contributors in the Cavs' run to the NBA Finals, leading some, including West, to question the deal.
New York released Dalembert in January and Calderon had a sub-par season. In Dallas, Chandler helped the Mavs reach the playoffs. Again, Jackson received plenty of criticism for the trade.
The Knicks finished with a franchise-low 17 victories last season. Jackson hopes to turn things around this summer. New York will pick fourth in the NBA Draft and has approximately $27-million to spend in free agency. West wonders whether Jackson will be able to attract top talent to New York.
"He wants to have a team that will have his identity on it," West said. “A lot of people want to be critical. I wouldn’t be so critical because they need a fresh infusion of talent there and also people that will be able to play the way they want to play.
“Phil was fortunate. He’s made a lot of money in this league," West added in a reference to Jackson's $60 million salary with the Knicks. "Even though he’s making a lot of money today, he wants to win. He’s a competitor. It will remain to be seen whether they’ll be able to turn their fortunes around. They have a lot of money to spend on free agents, but a lot of times people don’t want to play certain places for different reasons.
“What he’s done there would be easy to criticize," West added. “He understood that team would be pretty good, but not at the level he’s won. If you’re not successful in getting free agents it will set their progress back. It’s a completely different challenge for him. He’s had teams with enormous talent. He’s coached them brilliantly and won championships, but it’s a different challenge for him."
West and Jackson weren't exactly best friends when both worked for the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson famously asked a group of people, including West, to leave the Lakers locker room following a playoff loss. So West's opinion of Jackson should be viewed with that in mind.