PHILADELPHIA -- Derek Fisher, the ex-New York Knicks coach, suggested recently that the triangle offense was difficult to teach and implement.
Interim coach Kurt Rambis disagrees, suggesting Fisher didn't dedicate enough time to teaching it.
"If you want learn something, and truly learn something, you have to immerse yourself in it. That probably goes for about anything. We didn't fully immerse ourselves into practicing [the triangle], developing it, learning how to work with it, going through the breakdown drills to execute it properly so we kind of skirted over things," Rambis said Friday prior to the Knicks' shootaround. "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 in terms of putting in the time to allow them to get comfortable with it. And then you start getting into the season when we weren't scrimmaging a lot, and practicing a lot. You need those days, you need that time to allow players because the light turns on at different times."
The response highlights what seems to be a fundamental difference between Rambis and Fisher: their commitment to running the triangle offense. Rambis is fully committed to running it. Fisher vacillated between running sets with a one-guard front and running an offense with a two-guard front, which is the traditional triangle alignment.
"We're constantly wavering, going back and forth," Rambis said of the Knicks' approach to the offense in training camp under Fisher. "So to an extent, our players almost treat it like plays now rather than a real sequence of actions and a real system that you work under."
Fisher said in training camp that he wanted to push the pace and hinted that he didn't want his players to feel constricted by the triangle offense. Rambis said Friday that Fisher's approach may have hurt the players' ability to fully grasp it.
Rambis was an associate head coach under Fisher but said he didn't want to tell Fisher to change his approach at the time, despite any misgivings he may have had.
"A coach has to do what he feels is right, what's right for the team. And how he feels, and the vision he has and how he feels that that vision is going to be allowed to get accomplished," Rambis said. "He's trusting his gut and he's going with his gut and allowing the guys to have more freedom to do things in terms of going back and forth between a one-guard front and a two-guard front -- that's something that he believed."
The issue arose Friday when a reporter asked Rambis about Fisher's comments on NBA TV about the triangle offense.
Here's what Fisher said: "It's difficult to implement a system that requires so much terminology-wise, specific skill-set-wise, and it's not impossible to do it. But I think it makes it more challenging for a team to develop during the course of the season compared to other teams who aren't asking that of their players."
Rambis disagreed with the idea that the offense is difficult to implement:
"First off it's not difficult. It's like learning anything new. You have to open up your mind and be receptive to learning something new. That's a huge part of it. Phil [Jackson] and [triangle architect] Tex [Winter] have always felt it takes players, regardless of who they are, a good year when you're staying in it, when you're executing it the way it's supposed to be executed."
The Knicks (31-48) have struggled with the offense this season. Whether it's a talent issue or because of the complexities of the triangle, the club enters play Friday ranked 24th in offensive efficiency. Rambis has said that players can get a better grasp of the offense with more practice time. He may get a chance to prove that theory as he's being given strong consideration for the Knicks' full-time job, according to sources. It's telling that a lack of commitment to the offense is one reason Fisher was fired by Jackson in early February, according to reports.
It's also clear that the triangle will be a centerpiece for the Knicks as long as Jackson is in charge.
Rambis said that the club will factor in, among other things, how well they think a potential free agent can learn -- and perform in -- the offense when they decide which players to pursue.