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Only Better Players Can Save Hornacek

The best thing about the Knicks hiring Jeff Hornacek as their coach is he is not Kurt Rambis.

That’s why there was no outrage about the hiring. If anything, this hiring represents apathy.

Knicks fans know a new coach won’t make a difference unless he has talent to work with. Outside of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, the talent is barren.

It’s on Phil Jackson to find better players for Hornacek to work with in order for this hire to work. It would help if Jerian Grant would develop into a fine player.

Jackson of all people should know great players make a great coach. He won 11 championships as coach because of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The bar is so low for the Knicks that if the Zenmaster can find decent players, it would be an improvement. It would be good enough for the Knicks to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

Getting to the playoffs would be something for a once proud franchise that missed the playoffs three years in a row. It would be a step in the right direction. It would mean promise. It would be progress. Maybe this can be a start of something special.

It’s a far cry when the Knicks were judged by championships in the Pat Riley era and Jeff Van Gundy era.

Outside of drafting Porzingis, Jackson has not made much of an impact with the Knicks when it comes to building a basketball team. That’s why Derek Fisher and Rambis never had a chance as Knicks coaches.

At some point, Jackson can only blame so many coaches.

He has been the constant during two seasons of bad basketball under his leadership as president of basketball operations. The buck stops with him.

Jackson has to make it happen this summer. He can start by getting several difference making free agents to play for the team.

One of them should be Mike Conley. He can be the point guard the Knicks lacked in recent years since Jason Kidd left few years ago.  He would be the third scoring option to complement Anthony and Porzingis. He would run the offense well. He would be a guy that will have no fear of attacking the rim.

Rajon Rondo would be the next best option if Conley does not sign with the Knicks. That should be the last resort, though. It should be about getting Conley, who is still in the prime of his career.

Al Horford should be a target for the Knicks. He should be a high priority along with Conley. He plays defense. He knows how to finish his scoring chances. He can shoot. He would make the offense flow, and he would suit the style Hornacek wants, which is playing up-tempo.

The Knicks could use another shooting guard. Evan Turner would make sense for them. He can shoot from long distance. He can defend. He can complement Porzingis.

Those are the guys Jackson has to get for Hornacek to have a chance to succeed as Knicks coach.

It’s time for Jackson to earn his $12 million. He has stolen money from James Dolan the last two years. He can’t get by for so long with his reputation.

No one in town cares what he did as Bulls coach and Lakers coach. It’s irrelevant to Knicks fans. It’s about what he can do for the Knicks.

Jackson is getting paid to get players to play for the Knicks. His presence should inspire free agents to play for the team. His name itself should motivate guys to handle the challenge of turning the Knicks around.

If he can’t do that, what good is he? Why keep him around?

This offseason should be make or break for Jackson. If he can’t get guys to come, he will never get anyone to come.

He failed to get Greg Monroe last year, and he settled with Derrick Williams, Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez and Kyle O’Quinn (sign-and-trade). Neither of the four players made an impact, and that was one reason Fisher never did well.

Jackson can’t make the same mistake with Hornacek as the coach.

Hornacek offered nothing in his introductory presser on Friday other than saying he would modify the triangle offense.

What he said is irrelevant. It’s about what he can do with the players he has to work with.

It’s up to Jackson to get the players for Hornacek to coach.

If Jackson can’t get the tools to work with, it won’t matter who is the coach of the Knicks.

Leslie Monteiro
I'm the author of 10 books. If you're looking for autographed copies just go to my Twitter @Sportsology and DM me.

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