GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Phil Jackson made Courtney Lee an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Jackson, whom Lee called “The Godfather of the Triangle,” pulled the guard aside during Knicks practice Monday. The team president sat down with Lee, pulled out a coach’s whiteboard and starting diagramming plays.
Lee appreciated the tutorial.
“It’s dope,” he said. “The man’s got multiple rings and that’s what we’re trying to chase. He has a lot of knowledge and information, so it’s always good to pick people’s brains because you don’t know all the answers. There’s somebody out there that knows a little more than you and he’s one of those guys.”
Jackson knows a lot more about the triangle and winning championships than perhaps any other man alive. That hasn’t translated into success in his tenure running the Knicks, but optimism abounds as the 1-1 Knicks begin their first heavy stretch of the schedule Tuesday night in Detroit.
The Knicks will play three games in four nights. On Wednesday night, they host Houston. On Friday night, they visit the Bulls in Derrick Rose’s return to Chicago.
For a team that hasn’t been together all that long, playing and practicing often is paramount in learning a regular system, much less the triangle “aspects” that coach Jeff Hornacek is running.
That’s where Jackson comes in. At times.
“He’ll occasionally talk to guys,” Hornacek said. “Talking to Courtney or talking to these guys just to reiterate where shots might come from . . . [Lee] is going to get open kickouts. The positioning within the triangle of where to be alert for a kickout is always helpful.”
Said Lee: “It helped a lot. Especially this being my first year that I’ve actually run the triangle, it actually helps a lot. What you’re seeing over there with him talking to me, asking where I’m comfortable at in situations and then him drawing it up, like ‘this is how you can run it this way and this way,’ it definitely helps.”
After going scoreless and missing all five of his shots in the Knicks’ opening-night loss in Cleveland, Lee shot 6-for-11 and scored 16 points in a 111-104 victory over Memphis in the home opener on Saturday night.
“The more we practice, the more we play, the better that you’re going to see how teams guard you, see how teams guard the sets, and you’ll make those reads off that,” Lee said. “The more we do it, the more we get comfortable with it and the more that we play together, the better it will look.”
Jackson and former coach Derek Fisher weren’t on the same page in terms of how much the Zen Master would talk to the players or coaches. While Jackson’s presence didn’t seem to be Hornacek’s favorite subject, he did indicate that Jackson is not imposing himself on the team.
“For the most part, it’s little things here and there,” Hornacek said. “We’re in our [coaches] meetings talking and he pops in and listens, and if there’s something that’s on his mind, he’ll bring it up. That’s good. It’s good for all of us. The more knowledge, the better.”
Noah banged up. Joakim Noah practiced with a headband securing a huge bandage on his left ear, courtesy of an elbow from Memphis’ Marc Gasol. “I thought it was a Halloween costume,” Hornacek said. Noah expects to play Tuesday night.