John McEnroe’s most visible job these days is being a tennis analyst on television, but in his spare time he is an avid Knicks fan, and as such he naturally has some thoughts on the team parting ways with Phil Jackson — most of them positive.
“I guess it’s better now because it just seemed like it had gotten so toxic that it just wasn’t going to be able to work out this way,” he said Wednesday on a conference call to promote ESPN’s coverage of Wimbledon.
When a reporter asked him about the Knicks, he dove right in, presumably boring and/or baffling a bunch of tennis writers on the line.
“The things that he did try, trade-wise or picking up free agents, hadn’t worked out,” McEnroe said, “and obviously the way he had handled the thing with Melo [Carmelo Anthony] I don’t think anyone can really — including himself — think that that was the right approach, even if it was better for the team and for Melo himself to leave. It just wasn’t handled well.
“So I was surprised that this happened, but from what [I’ve heard] — and I don’t hang around with NBA players, but now and then I’m around a couple, or people who are involved in the NBA — it seemed like there was no question that people were less inclined to make a move toward the Knicks at the moment, which I always found amazing.
“I am biased, but I think New York’s the greatest city in the world and I’m thinking, we can’t get guys to play for the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden? That just seems beyond belief. And I guess if it had something to do with Phil Jackson, even though he was a legendary Knick and was one of the best, if not the best coach, or certainly among the top couple of coaches, it’s better moving forward.
“I guess it’s better now because it just seemed like it had gotten so toxic that it just wasn’t going to be able to work out this way . . . Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom, or what appears to be. I mean, I would have sworn to you before this past season I actually believed they were going win 50 games. I thought that having Joakim Noah - who his father [former tennis pro Yannick] has been a longtime buddy of mine - had some skills, obviously, a former Defensive Player of the Year. And I know, knowing him, that he dreamed of coming to New York. It was a dream come true for a kid that spent a lot of his life growing up in the city.
“And picking up [Derrick] Rose at the time seemed to be a sensible risk, a one-year deal. And you got some other players and [Kristaps] Porzingis was coming along. I know some of it was bad luck and unfortunately the knock on Melo seemed to continue to be true, which was unfortunate even though obviously he’s a great offensive player and seems like a good guy that he wasn’t making the guys better – or better enough – the way these other guys, like LeBron [James] is the most obvious example.
“But that’s easier said than done. Maybe Melo would have been better off allowing Porzingis to get more of the spotlight. It would have taken some of the pressure off him. So if it ends up he does stay, which who knows what the hell’s going to happen now, but if it does, I would think it would be better for Melo if he allowed more Porzingis to flourish and it actually would help him.
“So the fact that he thinks like he’s being overshadowed in some ways, I don’t think that’s accurate. It’s going to take Porzingis, even in the best case scenario, a few more years to get to the level we hope he gets to.”
Then it was back to tennis.