So it turns out the Knicks were not kidding when they warned us that this triangle offense stuff would take some getting used to -- as we saw in their disjointed preseason-opening loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night.
But the players are not the only ones in need of a crash course in the philosophy of Phil.
Enter director/Knicks fan Spike Lee, whom MSG Network commissioned to explain the concept to those of us who always have figured it was more about having Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant in uniform than about X's and O's.
The result is "What is the Triangle Offense? A Spike Lee Orange and Blue Skies Joint," a documentary premiering Oct. 24 that will attempt to break down the strategy in one hour, including commercials.
The director said he got a call out of the blue from MSG asking him to take on the project. He couldn't resist.
"They said, 'We know Knick fans are the most knowledgeable basketball fans in the world,' which I agree with, 'but this triangle, it needs to be explained,' " Lee said at an event Monday to promote MSG's winter sports programming. "So to the best of my abilities, I've tried to make that possible."
Lee chuckled. Did that mean doing so presented a challenge?
"Oh, yeah, because it's not something you're going to pick up overnight, and I think that you'll see this when the season starts," he said. "No one is saying Derek Fisher or Phil [Jackson] is going to snap a finger and they're going to be rolling. So it's going to take some time. But once it gets in, we're going to be rolling."
Lee was given extensive access to the training facility for three days as Fisher and assistant coaches Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons had players run through sets and schooled the director in the nooks and crannies of the triangle.
He delivered the first cut of the program Monday. Does he like how it turned out? "I like it," he said. "We'll see what the people at MSG say."
The trick was making sure to add some fun to make the educational medicine go down more easily.
"There are a lot of laughs, a lot of entertainment," Lee said. "We knew we had to make it entertaining at the same time [as informative]."
In addition to Jackson, Fisher and current players, the show will include interviews with the likes of Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, John Starks, Larry Johnson and Allan Houston.
Jackson jokingly told The Wall Street Journal last week that he hopes Lee's fan-friendly tutorial does not do too good a job teaching Knicks opponents the system.
"The less they know, the better off we are," he said.
This is not Lee's first foray into basketball nonfiction. His 2009 documentary for ESPN, "Kobe Doin' Work," focused 30 cameras on Bryant during a 2008 Lakers game.
"That was a whole different animal," he said. "That was a game."
This time we're talking about practice. Not a game, but practice. And as Allen Iverson once taught us, that can be much less interesting. But it's important, right?
Lee rejected the notion that the system's success is more about having good players than about the system itself.
"Phil Jackson says it's the system," he said. "Yes, you have to have the players for it, but the whole concept is team comes first."
Speaking of which, does he think Carmelo Anthony will buy in?
"Why would he re-sign if he didn't buy in?" Lee said. "It's not even about the money. In my opinion, if he didn't want to play the triangle, no matter how much they paid him, he wasn't going to do it. He'd have gone to Chicago."