Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks might have made a huge mistake in firing Derek Fisher—Kevin Durant was watching.
Durant is the biggest name headed to free agency this summer. The Knicks look like an attractive destination once again with Jackson running things and the duo of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis looking like a great way to lure a major talent to town.
But superstars such as Durant always take into account head coaches. This is why Ian Begley of ESPN.com noted via sources that the Knicks just took a step back in the Durant race after letting go of Fisher:
New York faces long odds to land Durant to begin with. And their chances took a hit after Derek Fisher was fired, league sources say. As noted here previously, Fisher was going to be a factor in Durant’s free agency this summer. But hiring Brooks could get Durant’s attention.
While maybe a bit out of left field, the head-coaching situation around the league shouldn’t surprise much of anyone now. The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt while in a great position. George Karl of the Sacramento Kings seems like he’s going to get canned almost every other day. Fisher’s dismissal, though surprising, would obviously have an impact on how things play out next summer.
Begley mentions Scott Brooks as one of the top names to watch as Jackson now hunts for his next head coach:
Coaches such as Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Jeff Hornacek, David Blatt and Scott Brooks are available. None of these coaches are triangle disciples, but they’ve all had success in the NBA. And each would present an interesting candidacy for the Knicks’ opening.
Brooks is a name to think about, for one reason: The Knicks have been informed that their chances of landing Kevin Durant this summer would be influenced by hiring Brooks, according to league sources.
Long story short, it sounds like Jackson might have to slightly leave a comfort zone if he wants to land Durant.
Durant himself talked about Fisher’s firing recently and the quote says quite a lot about the situation. Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman provided the note:
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 8, 2016
Jackson, like anyone in the league, would obviously want to bring Durant on board. With Anthony passing the ball more and Porzingis still a few years out from being the superstar who can take a game over on his own, Durant would be the primary scoring option and the face of the franchise. A “Big 3” without a doubt.
But it all might hinge on how Jackson approaches retooling the struggling franchise in the coming months before the market even opens. Hanging on to Fisher wasn’t a guarantee that Durant would come to town, anyway, but one has to wonder if Jackson will now let Durant’s wishes influence who he brings on as the next coach.
If Jackson is willing to consider other systems outside of his patented triangle and wants to make New York as attractive a destination as possible, Brooks and some of the other names mentioned will be frontrunners for the job.
While it’s fun to focus on the NBA trade deadline this time of year, folks will want to keep a close, close eye on how and when Jackson fills the position. It’s a move with league-wide implications and the Knicks and Jackson have been put on notice—they’re already behind in the race for Durant.