There’s one thing one everyone’s mind in the East: Phil Jackson. Will he join the New York Knicks front office? And have these rumors been helping New York overcome the NBA odds?
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 12 inclusive:
Once upon a time, Phil Jackson was a decent enough power forward for the New York Knicks. How decent? His similarity scores match up best with Chris Andersen and Austin Croshere. But people in the Big Apple aren’t thinking about the two NBA championships Jackson won as a player. They’re more interested in the 11 titles he won as a coach, and whether Jackson can weave that magic once again as a member of the Knicks front office.
That’s if he joins at all. Speculation runs rampant, but this is the biggest story in the NBA right now, so speculate we must. We start our latest Eastern tour in the City That Never Sleeps, where the Knicks are on another one of their infuriatingly rare hot streaks.
New York Knicks
It’s way too early to write off the Knicks (26-40 SU, 28-38 ATS) and their playoff aspirations. They’ve won five straight contests at 4-1 ATS, albeit against mostly substandard competition, to move within three games of the free-falling Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8 seed in the East. The most recent win was Wednesday’s 116-92 victory over the rival Boston Celtics (+4 at home); Carmelo Anthony (24.8 PER) had another monster game with 34 points and nine rebounds, his eighth 30-point performance in the past 16 games for New York.
So is all this happening because of Jackson? This winning streak coincides with the first reports (from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith) that Jackson was in contact with the Knicks. Anthony, who’ll be a free agent this summer, says he was told last week that Jackson would be “coming on board,” and praised the former coach for his ability to put together a championship team. Amazing what a little hope can do.
Too bad Jackson can’t just insert himself into the lineup while he’s at it. The Pacers (47-17 SU, 33-30-1 ATS) ended their four-game losing streak when Andrew Bynum (15.2 PER) made his Indiana debut, posting eight points and 10 rebounds in just 16 minutes of a 94-83 win over the aforementioned Celtics. Very nice. But not quite enough to stop Indiana (+12 at home) from dropping its eighth straight game against the NBA lines.
It might have been another ATS loss, but Pacers fans are understandably very pleased with their early returns from Bynum. He was particularly effective in combination with Evan Turner (11.9 PER with Indiana), which must have infuriated any Philadelphia 76ers fans who may have been watching. We’ll see how they welcome Bynum and Turner when the Pacers visit on Friday.
And the beat goes on in the Great White North. Toronto (36-27 SU, 38-24-1 ATS) extended its lead in the Atlantic Division – and atop the Eastern ATS standings – with Wednesday’s 101-87 dismantling of the Detroit Pistons (+8.5 away). The Raptors are now 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five games, and 14-6 SU and 13-6-1 ATS in their last 20.
They’re also doing it without one of their best players. Patrick Patterson (17.4 PER), who has played brilliantly off the bench since arriving in the Rudy Gay trade, has missed the past three games with a sprained elbow. Patterson could be out a while, too; this is the kind of injury that causes baseball pitchers to consider Tommy John surgery. Toronto still has Tyler Hansbrough (14.9 PER) available as a reserve power forward, along with Chuck Hayes (9.7 PER), so there’s no cause for panic at the moment. The next matchup for the Raptors is Friday at the ACC against their expansion cousins, the Memphis Grizzlies.