As the final buzzer sounded, the Knicks walked off the STAPLES Center floor victorious over the Los Angeles Lakers in a battle of two seasons that started out with so much promise only to watch it crumble down.

Remember when this match-up was supposed to be a marquee one?  Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher reuniting in and revamping New York, facing off against Jeanie Buss, Kobe Bryant, and their old Los Angeles Lakers in a pivotal game that has playoff implications for both teams.  On the side, you had the birthplace of Linsanity against the subject of its fame, Jeremy Lin.  It was a game with a storyline that you could script all the way to Wrestlemania.

Or something like that.

Since then, the Lakers and Knicks have endured brutal seasons.  Carmelo Anthony, who the Lakers tried to land in the summer, was not present as he was shut down.  Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson are mired in a 13-51 season.  Kobe Bryant was in street clothes.  Lin has been demoted to a bench role with his fame long gone.  Both teams are in the processes of a tough rebuilding test.

The Lakers and Knicks are now “competing” for the worst record; it’s something New York is currently “winning.”  When the summertime comes, more uncertainty follows.  As my colleague Scott Asai mentioned, Phil Jackson’s assistants and students haven’t been as successful as the Zen Master.

One reason was that Jackson always inherited underachieving veteran teams and managed to straighten their egos and come together.  That’s a task reserved for only the best.  Fisher has a young team, for all intents and purposes.

In addition, it looks like something patched together after something really painful was removed (Amar’e Stoudemire).  If they do reboot and rebuild around Anthony, there’s also no guarantee it’ll be a success.  He’s been dealing with injury issues and hasn’t really been the leader that can be built around.

Jackson himself is a big question mark as he is only in his first full season in a front office position.  And he hired a rookie coach in Fisher to boot.

One that has shown he can lead a team to success is Anthony’s counterpart Kobe Bryant.  But Bryant has been recently looked upon as the hindrance to the Lakers’ future primarily because of his contract.  With rumors of a Rajon Rondo recruitment, it is unsure how else the Lakers can attract another big name player as well with Kobe’s $25 million in the way.

The teams’ final saving grace may be the upcoming NBA Draft.  The Lakers need their pick to be in the top five or else it’s being sent to Phoenix in one last reminder of how poorly the Steve Nash trade worked out.  If the Lakers do keep the pick, Mitch Kupchak has shown that he can choose well.  Andrew Bynum was helped the Lakers win two championships (forget everything he became after the Lakers traded him), and Julius Randle, despite the freak leg injury, is still a promising player.

The Knicks during the James Dolan era have had not as much success in the Draft even when being in the lottery.  (Ronaldo Balkman, anyone?)  But this may really, truly be the start of the Phil Jackson era.  With all the tools at his disposal, he may probably just be the one Gotham needs right now.

About The Author

NBA & MLS writer for Game 7 Network. Former host of The Half Court Heave Podcast, and was a writer for Laker Nation. LA-born, Philippine-raised, Las Vegas-living.

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