Phil Jackson has earned himself a place in the hearts of Los Angeles Lakers fans after bringing five championship banners to the Staples Center. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for him to remain with the franchise, and he ultimately agreed to become the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks.
Jackson, known for his insightful and often introspective comments, recently spoke with Charley Rosen of Today’s Fast Break about his experiences thus far in New York, and he was forthcoming about what he feels has been his biggest mistake since moving into the front office. Ironically, it was a deal in 2014 that would eventually impact the Lakers:
“I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this. One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Boston Celtics owed to Dallas. In talking with Dallas, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.”
While Jackson is absolutely correct that he should have taken Crowder, who has become a key cog for the Boston Celtics, the ramifications of the deal were far-reaching.
Jose Calderon was traded from New York this summer to the Chicago Bulls as part of the Derrick Rose trade, only to be re-routed to the Lakers when Chicago needed to open up cap room to sign Dwyane Wade. Perhaps even more interesting is that Jackson ultimately chose not to keep Ellington, instead sending him to the Sacramento Kings later that same summer.
The Kings waived Ellington a month later, and he caught on with the Lakers, who infamously opted to keep the plucky guard over a center named Hassan Whiteside. Had Jackson taken Crowder instead of a second round pick, it’s possible that the deal he made with Sacramento would not have happened, which could potentially have prevented Ellington from joining the Lakers.
It’s a stretch, but had Jackson not made the mistake of passing on Crowder, it’s possible that Whiteside would have ended up breaking out for the Lakers instead of the Miami Heat.