Stephen A. Smith Calls Phil Jackson ‘Sad’ For J.R. Smith, Shumpert Comments
Knicks president Phil Jackson recently told ESPN's Charlie Rosen some rather specific anecdotes about two players he shipped to Cleveland halfway through last season. Much in the same fashion he wrote critically about Kobe Bryant in his 2005 New York Times bestseller, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, Phil held nothing back in detailing the behind-the-scenes dysfunction that lead to J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert being traded for essentially nothing.
He's taken some flack for being so forthcoming about each player's personal issues.
[ESPN] "J.R. had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior and had gotten into the habit of coming late to team meetings, or missing them altogether," Jackson says. "Also, Shump and Tim [Hardaway Jr.] were regressing, so I decided to meet with them separately and try to find out what, if anything, was bothering them."
Smith was first on the list. "We talked about his statement to the press that our shooting guard depth was going to be the team's asset, but so far it hadn't worked out that way," Jackson says. "He was supposed to carry the scoring load for the second unit and he wasn't doing the job. I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn't really respond. He's a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal."
Tuesday afternoon, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless -- two men known for both citing their personal relationships with sports figures and speaking about players' personal lives -- voiced their displeasure with Jackson's candor.
"What you don't do -- and somebody like me in the media would never do -- is take private conversations and situations involving any player and publicize them, and I'm a media member," Stephen A. said on "First Take." "Who the hell is Phil Jackson to do that?"
"Phil Jackson retired, then wrote a book highlighting stuff like how Kobe [Bryant] was uncoachable, how Kobe was complaining during the Colorado trial. He was complaining about the plane he was flying. He was revealing personal things that no coach, present or former, no executive, present or former, has any business disseminating about a player."
"So here we are -- we fast forward -- thinking that the zen master himself has learned the error of his ways. It's like 10 or 11 years later and now you talk about J.R. Smith. Do you say he was difficult and leave it at that? No."
"You sit there and talk about his big doe eyes, how he's sensitive and said he has a problem with his gal? That's personal. For Phil Jackson to do that, to be quite honest with you, not only is it wrong, he comes across as incredibly untrustworthy and that's sad that a grown man 70 years of age can be accused of being untrustworthy. It's really sad."
Bayless was similarly outraged by the comments about Smith and Shumpert, who are widely thought to be heavy on the ego and light on the substance (at least basketball-wise). However, Skip took a more speculative angle, floating the idea that Phil is simply trying to justify trading two role players for cap space.
"This is a bizarre attempt to distract the media and the fans from the fact that he gave away two players that helped make the Cavs' playoff run to The Finals," Skip said. "So he continues to make eloquent but lame excuses for why [he] keeps making these moves -- or non-moves -- that are just disasterous."
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