One of the first decisions Phil Jackson made as president of the New York Knicks was a costly one. More costly than the hiring of head coach Derek Fisher, amazingly enough.
In 2014, while working out the details of a trade to send Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert and a second-round pick, Jackson made a really bad decision.
In talking with Boston, 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 (Anthony), 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.
That’s a tough one right there.
Crowder hadn’t yet emerged as the player he is today so you can’t kill Jackson for not seeing it more clearly back then, but man that one’s still got to sting Knicks fans. Early was a favorite coming out of college playing on the Cinderella Wichita State team but never blossomed into much of an NBA player.
Crowder has become one of the best role players in the league and an ideal small-ball four, making him perfect for the modern NBA. Last season, Crowder put up averages of 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals while shooting 33.6 percent from three last season for the Celtics.
Crowder together with Melo might not be perfect, but it could work and would definitely have been better than what the Knicks got from Early.