Last season, Phil Jackson sat down with writer Charley Rosen for “The Phil Files,” a once-a-month conversation regarding the state of the Knicks. In the seventh installment, Jackson dished out final evaluations of his players, including two players who have since signed with the Nets: Shane Larkin and Andrea Bargnani.
Not surprisingly, Jackson wasn’t bullish on either player. In Larkin’s case, he noted that the diminutive point guard improved as a player, but doubted he would return, citing his easy replacability1 and “tiny hands” as a problem:
His play did improve, but he’s still a long shot to be back with us. He’s incredibly quick but he doesn’t use his speed the way he should. Shane mainly wants to get his shot off a high screen-roll situation when he should be pushing the ball and getting his shots in an open floor. Another problem is that he can’t control the ball because he has such tiny hands. For sure, every team needs a small, quick guard, but there are a lot of guys like that available.
Firstly: tiny hands! Larkin certainly doesn’t have Jahlil Okafor’s massive mitts, but it doesn’t make him unplayable. His hand width of 7.5 inches is one of the smallest recorded in the NBA combine, while his hand length of 8.75 inches is a little closer to average. He actually measured out with bigger hands than 2013 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams (7.5 inches by 8.5 inches). That’s about as far as I’m willing to dive into hand size analysis.
As for the on-court stuff, Larkin has said numerous times he considers himself a pick-and-roll guard, and there’s not much space for him to succeed in Jackson’s Triangle offense, which limits pick-and-roll opportunities. But Jackson does make a good point: if Larkin wants to succeed as a pick-and-roll guard, he’ll have to be able to find teammates — particularly Brook Lopez, an excellent pick-and-roll finisher, and spot-up shooters like Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Wayne Ellington — for open shots, rather than look for his own as a first option.
As for Bargnani, PJax calls him “a big tease” and questions his work ethic & quality as a teammate:
“AB was and still is a big tease. When he was injured he refused to do simple non-contact activities like dummy our offense in practice. He seemed to be a malingerer and this had a bad effect on the team, and also on the way the Knicks fans reacted to him. When he was on the court, he had a hard time staying intense, didn’t hustle back in offense-to-defense transition, wasn’t active enough in defending screen-rolls. Still, his offense is perfectly suited to the triangle because he really doesn’t have to work very hard to get shots. He’s another guy we renounced, but whether we can agree on financial terms for his return, or he winds up someplace else, AB will always be somewhat of an enigma.”
This isn’t the first time Bargnani’s work ethic has been questioned, though you rarely hear that type of talk on the record from high-level team executives. Bargnani is on a minimum deal, and will have to earn his playing time with Lionel Hollins, a defense-first coach who has a short leash for lollygagging.