As the New York Knicks clinched their 14th straight playoff berth on Sunday, it seemed only fitting that Mark Jackson
was directing the offense. After all, the Knicks' postseason streak began during Jackson's rookie campaign with the team back in 1987-88, the season he claimed Rookie of the Year honors. Now, at age 36, Jackson is happy to be back on familiar turf and heading to the playoffs in his hometown.
Jackson has blended in seamlessly into the Knicks.
Noren Trotman/NBAE Photos
"The transition has been really smooth," said Jackson, who returned to New York from Toronto in a February 22 trade that sent Chris Childs
and a first-round draft pick to the Raptors. "I'm adjusted and looking forward to each day. I've got a great coach and a great group of guys that's welcomed me. It's great. I get to be around my family, I get to reminisce. I just thank God for the opportunity to be back here."
The NBA's fourth all-time leading assist man with 9,227 assists, Jackson -- who reached the NBA Finals with the Indiana Pacers last season -- has provided valuable leadership and experience to complement the Knicks' scheme. Averaging 5.9 points and 5.5 assists since the trade, and finished the regular season among the top 10 in assists (tied for sixth) for the 11th time in his career.
"What I really like about him is that he's given our players confidence, late in games especially," said Knicks assistant coach Don Chaney. "We know that we're going to score or have a chance to score because he's going to make the right decision."
Jackson has made a seamless transition since joining the club, nearly recording a triple-double in this third game with the Knicks, with nine points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Most importantly, he has helped elevate the game of those around him.
"He has a feel for the game in terms of who's on a roll," said Allan Houston
. "There won't be a long time between Latrell [Sprewell] and I getting a play run for us. That's a small thing but I think it makes a big difference keeping your key guys involved in the game."
"The guys have accepted him with open arms," Chaney said. "Usually it takes an adjustment period, but he fit in from Day 1. It was unbelievable."
Rita Sullivan is a member of the NBA Editorial Staff.