As the NBA playoffs power on around them, the lottery-bound New York Knicks look toward the upcoming summer. The NBA draft and free agency await, and Phil Jackson had some words for the media this this morning. Nothing revelatory, but the Knicks' president touched on a wide range of Knicks' topics. Some highlights:
On this summer's free agent crop:
A lot of our direction is about free agency, it has to be, says Phil Jackson. #Knicks— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) April 21, 2015
Phil: "[Our pick] isnt gonna step on the court immediately & be an MVP. So a lot of our contingencies are on free agency. They have to be."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 21, 2015
This makes sense. The Knicks probably shouldn't enter free agency assuming their draft pick will be an All-Star candidate right away. That's a ton of pressure on a young player already dealing with a lot of change. It'll be on Carmelo Anthony and the veterans to drive improvement next season.
Phil Jackson on cap space: 'I think we have 30-some million.' #Knicks— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 21, 2015
Phil, on what he'll use as his key selling point during free agency: Says he thinks he can convince people by talking about the triangle.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 21, 2015
Probably wouldn't lead with that, but there may be some interest remaining in the mystique of the Triangle offense around the league.
Phil says there's a tendency to overpay guys in FA. "We have to do some judicious shopping. [But] we won't go to the dollar store."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 21, 2015
Good to hear Jackson note the risk in overpaying free agent talent. It sounds as if Jackson is willing to spend this summer, but is loath to simply fling money at the biggest free agents on the market. The Knicks have historically chased expensive names during the summer to little avail, so judicious shopping makes for a welcome change.
On Knicks' roster needs:
Phil Jackson says defense will be a priority for him this summer. He cites Golden State & Atlanta, who succeeded thanks to strides on defens— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
Asked Phil about finding good fits around Melo; particularly on defense. He suggested the team badly needs a rim-protecting big.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 21, 2015
Derek Fisher and Jackson seem to be on the same page regarding their goals in roster construction. Jackson makes it clear that defense is going to play a large role in Knicks' interest this summer. His line about needing a rim protector earned some snickers on Twitter from those recalling the recent Tyson Chandler trade, but Tyson turns 33 this fall. Even if the team committed to retaining him, the need for quality rim protection would likely rear its head soon. Jackson didn't forget to mention needs on offense as well.
Phil Jackson said the #Knicks need to add a player that wants to go to the basket but adds that it doesn't necessarily have to be a guard.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
With players like Melo, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Langston Galloway under contract it remains important that the Knicks find someone who can create more offense at the rim. Nice to hear it from the mouth of the President.
On the draft:
Phil Jackson said he would consider moving a pick if it's five or worse. #Knicks— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) April 21, 2015
No. I mean, okay: Due diligence. Let's not, though.
Phil: "But the reality is, we want to grow a star" thru the draft. Says he thinks there are a few of those types of guys in this yr's class.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 21, 2015
Phil Jackson says 'bigs are a priority in the draft' for defensive purposes— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 21, 2015
T O W N S
Phil Jackson says he probably won't sit on the dais for the draft lottery. My guess is it will be Carmelo or Fisher. Maybe Dolan?— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
This is one of the most important decisions New York will make. My vote is still for French Montana, but I'll hear arguments for Clyde, Nas, Dennis Doyle, Spike Lee, or Mariska Hargitay. Not for Taylor Swift.
On this past season:
Phil jokes (I think) that he was disappointed he didn't get exec of year award. #Knicks— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) April 21, 2015
Phil Jackson says Fisher did a good job of "implementing, teaching and setting up a methodology" of how he wants the #Knicks to work.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
Still no obvious dissonance between the front office and the coaching staff, and that's a good sign.
Phil Jackson asked about #Knicks winning two of last three games. He said winning games was the goal. "It's not that big a deal," he said.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
Jackson noted that the most losingest team is no guarantee to win the first overall pick. Which is true! Mathematically, though, it would have been nice to have the best odds at it.
On Carmelo Anthony:
Phil Jackson on Carmelo: "I think he's grown up a lot this year." Says he believes Carmelo can grow into a leader going forward.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
Never too late to grow into a leader, I suppose!
Jackson expects Melo to take part in the Knicks' recruiting pitches in free agency. A lot was made of Anthony's ability to influence other talent to consider New York when Melo signed his five-year contract last summer, and hopefully he can swing some good players.
Phil says Carmelo playing in the All Star Game "wasn't important to us, but it was important to him."— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
Phil suggested that Carmelo physically "pushed himself" to be able to play in the All-Star Game despite his injured knee— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 21, 2015
Okay! We knew this already, but it's still unsettling to hear.
On Jose Calderon:
Phil Jackson said Jose Calderon told him his Achillies bothered him all season. Calderon told Phil he's confident he'll bounce back in 15-16— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
Even considering his age, Calderon's regression was of concern. Hoping for a full recovery from the Spanish guard.
On Tim Hardaway Jr:
Phil Jackson says Tim Hardaway Jr. has a bright future but was "both good and average" this season.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2015
On the future:
Humble goals, to be sure, but it would still be a huge leap for the Knicks to take. Jackson isn't promising championships, especially after the season we just endured.
Phil said he's ok if his legacy as president is building a solid foundation that isn't a contender until he's gone "Yes...exclamation point"— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) April 21, 2015
Jackson's legacy was scrutinized when he took over as Knicks' president. Already one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, Jackson seemingly had little to gain from taking over as head of the Knicks' front office. Other than that boatload of cash, of course. Still, the Knicks desperately needed a mind to come in and right the ship after years of front office gambles. Jackson sounds like the right guy for the job, just as he did a year ago, but it remains to be seen what his legacy as a Knick executive will ultimately be. If he merely lays the foundation for future contention I would see his tenure as a success.
It was a nice appearance from Phil. It's good to hear him share his thoughts on the team, even if he isn't revealing much new at all. Not long until the draft lottery now, my pals!