WEST POINT, N.Y. -- With Phil Jackson seated on the sideline next to executives, Derek Fisher’s first-ever practice as a head coach lasted nearly three hours.
And there wasn’t a single drill devoted to the triangle.
The Fisher-Phil era began in West Point, where the Knicks focused on nothing but defense in their first practice of the season. The triangle will be taught plenty this camp. But Fisher wants to build his foundation on something the Knicks of the '90s hung their hard hats on.
“Fish’s message is very clear the way he wants us to play,” Carmelo Anthony said at Christl Arena, where the Knicks are practicing this week at the U.S. Military Academy. “Our focus today was total D, 100 percent defensive-minded.”
Fisher obviously is built in the mold of his mentor. He believes in Jackson’s team principles and the triangle. But he is the first to say, “I’m not Phil Jackson.”
For Fisher to be successful, he will have to be able to do things his way and how he sees fit. Like the Knicks, he has to form his own identity.
“He’s got it,” Anthony said of the players’ respect for Fisher, despite the fact that he’s never coached before and recently retired as a player. “That’s not even a question. He’s got our respect.
“Just his mentality and what he’s about. He made that message clear last night [at the team dinner], he made it clear this morning. And we get it.”
With Tyson Chandler no longer roaming the paint, J.R. Smith said the Knicks “are going to push everything to the sideline" and keep "people out of our middle, [whereas] last year it was more forcing people to the middle.”
“That there is a mindset that eliminates people not helping and who is supposed to be where and what,” Smith explained. “The attention to detail and the drills that we are doing, everybody understands where they are supposed to be on the defensive end.”
“Brilliant” is how Amar'e Stoudemire described Fisher’s tactic of going all defense for the first practice. Certainly, Fisher will have growing pains. He hasn’t even called his first timeout yet in a regular-season game, let alone diagramed a last-second, game-winning basket.
Jason Kidd went through the same thing last season with the Nets, who got off to a rocky 10-21 start. But unlike Kidd, Fisher has a luxury no other coach in the NBA has –- the Zen Master.
Fisher can turn to a man who earned 11 championship rings as a coach for advice anytime he wants. Kidd had Lawrence Frank as a mentor, but their relationship soured and didn’t even last to Christmas.
It’s in Jackson’s best interest to groom Fisher. His first choice may have been Steve Kerr, but Jackson will do everything possible to make sure his protégé succeeds.
“Other than that, it’s the best I think to also be a young coach and to have arguably the greatest to ever do it right there, monitoring, observing, but carefully and respectfully offering any suggestions or advice along the way.”
It’s impossible not to notice or feel Jackson’s presence at practice. There’s an aura to Jackson, who commands respect in any room he steps into and not just because of his 6-foot-8 stature.
But Anthony said there’s no confusion as to whom to go to when direction and coaching is needed. They'll turn to Fisher and the assistants for that. When they need wisdom, perspective or something on a nuance of the triangle, the Knicks can always look to Jackson.
“I think for the most part right now, our focus is really going to Fish and letting Fish coach us,” Anthony said. “If we have questions on the outside, Phil’s office is always open and he’ll talk to us.”
At the team’s camp opening dinner on Monday night, Fisher reflected on the franchise’s long history and “success of the past.” He then spun it forward to how the Knicks can create their own special history with team work and attention to the most minor of details.
The Knicks coach will try to do the same himself. He will look to Jackson’s storied legacy as a measuring stick and proof of how to win.
But Fisher will try to create his own history, and that process started Tuesday with defense.
Those people aren't New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith.
Smith said Tuesday that it was an “honor” to be compared to Rodman by Knicks president Phil Jackson.
“Last time I checked, Dennis Rodman got, what, three-four rings [Rodman has five]. I’m not offended by that,” Smith said. “It’s an honor. He’s a Hall of Famer. And to be put in the same [sentence] as a Hall of Famer is something special. So I’m not offended at all.”
Last time I checked Dennis Rodman got, what? Three-four rings [Rodman has five]. I'm not offended by that.- J.R. Smith
Jackson compared the heavily tattooed Smith to the heavily tattooed Rodman in an interview last week with the New York Post. Jackson invoked Rodman’s name when he was asked if he could “get through” to Smith. Both players have run afoul of the NBA, but for different transgressions.
“I don’t know if that’s possible or not,” Jackson said of getting through to Smith. “He might be one of those guys that’s a little bit like Dennis Rodman that has an outlier kind of side to him. But I’m gonna get to know him as we go along, and we’ll find a way to either make him a very useful player on our organization, or whatever.”
Given Jackson's comments, it will be interesting to see how head coach Derek Fisher uses Smith this year.
Amar’e (slightly) limited in practice: Amar'e Stoudemire practiced for the first two hours before watching the last 30 minutes of the opening practice on Tuesday.
Fisher said the plan is to manage Stoudemire’s health and knees so that the power forward will be available for the long haul this season.
“He played 67 or 68 games last year, missed some games with an ankle injury and the flu,” Fisher said. “Without those things, he probably would have played 70-plus games a year ago. We think that plan that we have will work. Part of it today was monitoring his level. We got to that point where we felt like it was time to pull him out.”
Fisher said the plan was for Stoudemire, whose minutes have been limited the past two seasons due to knee injuries, to practice in the night session and to also participate in Wednesday’s practice.
“I don’t think a decision has been made on back-to-backs,” Fisher said of how Stoudemire will be used during the season. “We obviously start out, our first month is amazing in terms of the toughness of the schedule and the back-to-backs right from the jump.
“We’re hoping if we manage the month of October the right way it will give Amar’e, as well as all of our guys, the best chance to move through the first month of our season, not just in shape but still go to another level.”
Smith calls it an “honor” to be at West Point: Smith and the Knicks seemed to be impressed by what they saw at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the site of this team’s training camp.
“Honestly, it is an honor," Smith said of being at camp. "I have never really been around situations like this, the self-discipline, the mentality that you have to have to be in a group like this at West Point."
The shooting guard also had a few interesting things to say about staying at West Point and about his arrival.
“I made it through security. I was like, ‘Hey man, I come in peace. I don’t want no problems over here,’” Smith said. “Dude had his big AK-47.”
Smith was asked if he’ll have any questions for Cadets on campus.
“I got a lot of questions. I want to see how it is like. I want to see how the hell they are doing it. Because I don’t know if I can do it,” Smith said.
He later added: “I definitely don’t think I can do [it]. ... If I wake up at 5 am, go to sleep at 6, I don’t think that works with my schedule. That is a different lifestyle.”
“He kind of gave me some chills. The way it ended, [he’s such] a class act, nobody could have written that ending for him,” Anthony said at the first day of New York Knicks training camp on Tuesday. “For me to be there and just to see that, I was kind of taking that all in. It was a great moment for him, and for me to just be a part of that and watch that.”
“Last year we talked during the season. When we see [each] other, we talk,” Anthony said. “We don’t always sit down and talk about what it takes to be an athlete in New York. We have more conversations than that. But for the most part, he is a guy that I really listen to when he talks because he gets it.
“He is one of the few guys who was able to have a long stint here and be successful here. So you got to pay your respects to that, so when you talk you got to sit and listen and really take heed to what he is saying.”
Jeter is the archetype for big-name athletes in New York. He has had a ton of success and has managed to largely keep his off-field habits out of the public eye.
Anthony has largely handled the spotlight of being the face of the Knicks with ease. There were times when he seemed to be bothered by the media focus, but he has never expressed it outwardly and never seemed to let it affect his performance. Maybe that can be attributed to influence from Jeter?
“I tip my hat to him. I know that’s kind of cliché, but I tip my hat to him,” Anthony said. “Just to know the career he had here in New York. How he was able to withstand everything that comes along with playing in New York. The way he did it. There was so much class that he did it [with]. And for me to be just kind of a student of his and him being kind of a mentor to me and kind of talking to me about the ins and outs of New York. You can’t get another or a better guy to sit down and give you advice on that.”
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"Oh, for sure. Having the year I had last year from a health standpoint is very positive. I hope it allows me to play even more this season," Stoudemire said Monday.
Stoudemire has been on a minutes restriction for much of the past two seasons due to various knee ailments. He might play on another minutes restriction this season.
Coach Derek Fisher said on Friday the Knicks will keep a close eye on Stoudemire's knees this year. Stoudemire hopes to play around 30 minutes per night, which is close to what he averaged last season in his final 20 games.
"I think toward the end of the year last year we got it to a 30-minute-a-night, 35-minute-a-night type deal," said Stoudemire, who is fully healthy entering camp for the first time in three years. "So I'm sure after I sit down with the coaches we'll pick out something that's going to be beneficial to both of us."
Another issue for Fisher to figure out will be whether to start Stoudemire or bring him off the bench.
Stoudemire said that playing in the starting lineup last season played an "intricate" role in his success. He also says that he hopes to "build around that" this season.
It wasn't exactly a demand from Stoudemire to be in the starting lineup, but it seemed like a subtle hint that he'd rather start than come off the bench.
"I think the way the season ended up last year was a positive step for myself and also for the team to be able to really capitalize on those minutes," Stoudemire, who is entering the final year of a five-year, $100 million contract, said. "That starting role was important as well. It played an intricate part in my success toward the second half of that year, so hopefully, we can build around that."
Fisher hasn't made up his mind on any starting positions other than to say that Carmelo Anthony will be in the starting lineup.
So there is a possibility that Stoudemire can start this season.
Stoudemire has mostly come off the bench for the past two seasons, but he started the final 20 games in which he played last season and played well, averaging 16.1 points on 57 percent shooting.
The Knicks went 14-6 in that span, evidence they can thrive with Stoudemire in the starting lineup.
Hardaway Jr. focused on defense: Tim Hardaway Jr. said he worked on "making sure my defense was on point" in the offseason.
"Just try to find easy ways to get steals and deflections. I know with the new staff that we have, Derek Fisher is going to help us out with that," Hardaway Jr. said. "I think I could be more effective talking on the defensive end, just being in the right spot at the right time. My rookie season I wasn't really good at that at all, so just trying to enhance that any way that I can and just improve on all aspects." .... Andrea Bargnani missed 43 games due to various injuries. The major injury was a ligament issue in his elbow that ended his season. He said Monday he's been fully healthy for several weeks but still needs to get in game shape.
Question: Do you think Stoudemire should be in the starting lineup this season?
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony had heard Phil Jackson’s pitch about all the things he can accomplish in the triangle offense.
Anthony was sold enough to spurn Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, among others, and remain a Knick.
But Melo wanted to do a little more research on how he will fit into the triangle, so he spoke to Michael Jordan, Bryant and Scottie Pippen -- three of the game’s all-time best players and Jackson’s most prized pupils -- to find out the benefits -- and perhaps downsides -- of the vaunted triangle.
“Overall, I’m excited, man, and I feel happy again,” Anthony added. “I feel at ease. I have a lot of clarity, and I’m in a good place.”
On the eve of training camp, a svelte Anthony let the world know at Knicks media day that he has completely bought into Jackson’s system. In fact, Tex Winter would have been impressed with how much Anthony sounded like a fully converted triangle disciple, despite having yet to play a single minute in the system.
Hopefully, Michael, Scottie and Kobe all told Melo he will need patience -- lots of it. Patience is a virtue that was required for Jordan and Bryant to adapt to the triangle.
Anthony might need more than those two ever required. Anthony has a great mindset and demeanor for a star of his caliber, but his patience will be tested.
Unlike Michael and Kobe, Anthony doesn’t have Jackson coaching him. He’s got a rookie coach who has yet to draw up his first regular-season play in Derek Fisher, who could very well be a good coach but will have to prove himself. Anthony will have to help Fisher adjust to coaching as much as Fisher will need to help Anthony adapt to the triangle.
Unlike Jordan and Bryant, Anthony doesn’t have an all-time great such as Pippen or Shaq riding shotgun on a championship-ready roster, complete with the likes of a Horace Grant, John Paxson, Glen Rice or Robert Horry.
Anthony has put his trust in Phil to find that other star to play alongside or, at the very least, two more important pieces to keep up with LeBron James and the Cavs. But the kind of reinforcements Anthony needs might not come until next summer, if at all.
How much is Anthony betting on Phil? He gave up a chance to potentially win now with Chicago or Houston.
“That right there really shows you it wasn’t all about just running and jumping ship and trying to get something in the immediate future,” Anthony said. “I’m willing to be patient. Now, how long [am] I willing to be patient? I can’t tell you that. But ... I’m willing to take risks. I’m willing to take that chance.”
Sure, a $124 million contract buys quite a bit of patience and certainly offsets a lot of risks. But give Anthony some credit for sticking it out and trying to finish what he came to do.
“From a basketball standpoint, maybe it wouldn’t have been maybe the greatest thing to do,” Anthony said of picking the Knicks over the Bulls, among others. “But for me, personally, I wouldn’t have felt right with myself knowing that I wanted to come here, I kind of forced my way to New York. And I have some unfinished business to take care of.”
Anthony is ready to prove the Knicks made a championship investment and he can be the next elite scorer to make sacrifices to his game to win under Jackson’s overall guidance. He wants to show he can make his teammates better and put a team on his back without having to score 62 points in a game.
"There’s a period of time in which it takes a scorer with mainly a scoring mentality to play with the idea that you can’t score every time you touch the ball," Jackson said. "A lot of the scorers, it’s a natural instinct: I get the ball, I look to score. Looking to score is one thing; holding the ball is another."
There will be nights when Melo will be frustrated, either with how he’s fitting into the triangle or how his teammates are. The Knicks are capable of making the playoffs this season, but Fisher and every Knick will go through growing pains.
And let’s not forget Phil is also learning on the job in his first time as a team president.
The great ones often run low on patience and tolerance for anything but winning. Melo had his fortitude tested with 45 losses the past season.
This season, his patience will be challenged in different ways. Then he will have to wait for significant help, however long that might be, while LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving only improve.
Anthony will see just how much patience Jim Dolan’s money can buy.
“I know it’s not going to happen overnight,” Anthony said. “But for me, my main thing is just to embrace the situation, embrace the new regime, the new system, and along the way we’re going to have some fun.”
“It takes time. Nothing happens overnight, but it will work,” Anthony said. “As long as I’m patient with that, then everything else is irrelevant.”
“I think it’s definitely a clean slate,” Smith said at Knicks media day on Monday about going into camp this year. “I think it will be a more productive start of the year for me. There’s nothing hanging over my head whether it’s injuries, suspensions stuff like that. So I’m starting out from Day One with my team and it’s a great feeling.”
Last season, Smith came into camp recovering from offseason knee surgery. He also had to serve a five-game suspension to start the season for violating the terms of the NBA's anti-drug program.
Smith got off to a slow start last season, averaging just 11.7 points and 32.8% shooting and 28.6% three-point shooting in the month of November. He averaged 12 points in the months of December and January but slowly started to play better.
“I didn’t feel like I did two years ago until the last 30 games of the year,” said Smith, who really got hot at the end averaging 23.4 points and 46.3% three-point shooting in his last seven games in April.
Head coach Derek Fisher has not committed to a starting five yet. Smith and Iman Shumpert should have a healthy competition in training camp if Fisher opts to start just one of them. Tim Hardaway Jr. also will push for minutes after an impressive rookie season.
“I don’t look at it as a rivalry,” Smith said of the competition with Shumpert. “I think it’s great for the game of basketball. If I don’t push him and he doesn’t push me then we’re both wasting each other’s time. And I don’t think we want to do that.”
“I think we can hit people from three totally different angles,” Smith added of himself, Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. “I think there’s not a team in this league that has what we have at the shooting guard spot and I think that’s very unique ... you should look at it as a dynamic trio like people do with running backs in football.”
Smith, 29, plans to bring a more mature approach after admitting that he made things difficult for himself at times last season. His shoelace antics led to $50,000 in fines.
Having played 10 seasons in the league, Smith doesn’t want to waste the time he has left in his career.
“Just trying to get closer to my goal which is winning an NBA championship, just doing whatever it takes,” Smith said. “Spend meaningful time on the court and not just waste time. Do whatever it takes whether it’s working harder or staying later, preparing, doing whatever it takes to win.”
“In my eyes, it’s a failure if I spend this much time in the league and not win,” he added. “I’ve got some time to make up.”
The Knicks haven't advanced past the second round of the postseason since trading for Anthony in 2011. They failed to make the playoffs last season after winning just 37 games.
Anthony tested free agency over the summer and opted to sign a five-year, $124 million deal with the Knicks.
"I kind of forced my way to New York [in 2011], and I have some unfinished business to take care of," Anthony said Monday during the Knicks' media day. "I wouldn't have felt right from a personal standpoint, just getting up and leaving."
Anthony acknowledged Monday that some of his other suitors -- such as the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets -- may have given him a better chance to win a title in the immediate future. But Anthony said he is willing to wait through the process of building a championship contender in New York.
"I'm willing to be patient," he said. "Now how long [am] I willing to be patient? I can't tell you that. But I'm willing to be patient, I'm willing to take risks, I'm willing to take that chance."
The Knicks offered Anthony the longest and most lucrative contract in free agency. The Lakers were prepared to offer Anthony a max contract of $97 million over four years. The Bulls did not have enough cap space to make a similar offer but could have offered Anthony a max contract worth the same as the Lakers via a sign-and-trade.
Sports owners filled the annual list of the 400 richest Americans published by Forbes magazine on Monday, including new Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who at a net worth of $22.5 billion is the richest American owner of a sports team.
Ballmer, who spent 34 years at Microsoft, bought the Clippers in August from Donald and Shelly Sterling for $2 billion, after they were essentially forced to sell following Sterling's much-publicized racist comments. Ballmer is the 18th-richest American.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who owns both the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, came in as the second-richest sports owner with a net worth of $17 billion (27th on the list), while Phil Anschutz, who owns both the Los Angeles Kings and the Staples Center where Ballmer's Clippers play, rounds out the top three, with a net worth of $11.1 billion.
Floridian sports owners have a heavy presence on the list, including Miami Heat owner Micky Arison ($6.4 billion), Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos ($6 billion), Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($6 billion) and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan ($4.5 billion).
1. Melo, the Knicks and the triangle: Training camp will give the Knicks an opportunity to learn the nuances of the triangle offense without worrying about wins and losses.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes Carmelo Anthony and his teammates to adapt to an offense that's predicated on ball and player movement. Over the past two seasons under Mike Woodson, the Knicks ran an offense that was heavy on isolation.
Having point guard Jose Calderon, who is widely known as a strong shooter and distributor, should help ease the transition. So will having Phil Jackson on hand and assistants Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons on Derek Fisher's bench.
2. Shooting guard competition: Who will Fisher choose to start at shooting guard?
J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. will compete for minutes at the position.
Hardaway Jr. is coming off of a strong rookie season on the offensive end but had a tough time on defensive, which is common for rookies.
Shumpert is a strong defender but struggled to produce consistently on offense.
Smith finished the season strong but ran afoul of both the NBA and the Knicks on and off the court.
With no leader at this point, it will be worth keeping an eye on this battle throughout camp.
3. Dominant defense? Fisher made it clear on Friday that his top priority in camp will be to improve the Knicks on defense.
“We’re going to prioritize defense,” he said. “A lot of focus will be on what we do offensively and how guys are going to fit into it or buy into it, whether or not our players like it or don’t like it, but successful teams play defense. There’s no way around it."
The Knicks struggled mightily on defense last season, finishing 24th in defensive efficiency, a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions. They also ranked 28th in points allowed per shot.
New York will likely have to establish a strong team defense. Obviously, all strong defensive teams play great defense collectively. But the Knicks may have to rely on the strength of a five-man unit even more than other teams because they lack strong individual defenders on the roster.
Shumpert is one of the top young perimeter defenders in the NBA. But the Knicks traded away their top interior defender, Tyson Chandler.
4. Battle for minutes at power forward: Shooting guard isn't the only interesting training camp competition. As Jackson noted Friday, the Knicks have several candidates who will battle for minutes at power forward. There's Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Anthony (who has played extensively at power forward the past two seasons) and PF/C Jason Smith.
If the Knicks want to play with a smaller lineup, they can go with Anthony at power forward. If not, maybe they start Stoudemire alongside Anthony and Samuel Dalembert on the front line?
5. Fisher learning on the job: Fisher will be making a big leap from player to NBA head coach.
Fisher has veteran assistants Rambis and Cleamons on staff, which should ease his transition. But there will invariably be bumps in he road for Fisher, who has never coached on any level.
Fisher said Friday that one of his biggest adjustments will concern communication. More specifically, Fisher wants to be able to effectively communicate expectations to his players.
"Just understanding the level of communication required to make sure players are clear, the team is clear, about expectations, about what it is you want to see, how you want things happening out on the floor," Fisher said.
One other adjustment?
"Realizing that you’re responsible," he said, "for everyone."
Question: What are you most looking forward to finding out in training camp?
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According to league sources, the Knicks haven't had any contact with Shumpert or his representatives about a possible extension.
The Knicks are trying to keep their salary commitments at a minimum for the summer of 2015 and 2016, when they hope to be active in free agency.
Inking Shumpert to an extension -- which can be as long as four years -- would eat up cap space for the 2015 and 2016 offseason.
So we assume that the Knicks are willing to forgo the opportunity to extend Shumpert and see what his value will be as a restricted free agent this summer.
To make Shumpert a restricted free agent, the Knicks will have to submit a one-year, $3.7 million qualifying offer to him by June 30. They will then have the opportunity to match any offers Shumpert garners on the open market.
That's all assuming, of course, that the Knicks don't trade Shumpert during the season.
Shumpert was involved in constant trade rumors last year.
The Knicks, according to sources, continued to explore trade possibilities for Shumpert in the offseason but could not find an offer of equal value for their 2011 first-round pick.
The best-case scenario this season -- for both the Knicks and Shumpert -- is that Shumpert thrives in the triangle offense and continues to excel on defense.
If that happens, it will be interesting to see his value as a restricted free agent next summer.
Question: Do you think the Knicks should sign Shumpert to a rookie-scale extension? Or should they let him test free agency next summer?
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But eventually, Phil Jackson says Carmelo should be able to play all positions on the floor -- including in the backcourt.
“He will be, I think, quite comfortable in the position he is at on the floor,” Jackson said on Friday.
One of the biggest storylines this season will be Anthony’s performance in the triangle.
Derek Fisher, who knows a thing or two about the offense, believes Anthony should look to examples set by Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant -- both of whom won multiple titles playing in the triangle.
“I think that Kobe had Michael as an example of how he played in [the triangle] and how he worked in it. That helped him I think to be a natural when he got to it. Carmelo now has multiple examples of how guys have been successful inside of the system,” Fisher said. “Michael broke the mold in the sense of how to be that great within the system. I think Carmelo will have an advantage so to speak of having these examples of some of the greatest players to ever play, still have these hall of fame careers within the system and playing with their teammates.”
Jackson on Friday acknowledged that there may be a period of adjustment for Anthony, who is accustomed to operating in isolation.
“There’s a period of time in which it takes a scorer with mainly a scoring mentality to play with the idea that you can’t score every time you touch the ball,” Jackson said. “A lot of the scorers, it’s a natural instinct, ‘I get the ball, I look to score.’ Looking to score is one thing, holding the ball is another. That is one of the things that players learn -- that tempo and rhythm -- and I don’t think it is going to be that difficult of a situation.”
It will be interesting to see how quickly Anthony and the rest of the Knicks learn to operate in Jackson’s offense.
The triangle is predicated on constant ball and player movement. It will be a stark contrast for those Knicks who played under Mike Woodson. His offense was often dependent on isolation sets. There is room for isolation in the triangle, but over dribbling and holding the ball are frowned upon.
Earlier this summer, we took a look at how Anthony may fit in the triangle. We also looked at how the triangle impacted Jordan and Kobe in their first seasons in the offense.
For what it’s worth, Anthony said earlier this month that he is excited about playing in the offense.
"Without a doubt, without a doubt. When people say spots, I'm going to be all over the floor in the triangle," Anthony said. "It makes it hard to guard, it keeps all eyes off of you. I'm looking forward to it, I've been saying it all summer. I can't wait."
Fisher says it wasn't only about the money for Melo: Many look at Carmelo Anthony's re-signing with the Knicks as Anthony going for the money. After all, he signed a five-year, $124 million contract to return to New York. But Fisher believes it was about more than money for Melo.
"I think there’s no question [Anthony] wants to win,” Fisher said. “At the same time, that’s why he came back, because he believes that’s possible. I don’t believe it was just for the money. He could have gotten the money to go anywhere, but I do believe he’s confident in not just where we are, but where we can go, and he wants to participate in that in a very detailed way. So I’m hopeful that we can all come in collectively, put our talents together to achieve some special things.”
Fisher quizzes Kidd: Fisher talked to ex-Nets coach Jason Kidd about transitioning from player to coach.
Kidd led the Nets to the playoffs last year before leaving the organization for Milwaukee.
"I've spoken with Jason a couple times. But I didn’t have a lot of questions about what happened and why; just moreso a conversation about becoming a coach and working with players and how to improve the situation as best you can," Fisher said. "I thought Jason did a phenomenal job considering that he came in with no experience. So everybody that I've spoken to, Jason included, the advice is to be yourself, be consistent in who you are, believe in that, trust it and focus on doing your job. That’s what I'm going to try and do."
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But Fisher said Friday that there will be “boundaries” in his relationship with the Knicks’ president.
Translation: Fisher intends to do things his own way on the sideline.
“I guess that’s what people like to do in terms of making assumptions about the makeup of our relationship as we kind of embark on this new journey. We’ve been coach and player before. We’ve been friends. But this is a different environment. There are a lot of expectations for both of us in our respective positions and we both work very hard,” Fisher said. “We both love to be successful. We’re going to work hard at doing that. There will be some boundaries that we have to have within our relationship. But at the end of the day, Phil is running this department. I work for him and for this organization."
"At the same time, I’m confident in the job that I can do to help us go out on the court and be successful," Fisher added. "I’ll ask questions. I’m here to learn. I’m open-minded. I’m willing to improve every single day. But I’ve always trusted my instincts and my belief in who I am as a person and who I am as a man and I think I’ll be able to do some similar things as a coach.”
Fisher is a first-year coach, working under Jackson, who has won an NBA-record 11 titles as a coach. So it’s only natural for people to wonder just how much influence Jackson will have on Fisher this year.
That will be something to keep an eye as the season plays out. But Fisher stressed that he will be his own man on the sideline.
“I’m not Phil Jackson. That’s for sure. If there’s one thing you learn from this press conference, I am not Phil Jackson. I am not going to try to be or even pretend to be,” Fisher said. “I’ve for sure taken a lot of the basketball experiences and knowledge and life experiences and knowledge from working for Phil and with Phil for so many years. So there will for sure be some things that I will try and channel from Phil."
“At the same time I’ve learned a lot from other coaches, other men, other people that inspire me, other great leaders,” Fisher added. “Other great athletes, great people that I’ll also channel as I try to help this team and help these players and that’s my only goal. I’m not trying to be someone else. I’m going to be me and I think I can be me and do it in a way that’s consistent with who we need to be.”
For what it’s worth, Jackson said back in June that he has no intention of being heavy-handed with Fisher or trying to coach the team through him.
“I see [my] role simply as a guy who's willing and ready to offer support. Willing and ready to step in to a private session if need be and talk about alternative things that can happen on the basketball court,” Jackson said, in explaining that he had no desire to return to coaching. “I'm very willing to share what I have and that's why I'm here -- to kind of flesh out what I've accumulated over 30 years of coaching and [offer] what I can give back to this team and the game.”
Question: Do you think there will be any issues between Fisher and Jackson this season?
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“I think [he] has been true to his word when we had conversations about Phil joining earlier. He was going to remove himself from the [day to day basketball operations] of the Knicks and be there if he needed him. But only get involved if we asked him to be involved,” Mills said on Friday.
“I can honestly say that I have had one conversation with [Dolan] this summer since the end of the season. We’ve had more conversations about the D League and the investment that he’s making for us in terms of developing players and that process. But he’s been true to his word in allowing Phil and I to work together and develop a good rapport and [to] allow Phil to set the culture and the tone for this organization.”
Dolan himself said earlier this month that he’d been more hands off with the Knicks this summer.
Dolan has a history of getting involved in basketball decisions. One example? He orchestrated a trade to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets in 2011 against the wishes of then GM Donnie Walsh.
There reportedly was an issue between Jackson and Dolan in April over a personnel matter.
According to the New York Daily News, Jackson wanted to make changes to the team personnel but was overruled by Dolan. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith later reported that Jackson wanted to make changes to the medical staff but was again rebuffed by Dolan.
Since then, it appears as if the two men haven’t butted heads. As we’ve said before, this relationship is worth monitoring given Dolan’s history. But so far it seems as if the owner has truly taken a “hands off” approach.
Clearing the air with Tyson: Over the summer, Jackson said that he wanted to change the culture of the Knicks when he dealt away Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. Chandler took that as a perceived slight and fired back last week, saying he did nothing to hurt the Knicks’ chemistry last season.
On Friday, Jackson was asked if his comments were intended as a shot at Chandler.
“No, we like Tyson. He played well for the Knicks over the years,” Jackson said. “I unfortunately wasn’t here [for most of his tenure]. But he had a real tough year last year there’s no doubt about it, by his own admission. And the opportunity came where I thought we could improve our basketball club by doing some things a little bit different.
“And in the process I thought about Tyson going back to Dallas, the opportunity is good for him. A place where he played really well and won a championship and I know they’ll welcome him back there and I hope him all the success. Not too much against us. But I hope him all the success in the NBA in the world. And we appreciate what he did here.”
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