- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Derek Fisher probably raised a few eyebrows back in 2006 when, upon joining the Utah Jazz, he predicted he could help the team win 10 more games than it had the previous season.
Now Fisher is predicting similar results in his first season coaching the New York Knicks.
“In my opinion, I believe that success and failure are not as far apart as people think. It’s pretty close. And when you think about [the Knicks] winning 37 games a year ago, there are a number of things that you can isolate with the same exact roster that can provide 8-10 more wins without a change of any kind,” Fisher said last week, in an interview on ESPN NY 98.7 FM’s “The Michael Kay Show.”
“You can make more free throws. You can have a player miss a few [fewer] games due to injury by handling some things smartly due to practice time, recover time, nutrition, etcetera. There are a number of things that are the difference between winning and losing.”
Fisher’s an optimist, but he’s also a realist. In predicting results for a team with “the exact same roster” as a season ago, Fisher is indirectly acknowledging that the Knicks likely won’t have much opportunity to reshape the roster this summer.
New York is projected to be over the salary cap, so it won’t have significant money to offer free agents. The Knicks also don’t have a pick in the 2014 draft, though they are interested in acquiring one.
Fisher’s prediction is also based on the assumption that Carmelo Anthony will re-sign with the team. That’s far from a certainty at this point.
With Anthony in tow, Fisher envisions having a team that can win 45-47 games. A 45-win total would have been good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference last season.
“I’m not as down on the roster and the team as some of you in the room are,” Fisher said during his introductory news conference last week. “I think there are some things that we can do with this team that can be special right now, not years from now.
"I believe in a lot of the guys on this roster. Several of our young players -- obviously Iman Shumpert has enjoyed a great career so far. Tim Hardaway Jr. had a phenomenal rookie season last year. Toure' Murry is a guy to me that has a lot of potential and versatility. So there are a number of guys that we feel like as we continue to establish who we are, establish our identity and create a system that we think works best for our team and our players that it will allow our young players, veteran players, however we end up putting together this roster for the '14-15 season, we believe we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to be good."
In addition to dealing with Anthony’s situation, the Knicks have to make a decision soon on Murry. The guard has drawn interest from the Bulls, Nets and Warriors. The Knicks have until June 29 to decide whether they want to make Murry a restricted free agent, enabling them to match any offer from a competitor.
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6dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann