New York Knicks: Derek Fisher

Position analysis: Shooting guard

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
11:03
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J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. & Iman ShumpertUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesIn the triangle, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert will need disciplined shot selection.
Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Knicks currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at shooting guard.

SHOOTING GUARD

New additions: SG Wayne Ellington.

Returning/on roster: SG/SF J.R. Smith, SG/SF Iman Shumpert, SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr.

Gone: SG/PG Shannon Brown.

The starter: Head coach Derek Fisher could go in a couple of different ways. He could start Smith and Shumpert if he opts to play Carmelo Anthony at power forward. If he sees Smith as a sixth-man weapon, then he could start Shumpert at shooting guard or start Smith and bring Shumpert off the bench.

The wild card: Smith. When Smith plays at a high level, the Knicks are so much more dangerous. Coming off offseason surgery, Smith got off to a very slow start last year before playing better toward the end of the season. He averaged 14.5 points while shooting 41.5% for the season. When he is on top of his game both physically and mentally, Smith can be a force like he was in 2012-’13 when he averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 42.2% from the field.

Outlook: This position has so much potential for the Knicks. If Smith and Shumpert can regain their form from two seasons ago, the Knicks’ offense -– and defense -- can be potent. Perhaps the triangle can rejuvenate them both as Fisher and Phil Jackson hope that the pair can spark the team on both sides of the ball. Smith could see open catch-and-shoot opportunities in the triangle. Shumpert could spark the team as a defender with steals that lead to transition buckets much like past defenders have done in the triangle like Scottie Pippen and Ron Harper did for Jackson. The Knicks also hope that Hardaway Jr. can continue his progression. He has already proven that he can shoot and catch fire quickly but needs to improve defensively and add more versatility to his offensive game. With the addition of Ellington, the Knicks have streaky but highly flammable shooters who could all be nice fits in the triangle. Smith, Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. will all have to show some discipline in the triangle with their shot selection. Smith may have to cut down on the dribbling in the triangle as well. SG/PG Toure' Murry is an unrestricted free agent.

Question: Who has to have the bigger bounce back season: J.R. or Shumpert?

Position analysis: Point guard

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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Pablo PrigioniJesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesPablo Prigioni, a savvy veteran who can provide outside shooting, is still under contract.
Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Knicks currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at point guard.

POINT GUARD

New additions: PG Jose Calderon, PG Shane Larkin.

Returning/on roster: PG Pablo Prigioni

Gone: PG Raymond Felton, PG/SG Shannon Brown, PG Beno Udrih.

The starter: Calderon. Acquired in the Felton and Tyson Chandler trade to Dallas, the Knicks improved their shooting at the point guard position. It remains to be seen how Calderon does defensively for the Knicks. He could struggle to defend but the Knicks are expecting Calderon to improve the team’s chemistry in addition to the shooting.

The wild card: Larkin. Also acquired in the Dallas trade, Larkin was the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He played in just 48 games, averaging 2.8 points in 10.2 minutes per game. But the Knicks have a young, albeit small at 5-11, point guard to develop. Perhaps Larkin could be a spark on some nights.

Outlook: The Knicks did upgrade at point guard by bringing in Calderon after Felton struggled mightily last season. Calderon also could be a much better fit in the triangle than the underachieving Felton. Calderon averaged 11.4 points, 45.6% shooting overall and made 44.9% of his shots from behind the three-point arc last season. He also averaged 4.7 assists for the Mavs. Felton shot just 39.5% from the field and 31.8% from three-point land. Prigioni shot 46.4% from behind the arc last season. With the Knicks going to a triangle this season, Calderon and Prigioni may be counted on for their outside shooting. Phil Jackson’s point guards in the past often were more spot-up shooters like John Paxson and B.J. Armstrong. The point guard that will make the biggest difference on the team is the one who is retired -– Derek Fisher. Even though he is coaching for the first time in his career, Fisher brings a wealth of championship experience, toughness and leadership. If Fisher can transfer that to the team from the sidelines, the Knicks’ point guard play can only get better after last season.

Question: How do you think the Knicks did at point guard this offseason?

Playoffs? Here are 3 keys for Fisher, Knicks

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
3:09
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Carmelo Anthony, Derek Fisher and Jose CalderonGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsDerek Fisher believes his Bockers will be a playoff team next season. Here are three things that must happen for the coach to be right.
Derek Fisher stirred the emotions of some Knicks fans when he said earlier in the week that he thought New York would be a playoff team next season.

"I believe in our guys," Fisher said Monday. "Even if nothing else changes, we’re good enough to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but we have to go out and prove it."

Fisher, we should point out, said exactly what he is supposed to say here. Did you expect him to say he didn't think the Knicks would make the playoffs? That would have left some Knicks fans in hysterics.

But at the same time, Fisher has some very real reasons to be optimistic.

Below, we take a brief look at three things that need to happen (in addition to avoiding injury) in order for the Knicks to make the playoffs.

1. Five-man commitment on defense: The Knicks’ defense was one of the most charitable in the NBA in 2013-14. New York ranked 24th of 30 teams in points allowed per possession and was routinely torched by opposing point guards. This was due to a combination of porous perimeter defense, an inability to defend the pick-and-roll consistently and an overexposed interior.

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All of these issues are related, which is why we mention team defense as one of the Knicks’ biggest issues heading into 2014-15.

The Knicks don't currently have an individual interior or perimeter defender the other four players on the floor can rely on to get stops.

So Fisher's team needs to establish a cohesive, collaborative approach on the defensive end that can mask individual weaknesses and stem the tide of penetrating guards who burned New York last season.

One issue here is that both Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni have reputations as spotty on-ball defenders. So help on the perimeter from the off guard and well-executed pick-and-roll defense on the opposing point guard is crucial.

The Knicks were last in the NBA in points allowed to both the ball handler and roller in pick-and-roll situations last season. They also allowed point guards to score 22.7 points per 48 minutes.

So it’s fair to assume that number needs to drop for the Knicks to qualify for the postseason. That’s primarily on Fisher, who also needs to figure out the best way to use Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith to defend the paint and rim.

2. Improved point guard play: As anyone who watched the Knicks last season can tell you, the departed Raymond Felton struggled on both ends of the floor. He averaged a career-low 9.7 points and hit just 39 percent of his shots (31 percent from beyond the arc). He also was one of the main reasons the Knicks struggled to defend the opposing point guard (see above). And as a byproduct, Felton was cited (rightfully so in some instances, wrongly in others) as a contributing factor in the Knicks’ struggles.

On paper, New York upgraded at point guard with Phil Jackson’s offseason trade for Calderon.

Calderon is widely regarded as one of the top shooting point guards in the NBA -- and the numbers support that. Calderon is a career 48 percent shooter who hit 45 percent on 3-pointers last season. So the veteran 1-guard should be a big upgrade on offense, particularly if the triangle offense provides him with open shots -- as it should.

But Fisher will need to find a way to help Calderon on defense.

Per ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus stat, Calderon ranked 45th among 83 NBA point guards at a minus-1.70. That's not good.

(Real Plus/Minus measures a player's estimated on-court impact on team performance and is measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. It takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors.)

3. Improved ball movement: The Knicks were heavily reliant on isolation last season. Carmelo Anthony led the league in isolation scoring, averaging 6.6 isolation points per game, according to Synergy Sports. That was more than 11 NBA teams. As an example of the teamwide isolation the Knicks espoused, New York ended the season ranked 24th in touches per possession and 25th in points created by assists per game.

The Knicks also ranked 24th in points per possession. Maybe there is a correlation there.

Needless to say, New York should move the ball more frequently this year thanks to the implementation of the triangle offense.

If the offense is run properly, open shots should be created on the perimeter and the midrange.

And if the Knicks can knock down jump shots at the same rate as they did last season, the triangle should make Phil Jackson's club much more effective on the offensive end.

Last year, the Knicks were second in catch-and-shoot field goal percentage and second in field goal percentage on shots within 12 feet off a pass.

So if the Knicks can increase open looks created by the pass, they should be an improved team on the offensive end. Which, we can presume, should lead to more wins and a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Question: What do you think the Knicks need to do to make the playoffs next season?

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Fisher: We'll be ‘a playoff team’ in 2014-15

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
2:54
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In a message that is sure to be soothing to some Knicks fans, Derek Fisher said on Monday that he's confident New York will be back in the playoffs next spring.

"I believe in our guys," Fisher said in Las Vegas after the Knicks’ summer league team practice, according to published reports. "Even if nothing else changes, we’re good enough to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but we have to go out and prove it."

[+] EnlargeFisher
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesNew coach Derek Fisher says he "believes" in the Knicks.
Fisher was speaking publicly for the first time since Carmelo Anthony announced that he’d re-signed with the Knicks. New York doesn't have much financial flexibility to add talent this offseason. But the addition of Anthony alone should help the club return to the postseason.

Last season, the Knicks were riddled by injuries and hampered by chemistry and coaching issues. They limped to a 37-win season and missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

If the Knicks stay healthy, there are several reasons to be confident that they can make the playoffs in 2014-15:

Jose Calderon is expected to be a strong fit in Phil Jackson's triangle offense.

• Carmelo Anthony should be freed from carrying such a heavy load on offense.

J.R. Smith and his knee are expected to be healthy from Day 1 (last season, Smith was coming off of knee surgery and seemed to be hampered by its affects through the first two months of the season).

Iman Shumpert should be able to produce consistently in an offense that isn't so isolation heavy and reliant on a ball-dominant player to initiate things.

Tim Hardaway Jr. may thrive as a threat from the perimeter in the triangle offense and should be able to excel at attacking the rim in the open floor and as a cutter in the half-court offense.

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These, presumably, are some of the reasons that Fisher is optimistic about the coming season.

"My opinion is, based on our roster and who we’re going to become, we can compete for playing in the playoffs and playing for a championship in the Eastern Conference," Fisher said. "When that happens, putting dates on it, that’s not my job."

Fisher doesn’t subscribe to the doom-and-gloom theories for the Knicks espoused by some. This season's Knicks, this theory states, are all too similar to the team that won 37 games last season.

"A lot of people feel everybody around Carmelo needs to be different," Fisher said. "I don’t necessarily agree with the mindset. We have some very good basketball players on our team."

Of course, the Knicks’ success will still depend largely on Anthony. To that end, Fisher feels optimistic that the Knicks’ new offense will take some of the scoring burden off of Anthony’s shoulders.

Since 2012, Anthony’s first full season in New York, only Kevin Durant and LeBron James have accounted for more points on their respective teams. Anthony has scored a whopping 23 percent of the team’s points over that time span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I haven’t gotten to that point analyzing his individual game in terms of strengths and weaknesses," Fisher said of Anthony. "What I most thought about it [was] how much easier the game will be for him. We won’t just give him the ball and say, ‘Save the day.’ We’ll utilize guys around him to be successful, build trust, build chemistry, build a fun way to play for guys, and that will make our defense better.

"That’s what he wants. ... He wants to be in an environment where everybody is effective. He wants a balanced basketball team."

Fisher said he and Anthony weren’t particularly close during their playing days. But both men are assuredly on the same page when it comes to ending the Knicks’ 42-year title drought.

"He wants to win. He's a winner. He's won a championship at the college level. He's only missed the playoffs [once] in his career,” Fisher said of Anthony. “That's who we want to be. That's who I've always been, and that's not going to change now that I'm a coach -- eating, sleeping, dreaming about winning.

"At the end of the day, it's the best team that ultimately wins the championship. We hope to be there one day, but right now, we have to start at the beginning, and that's becoming a team."

A team that Fisher believes will be in the playoffs next spring.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
Fisher/JacksonAP Photo/Seth WenigCarmelo Anthony did his part. Now, it's on Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson to build a winner.
Carmelo Anthony spent hours talking with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. He listened to persuasive pitches from the Rockets and Mavericks. He contemplated what life in Hollywood would be like alongside best friend Kobe Bryant.

He might have even allowed himself to fantasize about teaming up with LeBron James somewhere.

But after a long -- and perhaps agonizing -- wait for the Knicks, Melo is staying in New York.

He chose Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and the New York Knicks.

No matter what his reasons were for staying –- at least $122 million in salary, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the intoxicating feeling of being The Man in New York and playing on the Garden stage, or the idea of leading the Knicks to a long-awaited championship under Jackson -- Melo turned down multiple opportunities to compete for a title right now.

Instead of going for the instant fix and joining a team like ready-to-contend Chicago, Melo opted to be patient. He followed a Zen Master virtue.

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So now that Melo has said yes to Phil’s plan, it’s all on Jackson and Fisher to deliver. Anthony listened to what Jackson and Fisher sold on their vision for turning around the Knicks. And he bought in.

Sure, Anthony still has to show he can play in the triangle and may have to make adjustments to his game much like Michael Jordan and Kobe once did for Jackson. But he could've taken his career 25.3 points per game elsewhere.

Now Jackson and Fisher have their first season together without the weight of win-now expectations. Melo signed on knowing the deal: The Knicks aren’t expected to be serious contenders this season. Anthony knows he’ll have to wait until next summer or maybe the trading deadline at the earliest before the Knicks can add some more serious firepower.

Who knows? Fisher could get the Knicks to the playoffs this season with a healthy and motivated core of Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and Jose Calderon –- assuming Jackson doesn’t pull any more rabbits out of his magic hat this summer. And Fisher and Anthony will have a season to learn one another in the triangle and build a formidable union.

Meanwhile, Jackson will spend this season learning the ropes of being an NBA executive, acclimating to the landscape of general managers and agents.

Jackson’s first few months on the job have seen some wins and losses. He lost out on Steve Kerr as coach and his Lamar Odom signing didn't last past July. But he got Anthony to stay (a major win), hired Fisher, traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton and drafted Cleanthony Early in the second round.

Melo’s return also puts some of the onus on Jim Dolan. Right now, Jackson and Dolan are still in the honeymoon phase of their working relationship -- another part of the risk Melo is taking by re-signing with the Knicks. There are no guarantees Jackson will be able to lure another star to New York next year, and you can never predict what Dolan will do.

Back in 2003, Jason Kidd spurned San Antonio and Tim Duncan to stay with the Nets. He hoped to continue building a title contender of his own in New Jersey. But not too long after the ink had dried on his max contract, the Nets were sold to new ownership, Kenyon Martin wasn’t re-signed the next summer and New Jersey never got back to the NBA Finals.

Dolan likely isn’t going to sell the Knicks, but he can be hands-on with basketball decisions. Dolan has said he will let Jackson handle all basketball moves, but will he keep his word?

By next summer, Melo must hope Jackson and Dolan will be on the same page, that Fisher will be every bit as good as Phil believes and that Jackson will be able to execute his vision as planned. The Bulls, Mavericks, Rockets and Lakers all spelled out their plans for the future to Melo. Anthony hopes the Knicks' plan will be the right one.

A year from now, Fisher and Jackson will not only be stronger and more experienced at what they do but they hopefully will have something to sell to another star player on how potent their potential can be alongside Melo.

And by next summer, Jackson, Fisher and Anthony will have a better idea of the Eastern Conference landscape. LeBron staying in the East and joining Cleveland’s stable of No. 1 overall picks makes Jackson’s task of winning a title daunting.

But as LeBron smartly stated in his essay in Sports Illustrated, the Cavs could have plenty of growing pains with a stable of talented former No. 1 overall picks that haven’t won anything yet. With LeBron out of Miami, the East is open again -- at least until James' team of the future matures and learns how to win, or if Kevin Love lands in Ohio.

It would have been easy for Anthony to counter LeBron’s move and say yes to Chicago. Anthony could’ve chosen to battle LeBron for years with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Thibs. Like a cup of noodles, all the Bulls needed was to add Melo to make an instant title contender. But there are no guarantees Rose’s body will hold up.

So Melo put his trust in Jackson and his ability to build him a stellar supporting cast.

Jackson might make Anthony better, too. Perhaps Jackson, with Fisher's assistance, can help Melo follow in MJ’s and Kobe’s footsteps as incredible individual scoring talents who bought into the Zen Master’s methods and preaching to win their championships.

If after a year or two Anthony doesn’t like what he sees, he can always demand a trade and still get the money he wanted and land with a contender.

But Melo is taking a chance, hoping to blaze his own trail and cement his legacy in the concrete jungle.

"In the end, I am a New York Knick at heart," Anthony said in a statement on his website announcing his return. "I am looking forward to continue my career in Orange & Blue and to work with Phil Jackson, a champion who builds championship teams."

He put his trust in the triangle tandem. Now Phil and Fish have to do their part.

Fisher on Melo: 'It's close to being real'

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
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Carmelo Anthony is planting the seeds to stay in New York. The only big question remaining is when his return to the Garden will become official.

Finally, after 11 days of waiting, first-time head coach Derek Fisher is on the verge of locking up a star to build around.

“At least in the last few hours, it’s gotten closer to sounding like Carmelo will be rejoining our team,” says a cautious Fisher. “And that’s great news.”

Though the contract is not yet finalized, Anthony will come back to New York on a five-year deal, as sources told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Saturday. But there is a catch: Melo will likely take a little less than the max of $129 million, though he will make “north of $122 million,” reports ESPN’s Chris Broussard.

Fisher was perfectly noncommittal talking to a group of reporters after the Knicks’ too-close-for-comfort 71-69 summer league victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. But after the game, the talk was still all about Melo, and Fisher knew that, even sneaking in “I know you’ll edit that out, anyway” after leading his postgame statement about the direction of his summer league squad, which moved to 2-0 after Saturday’s victory.

It seems like Melo Watch 2014 is in its waning moments. Still, Fisher isn’t celebrating just yet.

“It’s exciting to hear that it’s still possible and that at least it’s close to being real,” Fisher said. “But I’ve been around a long time, so until it’s done and it’s real, we can’t assume that it’s a definite thing.”

The Knicks’ coach says he hasn’t spoken to Anthony since Saturday’s reports about the two sides closing in on a deal surfaced. Now, he’s waiting to hear from the men up top.

“Phil [Jackson] and Steve [Mills] will know more than me in terms of the timing and if it’s going to happen really soon, but I’m definitely encouraged by what I’m hearing. It sounds a lot more positive.”

Jackson hasn’t spoken publicly since Thursday afternoon, but even then, he seemed optimistic the Knicks could strike an agreement with Melo sooner rather than later.

“The two of us, I think, feel really passionately about what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Jackson explained. “It’s his ability to stay, be patient, lead and watch us develop a winner.”

Both Fisher and Jackson have stayed relatively even keel throughout this process. Jackson called himself “flat, emotionally” and stressed, “It’s in other people’s hands. You can’t control that.”

Fisher, meanwhile, has hijacked the exact same lexicon.

“We can only focus on the things we can control,” Fisher philosophizes. “So, that’s what I’ve tried my best to do.”

Anthony averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists this past season in New York, his fourth year with the Knicks. A five-year contract would carry him until age 35.

Fisher remains optimistic about Melo return

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
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It’s been 10 days since the start of free agency, and still, Carmelo Anthony remains teamless. Now, after LeBron James has announced he will sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the market may start to move.

Chris Bosh is reportedly heading back to Miami, and Anthony now stands out as the biggest name on the free-agent market with teams who cleared space for James left with plenty of capital to make a move.

[+] EnlargeDerek Fisher
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerek Fisher presided over his first summer league game on Friday.
Phil Jackson, who spoke with reporters Thursday, said he hasn’t had much contact with Anthony outside of their one-on-one meeting, but remains optimistic the eight-time All-Star would return to New York.

Head coach Derek Fisher seems to be on the same page.

“I haven’t heard anything different than that,” explains Fisher after the Knicks started off Las Vegas Summer League with a 76-64 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. “We talked all this week about the fact that it’s not our decision.”

The NBA’s youngest coach stressed that point. The Knicks simply can’t force anything. All they can do is wait, even if Anthony is going to take his time.

“He’s an adult,” emphasizes Fisher. “He’s allowed to make decisions that he feels are best for him.”

The Knicks do have some advantages in the Melo sweepstakes. They can offer him a max contract of $129 million, more than any other team can put on the table.

Jackson clearly presents a valuable chip other teams can’t beat. Then there’s Fisher, the young, likable head coach who is still somewhat of an unknown, someone who is pushing hard for the star’s return, talking to Anthony “as much as I can, but not trying to overdo it.”

In some ways Fisher, who was a player as recently as just over a month ago, understands Anthony as we as any coach can. He just went through this process last offseason, though he was hardly as highly courted as Melo. Still, the free agency process and the player’s mentality is still fresh on his mind.

“Decisions as free agents are never as easy as they seem,” the first-time coach clarifies. “A lot of focus is on the contract size or the amount of money and the years, but often times, guys are thinking on a much larger level.”

Anthony’s family lives in New York. His wife has publicly stated her adoration for the city. Now, it’s part of the Knicks’ job to sell that side to him.

“It’s not just about basketball,” Fisher went on. “Guys have wives, families, kids. Moving is tough.”

On LeBron James heading to Cleveland: “I wasn’t necessarily surprised ... It looks like things are going to work out and I’m happy for him and his family if that’s what he truly wants.

On what James signing with Cleveland means for competition in the Eastern Conference:

“I’m not sure. You know, LeBron is still in the East so he still makes my job difficult in terms of playing him four times a year, but anytime guys of that level -- LeBron, Carmelo, those type of guys -- they shift the league. There will probably be some dominoes that will start to fall around the league now that he’s made his decision.”


Clyde hopeful:
On the MSG broadcast, Knicks legend and MSG analyst Clyde Frazier expressed optimism that Anthony would return to the Knicks.

“Well Melo, born in Brooklyn - will the prodigal son return to New York? Obviously everybody’s hoping that he will, so stay tuned,” Frazier said. “I feel positive that Melo is going to return, he likes the challenge."

MSG televises every Knicks summer league game.

Fisher wins in summer league debut

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
7:38
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Derek Fisher’s jitters should be over -- for now.

The newly minted New York Knicks coach has finally manned his first game on the sidelines, presiding over New York’s 76-64 win over the Dallas Mavericks to kick off Las Vegas Summer League.

“It was a great feeling,” Fisher said after the game. “There was definitely some emotion coming into the building today and this morning. I started to really think about what this meant.”

What it means is that one of Phil Jackson’s former locker room leaders will join a short list of players who have made the immediate jump to coaching, a trend which is becoming more popular in recent years.

As Jackson and Alan Houston watched from the stands behind the Knicks bench, Fisher roamed the sidelines in his Vegas-appropriate khaki shorts and grey polo, commanding the Knicks unsurprising triangle offense.

“The players made me look probably better than I am right now,” hypothesized the always modest Fisher. “But the same way that I asked them to work hard and continue the things they need to do to get better, that’s what I’ll do.”

Of course, Fisher isn’t in this alone. A first-time head coach can’t come in an immediately expect to make an impact. That’s why you see all these young coaches latching onto experienced assistants in their inaugural seasons.

Jason Kidd had Lawrence Frank last year with the Brooklyn Nets. Freshly minted Golden State coach Steve Kerr has brought in the experienced Alvin Gentry. Fisher, meanwhile, has Kurt Rambis, a long-time Jackson assistant who has been a head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Even with help on the bench, the first-time coach admits that summer league is a learning process for everyone.

“We’re cramming months-worth of information into these guys in four days and trying to get them out here ready to play,” says Fisher, who isn’t in a much different position than the players, himself. “It’s not an easy task.”

Knicks add Rambis as Fisher's No. 2

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
12:00
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Kurt Rambis has been added to Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s staff as an associate head coach, the team announced on Monday.

Kurt Rambis
Rambis
Rambis will be Fisher’s No. 2 on the bench and is the first addition to the rookie coach’s staff.

“Together, Derek and I have started assembling a coaching staff to lead this team on and off the court,” Knicks president Phil Jackson said in a statement. “The three of us are similar in our philosophies and our approach to the game.”

Rambis has had three previous stints as an assistant coach for the Lakers, spanning 12 seasons in total. He worked in Los Angeles under Jackson and was an assistant when Fisher played for the Lakers.

“Kurt is exactly the type of person we want in our organization to help develop our culture of success,” Fisher said. “His vast knowledge and experience as a championship player and coach are traits that we embrace adding to our staff.”

Rambis also was the Lakers' head coach in 1998-99, going 24-13 after Del Harris was fired. He has a strong knowledge of the triangle offense, which the Knicks are expected to implement.

An assistant coach for the Lakers last season, Rambis interviewed with general manager Mitch Kupchak for the team's head-coaching position late last month. That job remains vacant.

Rambis, 56, went 32-132 in two seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Rambis coached Kevin Love in Minnesota. Love and Rambis reportedly had some disagreements in Minnesota. It’s worth wondering if Rambis’ presence on the Knicks’ staff impacts their ability to land Love in free agency in the summer of 2015 -– if Love even makes it to free agency. There is speculation that Love will be traded from the Timberwolves to a team that he will re-sign with as a free agent. The Knicks are not in the mix to trade for Love.

Rambis also played for the Lakers for nine seasons (1981-88, 1993-95), winning four championships.

Rambis returns to New York 34 years after the team originally drafted him in the third round (58th overall) of the 1980 NBA Draft out of Santa Clara University, although he never appeared in a game for the Knicks. In 14 seasons, he played in 880 regular season games, averaging 5.2 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Lakers, original Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings. With the Lakers, Rambis was a member of four NBA Championship teams over a seven-year span (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).

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Amar'e Stoudemire’s goal for next season is simple.

He wants to get back to being a dominant player.

“My goal next year is to have an All-Star-caliber year to get back in the All-Star Game,” Stoudemire said recently on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike.” “And then be a great team player for my teammates in addition to contending for a championship.”

If Stoudemire does that, new coach Derek Fisher will be a very happy man. Fisher needs to maximize what he has on the Knicks’ roster knowing that team president Phil Jackson probably won't make significant upgrades until 2015. So that means the Knicks will need help from what they already have.

Stoudemire played in 65 games this past season, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. Mike Woodson had Stoudemire start the season cautiously on a minutes restriction to preserve his knees.

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Stoudemire came on strong toward the end of the season. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in March.

If Stoudemire can come close to those numbers and play 60 or more games again this coming season, that would be a nice bonus for Fisher’s squad. How the first-year coach will use and rest the power forward remains to be seen.

Stoudemire believes he will improve on last season because he can concentrate on improving his game this offseason as opposed to spending most of his time rehabbing.

The Knicks will need somebody to be an inside presence to go with Carmelo Anthony, provided Anthony returns, and Stoudemire believes he can be a force again.

“My focus is at a high level right now,” Stoudemire said. “My body feels great, and I’m out to prove the doubters wrong.”

Melo: 'I like what Phil's doing'

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
1:00
AM ET
New Knicks coach Derek Fisher got an endorsement from one of the most important members of the organization on Wednesday.

Carmelo Anthony, when asked what he thought about Fisher being hired as Knicks’ head coach, said, “I like what Phil is doing.”

Anthony spoke at an event in Manhattan to promote his partnership with 50 Cent and SMS Audio headphones.

Anthony politely declined to discuss his future or free agency but did say that his meeting with Fisher, Knicks president Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills in Los Angeles last week “went well.”

Anthony hasn’t technically declared himself a free agent yet. Phil Jackson has talked to him about opting in. But a league source said late last week that Anthony hadn’t changed his mind and that he still planned to opt out of his contract.

That’s why his endorsement of Fisher is significant.

Anthony will be considering many factors this summer in free agency. The coaches of the respective teams competing for his services will certainly factor in. If Anthony likes the idea of Fisher, that will help the Knicks in their recruitment of the seven-time All Star.

Melo, 50 and SMS: Anthony spent time with 50 Cent on Wednesday at a rooftop in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan to promote his partnership with SMS Audio headphones.

Anthony, 50 Cent and producer Timbaland all are part owners of the company, which is producing a line of sport headphones that can be worn during workouts.

“I respect his hustle, I respect his business mind. It was just a no-brainer,” Anthony said of his partnership with 50 Cent.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
A week ago, Derek Fisher was introduced as head coach of the New York Knicks.

And it didn’t take Fisher long to start installing the mentality he wants his team to have -- that the Knicks have enough to win already and can't hope for significant help to come soon.

Fisher seemed pretty realistic about the challenge that lies ahead of him. The new coach knows the team’s cap limitations likely mean the Knicks will have to win with what they've got and that there’s no significant help coming anytime soon. Fisher knows that New York likely will not be able to add another star until 2015.

So Fisher began selling the idea that the Knicks, who won just 37 games last season, must maximize what they have and not succumb to the prevailing thought that Carmelo Anthony needs more help in order for the Knicks to win.

“We’re not going to create magic by making someone Magic Johnson who isn’t Magic Johnson,” Fisher explained. “But at the same time, we have a guy, everyone has a franchise guy. ... Right now, as we speak, Carmelo Anthony is that guy for us. We have one, that guy.

“So the job is how do we not try to find a way to put him next to LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or other players equal to his talent,” Fisher continued. “But how do you make the most of what you have? That’s the message that I’ll send to these players, every single day. We have to bloom where we’re planted a lot of times in life. We can’t look for ways out, and excuses why you aren’t excelling and doing things at a higher level.”

Of course, Fisher knows he could lose Anthony in free agency next month, which certainly would make his rookie season as a head coach incredibly difficult. Fisher doesn’t have much of a choice, he has to believe he can win with much of the same core together.

Barring something unforeseen, the Knicks will have to improve from within, see what they might be able to land with the taxpayer's midlevel exception ($3.3 million) and hope that Lamar Odom has something left in the tank.

If Anthony remains, Fisher likely will have J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr. and possibly Raymond Felton, among others, supporting Melo. The Knicks certainly hope they can strike some deals to trade Felton and others. But any deal likely is going to be difficult.

Besides establishing a winning mentality, Fisher wants to find the right system to maximize his roster’s potential, one that will spread the wealth and not depend on one or two players.

“There are a lot of very, very talented players, not just average players,” Fisher said of the Knicks’ roster. “We obviously will have to work to keep some of those -- one guy [Anthony] we talked about in particular. But there’s a lot of talent, ability, versatility on this roster.

“So it’s our job to find a way to get the most out of the players we have,” Fisher continued. “There’ll be personnel decisions made going forward over the years that players will come, players will go, but at the end of the day we have to find a way to create a format, a system, a way of playing that makes it easy for players to play the game, to be more effective, to utilize the full talent of our roster, not lean so heavily on one or two guys. We believe we can do it.”

Phil Jackson obviously would like that system to be the triangle. Fisher believes in the triangle, but says he will do what he and his coaching staff think is best for the team.

“I’ve also played with other great coaches that don’t run the triangle,” Fisher said. “It’s not necessarily the only way to play basketball. But what we will do is do what we feel is best for our team. ... I believe with the roster we have we can utilize it to be more efficient, to be more effective, to give ourselves a better chance to play better defense by getting higher-percentage shots. So I believe in the [triangle] system.

“But ultimately we have to do what’s best for the players and the team to be successful,” Fisher added. “I love the triangle, but we’ll do what we feel like is best for the group.”

Fisher: Knicks can win 8-10 more games

June, 15, 2014
Jun 15
1:00
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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.

Fisher proved prescient, though, as the Jazz won 51 games in the 2006-07 season, 10 more than they had the year before.

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.

New York also has an option on the contracts for Jeremy Tyler and Lamar Odom. Backup center Cole Aldrich and reserve guard Shannon Brown are also free agents.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Was Phil's meeting with Melo his last stand?

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
4:40
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Phil Jackson and Carmelo AnthonyGetty ImagesPhil Jackson's meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Friday night might have been his final chance to persuade the All-Star not to opt out.
Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Steve Mills met with Carmelo Anthony in Los Angeles on Friday night in what may have been the Knicks' last chance to talk to Anthony before he declares himself a free agent.

Anthony has until June 23 to opt out of the final year of his contract and test free agency.

Jackson, according to a league source, is headed out of the country early next week to attend his son's wedding. So the Knicks president may not have another opportunity to meet face-to-face with Anthony before June 23.

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If you were Carmelo Anthony, would you trust Phil Jackson to build the Knicks into a contender?

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It is unclear at this point if any other meetings between Anthony and the Knicks are scheduled.

Jackson has said publicly that he'd like Anthony to consider opting in to the final year of his contract instead of testing free agency this summer.

A league source with knowledge of Anthony's thinking said on Thursday night -- prior to Anthony's meeting with the Knicks -- that Anthony hadn't changed his mind and still planned to opt out of his contract.

Anthony has said his top priority is to put himself in position to win an NBA title. He said shortly after the season that he wants to stay in New York, but he also wants an opportunity to win.

So it appears to be incumbent upon Jackson to prove to Anthony that he can build the Knicks into a contender.

The Knicks won just 37 games last season and Jackson is unlikely to have the opportunity to rebuild the roster this summer. The Knicks are projected to be over the salary cap so they won't have much to offer potential free agents. They also don't currently own a pick in the 2014 draft, though they are interested in acquiring one.

The Knicks are expected to have cap space to reshape the roster in 2015. But will Anthony be willing to wade through another season of potential mediocrity in New York until the Knicks have a chance to rebuild?

That's unclear at this point, though Anthony said after the season he wasn't interested in waiting around for the Knicks to rebuild themselves into a contender. So part of Jackson's sales pitch will be to convince Anthony the Knicks have a strong plan in place to build a perennial contender with the All-Star forward playing a central role.

The Bulls, Rockets and Mavericks are among the teams that will be coming after Anthony in free agency this summer, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

Anthony, it should be noted, can sign a maximum contract worth $129 million over five years with the Knicks. The maximum he can sign with another team is a $96 million deal over four years.

Question: If you're Carmelo Anthony, do you believe Phil Jackson can build the Knicks into a contender?

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Sources: Phil, Fisher to meet Melo in L.A.

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
5:05
PM ET
UPDATE 6/14: The meeting did occur on Friday night. Keep checking the blog for any further details, should they surface.

Derek Fisher, Carmelo Anthony & Phil JacksonAP PhotoWith Melo's opt-out looming, Knicks brass are headed to Hollywood to try to convince him to stay.
Knicks president Phil Jackson, coach Derek Fisher and GM Steve Mills are expected to meet with Carmelo Anthony and his representatives this weekend in Los Angeles -- possibly as early as Friday night -- to discuss Anthony’s pending free agency, league sources confirmed to ESPN.

Owner James Dolan is in Los Angeles to attend the Rangers-Kings Stanley Cup finals but is not expected to be involved in the meetings with Anthony.

“This is Phil's show,” one league source told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne.

Yahoo! Sports first reported the Knicks’ plan to meet with Anthony in Los Angeles.

The Knicks’ full-court press on Anthony is unlikely to change his mind about testing free agency this summer. A league source said late Thursday night that Anthony remains committed to opting out at this point.

Jackson has said in the past he’d prefer Anthony to opt in to his contract so the Knicks have a better idea of who they can attract in free agency in 2015 to pair alongside Anthony. Jackson has talked to Anthony about this approach to free agency on multiple occasions in recent weeks, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

"I told him it might be a good idea to hang in here and see what it's like for a year and go out the next year," Jackson said last month. "But that's his option, that's what he's earned, and that's what's part of his contractual agreement. He has the right to do that. But I just offered that as, 'Look, this gives you an opportunity to see how this is going to change, see how we're going to get going, your relationship to the team and the coach and the system or whatever, the system we impose."

Anthony has between now and June 23 to exercise his opt-out and test free agency. If the Knicks fail to convince him to opt in, their next hope would be to get Anthony to take a pay cut to give them more cap flexibility to chase free agents going forward.

Jackson has said publicly that he’d like to see Anthony take a pay cut, and Anthony himself brought it up as a possibility in February.

The Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are all teams Anthony would consider starting July 1, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein, provided Anthony remains steadfast in his decision to opt out between now and June 23. Miami Heat officials have also started to explore their options in trying to create enough financial flexibility to land Anthony in free agency, ESPN.com reported earlier this week.

Anthony would have to make a monetary sacrifice if he decides to leave New York. With the Knicks, Anthony can ink a maximum five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can earn is $95,897,372 over four years. Anthony likely would have to sign for significantly less to join the Heat.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2