Jeff Van Gundy: Knicks can make playoffs


Some preseason forecasts have the New York Knicks missing the playoffs for a second straight season.

Not Jeff Van Gundy's.

"Yes, I think they'll make the playoffs," the former Knicks coach and current ESPN NBA analyst said on a Wednesday conference call to preview the season.

Van Gundy had high praise for Jose Calderon and Carmelo Anthony, and also said he thinks Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith can have better seasons.

"I think Carmelo Anthony is going to find a way to have a great year," Van Gundy said. "I think their wing play is going to be improved. Last year, their wing play wasn't close to good enough."

Mark Jackson, Van Gundy's fellow ESPN analyst, also had positive comments on the Knicks. But Jackson wasn't as definite on where they'll finish.

"I think they'll be in the hunt to make the playoffs, with the other improved teams in the East," Jackson said. "The question will be their approach on the defensive end. I think the wild card will be Amar'e Stoudemire. Watching him in the preseason, it looks like he has a live body. He looks more like the old Amar'e."

The Knicks finished one game out of the final playoff spot last season, after making the playoffs each of the previous three seasons. They made the playoffs six times under Van Gundy.

Both Van Gundy and Jackson had praise for first-year Knicks coach Derek Fisher.

"There's no question he can be a quality coach in this league in time," Jackson said. "He's a young, talented basketball mind that's going to do very well."

"Pat Riley always said that you're looking for someone who is competent, sincere, trustworthy and reliable," Van Gundy said. "That's what the Knicks have in Derek Fisher."

But neither Van Gundy nor Jackson saw the triangle offense as the magic formula for improving the Knicks.

"Systems don't win games, players do," Van Gundy said. "Win or lose, it's going to come down to Carmelo, Shumpert, Smith and the rest of the guys."

Van Gundy and Jackson will be at Madison Square Garden next Wednesday, calling the action on ESPN when the Knicks open the season against the Chicago Bulls.

Both said they see the Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers meeting in the East finals, and both said the Western Conference still has a major edge on the East.

Not surprisingly, neither one sees the Knicks as a contender for a championship.

But at least Van Gundy sees them getting to the playoffs.