New York Knicks: New York Knicks

Burning Q's: Who has the most pressure?

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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Anthony/RobinGetty ImagesWithout a Robin by his side, can Carmelo Anthony make Phil and Fisher's dream come true?
With training camp a few weeks away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Who has the most pressure on him?

You could say it’s Phil Jackson, who is being paid a fortune to turn the Knicks around. Or you could say it’s Derek Fisher, who is coaching for the first time in his life and is also being paid millions to get the Knicks back to the playoffs.

Without a doubt, those two will have pressure on them. But the one Knick with the most pressure is Carmelo Anthony. And there are more than 124 million reasons why.

Anthony was the center of NBA free agency this past summer. The Knicks had to sweat it out before Anthony spurned the Bulls, Rockets, Lakers and Mavs to re-sign with the Knicks to the tune of $124 million.

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Which Knick has the most pressure on him?

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While he did take $5 million less than the max to give Jackson a helping hand with the cap situation in the future, Anthony will shoulder the maximum amount of pressure as long as he’s a Knick.

Jackson has to build the entire franchise around Anthony. And whatever pieces Jackson surrounds Anthony with, the franchise star will have to make it work.

Carmelo not only has to adapt to the triangle and perhaps make some sacrifices to his individual game, but he also has to find a way to make his teammates better.

He has the pressure of trying to follow in the footsteps of great individual scorers who had success with Phil such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Anthony has to make alterations to his game and sacrifice for the team -- a Jackson must. All the while, Anthony has to do this while helping Fisher transition into coaching.

Sure, the pressure on Anthony won't be as great this season as it will be in the future because the Knicks aren't going to contend this season. They can and should make the playoffs. But they aren't built to win the East right now. Not yet anyway.

But if Jackson is able to add another star or two very good complementary pieces, all the pressure will be on Anthony. He won’t have any excuses if Jackson can somehow find him the necessary reinforcements to contend with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the future.

And let’s say that Jackson isn’t able to get two stars to join Anthony. The pressure is still on Melo. After all, the Knicks signed him for $124 million. Instead of just trying to rebuild completely, the Knicks kept Anthony to keep the Garden packed and to stay in contention. He’ll have to shoulder the load and keep the Knicks relevant.

That’s just what comes with the territory of being a superstar making basically max money.

Let’s face it: Anthony could have left for Chicago for a greater chance at winning it all. He opted to stay in New York. He bought into Phil’s plan. He will make a lot of Jim Dolan’s money.

Melo is at a critical juncture in his career. At 30, Anthony has to show that he can be more than just a great scorer.

The pressure is on Anthony to prove he can win and be the player Phil wants him to be, not to mention the pressure of delivering for 124 million other reasons.

Question: Which Knick do you think has the most pressure on him?

More mature J.R. ready to bounce back

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
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NEW YORK –- J.R. Smith never quite felt like himself last season.

Coming off surgery to repair the patellar tendon and meniscus tears in his left knee, the shooter couldn't get comfortable nor did he have the kind of mobility he had in the past.

Frustration and losses mounted, and Smith admits he only made things more difficult on himself with his shoelace antics, which led to $50,000 in fines.

[+] EnlargeSmith
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJ.R. Smith gave his surgically repaired left knee a thumbs-up and says he's ready to rebound this season under new head coach Derek Fisher.
“I am not going to put it all on the injury," Smith said. "I did some stupid things that could have made it better. But it’s a learning experience.”

“Between that [not being healthy] and the combination of myself –- yeah, I didn’t help the situation with the incidences,” Smith added of the negative perception some might have of him from last season. "But at the same time it was still a learning experience. I will take that."

Smith, 29, knows this upcoming season is critical for him. The Knicks need their former Sixth Man of the Year to have a bounce-back season, and he is eager to prove himself under a new coach and new system.

After he got off to a slow start and saw his scoring average dip from 18.1 points per game in 2012-13 to 14.5 last season, Smith looks forward to starting this season with a bang.

Smith -- who appeared at Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners on Thursday with teammates Iman Shumpert, Shane Larkin, Cleanthony Early, Jason Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cole Aldrich for the Garden of Dreams foundation -- said he is back to being “fully healthy” again.

“I got my bounce back a little bit,” Smith said. “I should start off better than I did last year.”

Smith averaged just 11.7 points and 28.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in the month of November last year.

“It was disappointing,” Smith said. “Because I felt I would come back better than I did after surgery, have more of an impact on a positive note. It just feels really frustrating. When you have surgery, there’s certain things that you can’t do. My pivoting, stuff like that. Certain things I knew I am capable of doing but just couldn’t do at that point in time. That was frustrating.”

That frustration grew as he also got into trouble with the league after untying opponents' shoelaces in consecutive games, leading to the hefty fines.

But Smith was able to finish the season looking more like the former Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 23.4 points and 46.3 percent shooting from 3 in his last seven games in April.

Still, he said he wasn’t able to do all the things he can do when healthy. Now he is looking forward to being able to do those things in the triangle offense with new head coach Derek Fisher. And he’s hoping the triangle will have similar results for him as it did for two other prolific shooting guards who played for Phil Jackson.

“It suits me well,” Smith said. “If you’re a jump shooter and you pass the ball, guys with my skill set, it should be great. The last two guys that were in it became Hall of Famers and got a lot of rings. Hopefully, I’m in that position.”

While Smith has a very long way to go to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, the Knicks guard is ready to start by having a bounce-back season.

“Absolutely,” Smith said of being able to rebound from last season. “I feel like I am capable of doing that.”

As for whether he will do that as a starter or off the bench, Smith said Fisher has yet to tell him what his role will be.

“Find out in training camp,” Smith said. “Of course [I want to start], but whatever they need me to do.”

Burning Q's: Can NYK win title with Melo?

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Can the Knicks win a title with Carmelo Anthony?

The Knicks won in free agency this summer by managing to re-sign Anthony despite suitors like the Bulls, Lakers, Rockets and Mavericks all coming after him.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter and Carmelo Anthony
Michael Stewart/WireImage/Getty ImagesDerek Jeter has five rings. Can Carmelo Anthony win one?
So now that the Knicks have locked him up to a $124 million deal spanning five years, can their franchise player repay them with a championship?

The answer will define Anthony’s legacy. Will he be one of the league’s great scorers who couldn’t lead his team to a title? Or will Phil Jackson take his latest project and turn another elite scorer into a winner?

If Jackson is going to get similar results from Anthony as he did from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, the Zen Master will have to provide him with a better supporting cast. While the Knicks have enough talent to make the playoffs this coming season, they don't have a championship-level roster.

Jackson’s task is to take the cap space the Knicks will have next summer and turn that into another star player or multiple reinforcements. Actually, Anthony will need more than one star to team up with, considering he likely will have to face LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for years to come.

If Jackson can add the talent needed, and his pupil Derek Fisher becomes the coach Jackson believes he can be, Anthony won’t have many excuses not to succeed. This is a pivotal time in his career.

By re-signing with the Knicks, Anthony showed his belief in Jackson’s plan, and that trust that the Knicks president will be able to surround him with the cast he needs. In return, Anthony will have to adapt to the triangle offense and show he can be the team player Jackson wants him to be -- that he can make his teammates better, that he can lead and inspire his teammates, and that he will buy into whatever Jackson and Fisher want in order to win a championship.

But unfortunately for Anthony, it won’t be as simple as adapting to what Jackson wants and buying in. He needs the right talent around him in order to overcome James and the rest of the Cavaliers.

That is why I don’t think Anthony will be able to lead the Knicks to a title. Unless Jackson somehow secures two more studs to join Anthony in the near future, it will be very difficult to beat James and the Cavs. Young players like Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson will learn how to win from James in the next two or three seasons.

The task of beating Cleveland will only get more difficult in the coming years, barring something unforeseen. So Anthony will need his own pair of stars around him to combat James, Love and Irving. All the while, the rest of the East will get tougher as teams try to catch up to the Cavaliers.

A lot of things will have to go right for the Knicks in the coming years, things that are out of Anthony's control. I think he can grow and will eventually evolve into a player who can win a title with the right cast around him. I’m just not sure that will happen in New York with James and his new posse in Cleveland.

Question: Do you think Anthony can lead the Knicks to a title?

Burning Q's: Will defense be an issue?

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Will the Knicks' defense be an issue again?

I think the Knicks’ defense will have its challenges again this season. I also believe that Derek Fisher will get the Knicks to play better D by installing a better scheme.

[+] EnlargeDerek Fisher
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill Derek Fisher be able to fix the Knicks' D?
Last season, the Knicks were often confused on defense and all the switching did not go smoothly. They also looked completely unmotivated at times on that end of the floor.

While Fisher may have some growing pains in his first season as a head coach, he should be able to get the Knicks to be more motivated on defense.

However, the personnel’s strong suit isn’t on the defensive end. And Phil Jackson’s biggest trade thus far involved sending the team’s defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, to Dallas. The Knicks got a defending big back in Samuel Dalembert but the key piece in that deal, Jose Calderon, isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess.

Let’s start at point guard with Calderon. He clearly will help the team with his outside and locker room presence. He averages just under one steal a game for his career and the 6-3 point guard, like his predecessor Raymond Felton, will have difficulty keeping speedy and athletic point guards in front of him. The same thing goes for Pablo Prigioni. Shane Larkin, the other point guard that came in the Chandler trade, will have to prove himself in order to get minutes. Even then, he’s 5-11 so his size hurts defensively.

The Knicks need Iman Shumpert to be their best overall defender. Jackson had success with an athletic swingman creating offense off of steals much in the way Scottie Pippen did for the Bulls. Shumpert is no Pippen, but he will have to be a sparkplug defensively for this team.

J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony are not great defenders and will have to step up when their opponents have the ball. Anthony can help on the boards with Chandler gone. Tim Hardaway Jr. showed great promise last season but defensively he has much to improve on.

Jackson added forwards like Cleanthony Early, Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy. But none are exceptional defenders. Acy should add some toughness.

The Knicks do have some capable shot blockers in Amar'e Stoudemire, Dalembert and Jason Smith. Even Andrea Bargnani can block shots, averaging 1.2 blocks in 42 games last season. But can all those bigs stay healthy? None are intimidating on the back end, especially with Stoudemire's knees keeping him from playing the way he did when he was younger.

The Knicks will have to find a way to replace Chandler’s defensive presence and IQ inside. Chandler blocked 1.1 shots a game last season but often affected other shots with his length and he was a good help defender. Somebody will have to hold the last line of defense, communicate and make sure everybody is on the same page. Kenyon Martin could help in that department a bit but he's a free agent and he also was limited by injuries last season.

Defense was an issue last year. Even with a new coach and some new blood on the team, it looks like it will be an issue for this team again.

Question: Do you think the Knicks' defense will be an issue this season?

Burning Q's: Do Knicks have enough size?

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete?

When Phil Jackson traded Tyson Chandler earlier this summer, the Zen Master was lauded for not only being able to ship Chandler and Raymond Felton out of town but also for bringing in Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two second-round picks, which helped land Cleanthony Early.

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Do the Knicks have enough size to compete?

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While Chandler was looking for a fresh start elsewhere, the Knicks parted with their best rebounder and interior defender. When healthy, he provided the Knicks with an active big man who was the last line of defense.

Now, the Knicks start the Derek Fisher era with uncertainty inside the paint. Yes, Carmelo Anthony can be a force on the boards. But does he have enough help inside?

Let’s start with Dalembert, who could be the starter. When given steady minutes, he can rebound and certainly can block shots. The 6-foot-11 center has career averages of 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game over his 12-year career.

Dalembert is probably at his most effective within a 20- to 25-minute range. Over the past six years, he has averaged no more than 25.9 minutes per game during a season. Last season, Dalembert played 20.2 minutes a game and averaged 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for the Mavericks.

At 33, Dalembert should be able to provide the Knicks with rebounding and blocked shots but not heavy minutes.

The wild card for the Knicks could be 7-footer Jason Smith. He provides the Knicks with a center capable of burying the midrange jumper, rebounding and blocking shots. Smith, 28, averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in 31 games last season before missing time with a knee injury.

Smith has had trouble staying healthy, playing more than 50 games in a season only once in the past three years. But he could be a good fit in the triangle if he avoids injury.

Speaking of health, the Knicks would benefit if Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani can stay on the court. Stoudemire showed flashes last season of the old Amar'e, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.6 minutes a game. It remains to be seen how he will fit in the triangle, but his ability to hit shots from the outside helps. Fisher shouldn’t use Stoudemire for a ton of minutes, obviously, due to his knees. But Stoudemire has said he feels better, and he is entering a contract year.

Bargnani, the 7-foot offensive-minded big man, might like playing in the triangle with his ability to shoot from the outside. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 42 games, missing time with an elbow injury. Bargnani is also entering a contract year, so he should be motivated. Being reunited with Calderon also should help.

The Knicks acquired the 6-9 Travis Outlaw and 6-7 Quincy Acy, and backup center Cole Aldrich adds depth. Early is thin, but at 6-8 he adds some length.

In the East, Cleveland boasts Kevin Love, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Chicago now has Pau Gasol to go with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

The Raptors still have a rising Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. The Wizards re-signed Marcin Gortat and added Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair to go with Nene. The Heat still have Chris Bosh, and the Hornets still have Al Jefferson.

The Knicks may not have the offensive firepower inside like some of these other East playoff contenders. They don’t have one athletic big man who can log 30-plus minutes and be a surefire double-double guy. They will likely have to rely on Melo to be that force on the boards.

Fisher will have to go with size by committee. Where I see the biggest concern inside is defensively for the Knicks. There are some shot-blockers, but can they defend in the post? Will they be able to win the battle on the defensive boards?

Much of the answer rests with their health. If their bigs can remain active, the Knicks should have just enough size to be in contention for a playoff spot in the East.

Question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete and be a playoff team?

J.R.: On way to be among top shooters ever

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
2:44
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SmithNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJ.R. Smith gave himself the thumbs-up via social media on Tuesday.
J.R. Smith has a message for his doubters.

On his Instagram account, the Knicks shooter wrote about perceptions he believes he has overcome and how he's "on pace to be one of the best shooters the game had ever seen!"

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"They said I wouldn't make it!" Smith writes. "I did! They said I wouldn't stay! This is my 11th yr! They said you can't shoot like that in the league! I'm on pace to be one of the best shooters the game had ever seen! Bottom line what yall say don't me sh@$ What I do says everything! #Gone"

During his 10-year career, Smith has shot 42.5 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from 3. His career scoring average is 13.4 points per game.

No one doubts Smith's ability to shoot, but Knicks fans will certainly settle for a bounce-back season from Smith first. He averaged 14.5 points per game last season after a slow start following offseason surgery. The season before, he averaged 18.1 points per game.

What do you guys think? Is J.R. right about being on pace to be one of the best shooters the NBA has ever seen?

Knicks preseason schedule set

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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The Knicks announced their preseason schedule with three games to be played at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks will face the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors twice each with their three other preseason games coming against Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Washington. The three home games at the Garden will be against the Raptors, Bucks and Wizards.

The Knicks will visit Connecticut twice to play the Celtics at Hartford and Mohegan Sun. They also will make a trip to Syracuse to play the Sixers and travel to Montreal for a game against the Raptors. Here's the preseason schedule:

Oct. 8: at Boston Celtics (XL Center, Hartford, CT 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 11: at Boston Celtics (Mohegan Sun Arena, Mohegan, CT 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 13: vs. Toronto Raptors (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 14: at Philadelphia 76ers (Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY 7:00 p.m.)

Oct. 20: vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 22: vs. Washington Wizards (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 24: at Toronto Raptors (Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec 7:30 p.m.)

MJ tabs Phil for Ice Bucket Challenge

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
3:30
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Michael Jordan has delivered a challenge to Phil Jackson.

Jordan has taken the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and as part of the challenge, he has named his former Bulls coach and current Knicks team president as one of the people he’s passing the challenge on to.



“I’m answering my Ice Bucket Challenge [from] David Beckham, Ray Allen and Derek Jeter,” Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, says in his video.

“I challenge Phil Jackson and my Dream Team teammates -- cash and ice bucket -- for ALS.”

The Zen Master is on the clock.

With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: Where will the Knicks finish in the East?

I think the they will make the playoffs. But it will not be easy. The Knicks have a first-time head coach in Derek Fisher. They will be learning a new system with Phil Jackson and Fisher installing the triangle. And we’ll have to see if they have enough bigs inside.

But let’s look at the rest of the East.

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Will the Knicks finish 6th in the East next season?

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No. 1: With Kevin Love expected to join LeBron James in Cleveland, the Cavs look likely to be the top seed in the East. With that being said, the Cavs may have some growing pains, as young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters still have to learn how to win. But LeBron and Love make that learning curve a bit easier.

No. 2: With the addition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls are my pick to finish No. 2 in the East. Derrick Rose still has to prove that he can stay healthy. If Rose returns to his old form, the Bulls will be challenging the Cavs for that top seed and the Central Division crown.

No. 3: Washington is my pick to win the Southeast Division. As somebody who grew up in the D.C. area, I have seen the Bullets/Wizards fail to meet high expectations in the past. The Southeast will be an improved league despite LeBron’s departure as Charlotte and Atlanta are expected to keep progressing. But I think Washington has the potential to finish with the third-best record.

No. 4: Toronto is the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. A young core is back, and the Raptors should learn from last year’s painful Game 7 loss to the Nets in the first round. Will Kyle Lowry be as motivated as he was last season now that he has his new contract? Dwane Casey should keep the Raptors in the top four in the East.

No. 5: The Charlotte Hornets have a good chance to finish fifth. Steve Clifford is an excellent coach and the Hornets acquired Lance Stephenson in free agency. Al Jefferson should only get better.

No. 6: This is where the Knicks, Nets, Heat and Hawks come in. Atlanta made the playoffs last year and should be right there again. But I think the Knicks will be the sixth seed in the East despite what could be a slow start as they get acclimated to the triangle offense.

They have some questions at center, and I’d like to see Samuel Dalembert stay healthy the entire season. Also, defensively, can Jose Calderon hold his own at point guard? J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert need to bounce back this season, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani have to stay healthy.

That said, expect Carmelo Anthony to get comfortable enough with the triangle to lead the Knicks to the playoffs and for Fisher to have the team more motivated than it was last season.

No. 7: Brooklyn can be higher than the seventh seed, but it might take a quarter, maybe half, of the season for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to return to form. So I think the Nets will finish seventh.

No. 8: Even without Paul George, the Pacers will be in the mix for a playoff spot as well. But the Heat will make the playoffs with all their experience despite James’ departure.

Obviously, we're making all these predictions in the middle of August. Much can change in the next few months. But the Knicks appear to be headed to the sixth seed in the East.

Let me know what you guys think below.

Positional analysis: Coaching

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
8:00
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Derek FisherAP Photo/Seth WenigFirst-year coach Derek Fisher will have many questions to answer in New York.
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 the coaching.

COACHING:

New additions: Head coach Derek Fisher, associate head coach Kurt Rambis.

Gone: Mike Woodson.

Strengths: Fisher has championship experience as a player, earning five rings over the course of his career. As evidenced by his introductory press conference, Fisher is a very good communicator who was a solid leader as a player. He's tough and comes with intimate knowledge of personnel around the league having just played last season. Phil Jackson is banking on these skills to transfer over to the bench.

Potential concerns: Fisher has never coached before in his basketball life. He hasn’t had to draw up a play in crunch time with the game on the line, or try to match wits with another head coach, manage a rotation, make the right subs at the right time or delicately handle egos. The Knicks' health is always a concern, so Fisher will have to potentially manage Amar'e Stoudemire’s minutes. And he will be doing all of this under the New York microscope.

Biggest challenge: Besides learning how to coach on the fly, Fisher will also have the tough task of installing the triangle and teaching it to several players like Carmelo Anthony for the first time. It’s one thing if Jackson was teaching the triangle. But the Knicks will have a first-time coach installing the complicated system.

What they’re saying: “He’s a leader and a teacher,” GM Steve Mills said on MSG Network during summer league at Las Vegas. “He and our coaching staff -- Kurt Rambis -- they really spent a lot of time teaching. ... I’ve watched Derek communicate with the guys and get them focused on the offense and defensive concept. ... I think he is going to do a great job.”

Outlook: Unlike Jason Kidd did with the Nets, Fisher enters his first year coaching without enormous win-now expectations. The Knicks want to make the playoffs but their eye is on next summer, when they can surround Melo with serious help. Fisher has a year to learn the job and hone his coaching skills. He inherits the core of a roster that was an absolute mess last season on the court. How will Fisher handle his rotation? Will he start J.R. Smith or bring him off the bench as the sixth man? Who will Fisher start at center? Can he fit these current Knicks pieces into the triangle? What kind of coach will Fisher be? A players’ coach? A tough-minded, no-nonsense coach? A combination of both? How long will it take for him to find his voice and comfort zone? There are many questions to be answered.

Like Kidd experienced last season, Fisher will have his growing pains. It just remains to be seen how rocky those growing pains will be. Kidd got more comfortable and eventually turned the Nets around. There’s no reason to expect Fisher can’t transition from playing to coaching like Kidd. He has to maintain the respect of his players through any tough times and should be able to do so. And Fisher has the benefit of leaning on Jackson whenever he needs to as well.

Position analysis: Shooting guard

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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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?

Mavs to Melo: You can win here

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
2:01
AM ET


Carmelo Anthony's free-agency tour hit Texas on Wednesday and left Jeremy Lin in its wake.

Anthony met with Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Dwight Howard, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki in separate meetings with the teams.

In trying to court Carmelo, the Rockets dissed Lin when they showed images of Anthony in a No. 7 jersey. Anthony wears No. 7 for the Knicks. Lin wears No. 7 for the Rockets.

Awkward.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey explained the rationale behind the display.

After a meeting at the Toyota Center and lunch in Houston, Anthony headed to Dallas to meet with Cuban, Nowitzki and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, among others, at Cuban’s home, sources told ESPN.com.

Here’s what the Mavs sold Melo on:

There was no pomp and circumstances from the Mavericks. Dallas' meat-and-potatoes pitch emphasized the opportunity to contend immediately with an elite coach in Carlisle, a selfless star in Nowitzki and a quality supporting cast featuring high-scoring guard Monta Ellis and defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks also focused on the creativity and proven track record of the front office, stressing their plan to sustain a contender throughout Anthony's prime and ability to add at least one more major piece next summer.

Dallas has enough cap space to offer Anthony a maximum contract valued at $96 million over four years. But Cuban has said that he won’t offer Anthony -- or any other free agent -- max money this summer.

The Knicks can offer Anthony the most money of any of the suitors -- $129 million over five years -- though it is unclear if Knicks president Phil Jackson will offer Anthony a max contract.

Both the Rockets and Bulls would have to alter their rosters significantly to create enough cap space to offer Anthony a competitive contract. The more likely path for either to acquire Anthony is via a sign-and-trade. But it’s unclear if the Knicks will cooperate in such a transaction, which would make it easier for Anthony to leave New York.

One key player in Chicago’s pursuit of Anthony is Carlos Boozer. The Bulls would need to exercise their amnesty rights on Boozer and his $16.8 million salary or move it in a sign-and-trade. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that the Knicks would not be interested in taking back Boozer in a sign-and-trade. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on Wednesday night that the Bulls informed Boozer that he will be amnestied or involved in a sign-and-trade.

Anthony will head to Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers on Thursday. The Knicks expect to get the final meeting with Anthony, sources told ESPN New York. It is unclear if a date or time has been set for the meeting yet.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Melo begins planning while Phil deals

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
7:59
PM ET


We’re still days away from July 1, and things are heating up with the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony.

Phil Jackson struck a big deal Wednesday to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas in exchange for point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, point guard prospect Shane Larkin, reserve shooter Wayne Ellington and the 34th and 51st picks in Thursday's draft, as reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein.

I’ll get to that trade in a bit. First, let’s look at Chris Broussard's report that Carmelo will meet with the Rockets, Mavericks and Bulls once July 1 hits and free agency begins.

According to Broussard, Anthony will grant those three teams the chance to make their pitch to him, but there is no true favorite at the moment in Melo's mind. Other teams will probably get the same opportunity to talk to Melo, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, the home of Melo’s close friend Kobe Bryant. Bryant told ESPN.com in a text message that he plans to meet with Anthony eventually.

As for Miami, sources told Broussard that there has been no talk from Anthony’s camp about going to the Heat. Of course, there’s plenty of time for that to change, and the Big Three were reportedly meeting on Wednesday to discuss their futures, so things are very much developing.

But let's get back to Melo. As a free agent, Melo has earned the right to talk to any team he wants. Houston will try to entice Melo with the notion of playing alongside a big man such as Dwight Howard and possibly a scorer such as James Harden, to take some of the burden and minutes off Melo’s shoulders. Houston can also pitch no state income tax as well.

But Broussard also reported that if Houston can clear cap space to sign LeBron James, the Rockets might try to attempt a sign-and-trade with the Knicks to acquire Anthony, which would likely include Harden going to New York.

If you’re going to lose Melo, Harden certainly wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize to receive in return. Despite what you might think of his defense, Harden can fill it up offensively, averaging 25 points, about six assists and nearly five rebounds the past two seasons for Houston, and he’s only 24 years old. Phil has to start collecting assets, and Harden is an asset.

As for Dallas, the Mavs just got two of Melo’s former teammates. So Chandler and Felton could try to persuade Melo to join them. Mark Cuban is an owner who is willing to spend money and has won it all before. And Dirk Nowitzki can also try to convince Melo to share the load with him.

And then there’s Chicago, considered by some to be the front-runner for Anthony. Tom Thibodeau is as good a coach as there is in the league. And Chicago can sell a talented big man in Joakim Noah. Derrick Rose will be attempting another comeback from a season-ending injury, but we know what he can do when healthy. And there’s young talent in Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, if the Bulls can hold on to them and still create space to pay Melo.

Lastly, there’s the Knicks. I’m not discounting a return to New York at all. The Knicks can pay Melo more than anybody, and $129.1 million over five seasons is quite an argument for staying. But Phil is also the draw. Wednesday’s trade shows he’s not sitting still. The Zen Master is orchestrating something, and we will have to wait and see what exactly that is.

Calderon might be a slight upgrade over Felton and a better shooter, but he comes with a price tag of $7 million and slightly more for the next three seasons. Maybe Calderon will be traded again later. Who knows. If he stays, he can shoot, distribute the ball and likely is a better fit than Felton in the triangle.

Larkin, drafted 18th overall in 2013, could develop into a young asset if the Knicks keep him. They could also trade him. Dalembert could provide rebounding and blocks, if the Knicks keep him. Ellington can shoot. And the two second-round picks are two more assets the Knicks didn’t have at the beginning of the day. The 34th pick could yield a contributor in a draft considered to be deep.

Something tells us Phil is not done, not by a long shot. So just as Carmelo begins to map out his free-agency tour, Phil has put his master plan into motion.

Melo’s decision will not be an easy one. And by the time Phil and Melo sit down and talk again in July, the Knicks could have a more solid plan to sell Anthony to combat the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs and other suitors.

July 1 isn't here yet, but the "Summer of Melo" is off and running.
Carmelo and LeBronMarc Serota/Getty ImagesFor now at least, Knicks fans can dream of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony suiting up in orange and blue.
It’s no surprise that teams have begun the process of exploring ways to sign both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony next month.

Until LeBron and Melo sign their contracts, however, Knicks fans can dream about the idea of Phil Jackson uniting the two in Knicks uniforms. But unless Phil’s rings can also produce some miracles, an LBJ-Melo union in New York will likely remain a fantasy because of the Knicks’ cap situation.

But what if nobody else can add those two together? According to Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein, more than 15 teams are projected to have significant salary-cap space this summer. Several teams will aim for James. Only one team will win. That means there will be several other teams that lost in the LeBron sweepstakes and that could immediately turn their attention to Melo.

Let’s take a look at some of the teams that will be major players in free agency and what it means for Melo with LeBron now a free agent:

MIAMI HEAT: We have to wait and see what Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will do with their contract options. Pat Riley says it’s a "pipe dream" to think that the Heat can add Anthony while keeping the Big Three. But James opted out to maximize his options. He will certainly be in touch with Melo in the coming days if he hasn’t been already. Anthony can sign a five-year, $129.1 million deal with the Knicks compared to maybe something in the range of $55-60 million over four years from the Heat if Wade, Bosh and Udonis Haslem opt out of their deals. Anthony can receive up to a max of $95.9 million over four years from other teams outside of New York. Still, you can bet that if there is a scenario in which the Heat can team up Anthony with James, they are doing everything they can to execute that. If Miami is the front-runner for James, that means the Heat have to be considered a potential landing spot for Melo no matter how unlikely it may seem. Playing with James, potentially Wade and Bosh and not having to pay state income taxes is attractive but is it enough to give up tens of millions?

CHICAGO BULLS: Many consider the Bulls the team to watch in the Melo sweepstakes. But with James now free, Chicago should try to see if it can lure James to the Windy City. As Zach Lowe points out, the Bulls could free up about $13 million in cap space by using the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer. With two first-round picks in Thursday’s draft, the Bulls could free up more money depending on what they do with those picks and possibly trading Mike Dunleavy. But if James doesn’t go to Chicago, the Bulls will try to convince Melo that playing for Tom Thibodeau and teaming up with Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and possibly Taj Gibson will be enough to contend for a title right away in the East and for years to come. There's enough reason to worry here if you are a Knicks fan.

HOUSTON ROCKETS: The Rockets can free up some cap space by unloading Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. If that happens, the Rockets should have enough to make an offer to James or Anthony. With Dwight Howard, James Harden and if the Rockets can keep restricted free agent Chandler Parsons, Houston offers a talented supporting cast. If Houston can’t lure James, the Rockets should turn their attention to Melo. Houston certainly looks much more attractive than the Knicks when it comes to winning now and for the foreseeable future. There’s also no state income tax in Texas.

L.A. LAKERS: According to Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers have been exploring ways to sign both James and Anthony. They’ve also been looking to see if they can package Steve Nash’s $9.7 million expiring contract with the seventh overall pick in the draft to clear enough cap space to offer James and Anthony at least $16 million each. Kobe Bryant and Anthony are very tight friends. It remains to be seen whether the Lakers can retool the rest of their roster to create an appetizing surrounding cast. But like the Heat, the Lakers can never be underestimated when it comes to luring free agents. Even if the Lakers don’t land James, they probably will do what they can to convince Melo to join Kobe.

L.A. CLIPPERS: Like the Rockets, the Clippers have to make moves to create cap space to make an offer for LeBron. The Clippers have a roster built to win a title now, an elite point guard in Chris Paul and a highly-respected coach in Doc Rivers. The Clippers are exploring ways to get James. While they are at it, they might as well see what it might take to get Melo in case James signs elsewhere. They might not want to part with DeAndre Jordan but the Knicks could find a young big man like that and some other pieces appetizing enough to do a sign-and-trade if Melo wants to leave for the Clippers. You'd have to figure the Clips would want to hang onto Blake Griffin.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: The Cavs have two former No. 1 overall picks including Kyrie Irving and are slated to pick first overall again on Thursday. According to Windhorst and Stein, the Cavs have “numerous non-guaranteed contracts on their books and extra draft picks they could attach to players in trades to free up money. There are scenarios where the team believes it could clear in excess of $30 million in cap space without having to trade [Irving].” Like all these other teams, if you are going to see if you can get James, why not see if Melo would come if James doesn’t want to return home? In New York, Anthony doesn’t have a young talent like Irving to play alongside.

DALLAS MAVERICKS: Dirk Nowitzki calls it a long shot that the Mavs can land Anthony. But ESPNDallas.com reports that the Mavericks, who have plenty of cap space, expect to be granted a meeting with Anthony when free agency begins. Nowitzki will also be a free agent on July 1. Mark Cuban is an owner who has won a title and is willing to spend. And, again, no state income tax in Texas.

ATLANTA HAWKS: According to Stein and Shelburne, the Hawks will have to clear “approximately $10 million to $12 million in salary-cap space to pursue Anthony, but sources indicate that is one of the many options Atlanta is considering, making it a sleeper team to watch.” We’d consider this one a long shot but who knows what James and Melo might concoct.

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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