New York Knicks: Phil Jackson
"He's a great-looking kid," Jackson said, according to Cleveland.com. "Great prospect."
On Friday, Jackson attended practice at the University of Kentucky, according to reports. Jackson was likely in Lexington to keep an eye on projected top pick Karl-Anthony Towns.
It makes sense for Jackson to scout some of the top college talent in person rather than worry about the 2014-15 Knicks.
At 10-46, New York has the worst record in the NBA and is on track to get a top pick in the draft. The team that finishes with the worst record has a 25 percent chance to land the top pick in the draft lottery and also is guaranteed a top-four pick.
Jahlil Okafor, Towns and Emmanuel Mudiay, a guard who chose to play overseas this season instead of playing his freshman year and Southern Methodist University.
Jackson saw Okafor in person last month when he attended the St. John's-Duke game at Madison Square Garden.
He said earlier this month that he believes he can draft a player who can help the Knicks immediately. For a team building around 30-year-old Carmelo Anthony, this is key.
"A lot of the players in this day and age are one-and-done, 19-year-old players. There are some players that have a couple more years. And it’s difficult for these players to come in and become pros," Jackson said.
The challenge for the Knicks president -- and the rest of the organization -- is to find a player who can help lead the franchise to an elite level in the near future. Or to find the right trading partner for the player they choose.
Jackson will use his draft pick and $27 million-plus in cap space this summer to rebuild the team.
Will Phil get fined? The NBA may not be thrilled with Jackson for commenting on Russell, a player who hasn't declared for the draft. That's a fineable offense.
But Knicks fans should be encouraged to see their president watching some of the top college prospects in person. For $60 million -- which is Jackson's reported salary -- they should expect no less, actually.
Lottery odds: Something worth noting when talking about teams and the NBA lottery: The club that finishes with the top record has a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick, as noted above. The team with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick; the third-worst team has a 15.6 percent chance.
Since the lottery moved to its present format in 1994, the team with (or tied for) the best odds has won three of the 20 lotteries. (Philadelphia took Allen Iverson in 1996; Cleveland selected LeBron James in 2003; Orlando picked Dwight Howard in 2004.) So finishing with the worst record certainly doesn't guarantee you a No. 1 pick.
The team with the second-best odds has won the lottery twice since 1994, and the teams with the third- and fifth-best odds have won it four times each.
Jackson thinks Andrea Bargnani can help offset some of the 24.2 points per game lost with Anthony. At the very least, Bargnani should be able to replace Amar’e Stoudemire’s 12 points per game -- provided he can remain on the court.
Of course, Bargnani has been a 7-foot walking injury as a Knick.
“Now that we have a gap in scoring, this is a guy that is a natural scorer,” Jackson said last week when asked before the trading deadline what could happen with Bargnani if he isn't dealt. “I think the coaching staff would like to have him on the court and be competitive with his scoring capabilities.
The problem with Bargnani is he simply can't stay healthy. He has played in just six games this season and a total of 48 games in two seasons with the Knicks. Over the previous three seasons, Bargnani averaged 36 games played.
Considering this is the final season of his contract, Bargnani has something to prove in the final months of the regular season. And he could be the go-to option offensively for the remainder of this lost season if he can take advantage of this opportunity.
“I think Andrea’s best basketball is ahead of him,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “But the opportunity now presents itself that he can really step into a role that maybe he would not have had if we were healthy (earlier this season), and show some things for himself.
“He’s a free agent going into the summer, and whether it’s our team or 29 other teams, there’s a lot of reasons why he should want to go out and play well.”
After missing the first two months of the season due to hamstring and calf injuries, Bargnani returned but lasted just two games and a total of 22 minutes before reinjuring his calf.
The former No. 1 overall pick missed another 16 games before returning on Feb. 9.
“I am not going to hold it against him if he wasn’t here for the first 40-something games,” Jackson said. “That was something beyond his control and perhaps beyond ours. We are hopeful that he will contribute.”
Bargnani has played in four games since coming back and has scored 11 points in each of his last three games. Bargnani knows he might have to remind some people of what he can do again.
“I haven’t played in a while, so for me it is very important to play,” Bargnani said. “Just keep playing, keep playing hard and keep playing every game, that is what is important for me.”
It might take some time for Bargnani to get his offense going again, but he should have plenty of opportunities to showcase his game moving forward.
“Well, he has the skill set and the versatility to do those things,” Fisher said of trying to fill the void left behind by Anthony. “Whether he can average the same amount of points, we’ll see. He’s capable of it.
"I think if he can stay healthy and just continue to get a comfort out on the floor again … He’s shown some flashes though that he can, but we don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. We want our team to figure out how to make up for guys who aren’t with us anymore, or right now.”
Billups, who now is an analyst for ESPN, doesn’t understand why the decision was up to Anthony on when to have season-ending knee surgery as well.
Billups, who played with Anthony for three seasons in Denver and New York, thinks his former teammate will thrive with more leadership around him.
“I enjoyed playing with Melo in the years I had with him,” Billups said. “My perception of him [is] he really needed my guidance, he needed my leadership. I don’t know that he quite knew how to lead a team or a franchise but at that time he was young. I can’t expect him to. He was already a great player but he is best served when he doesn’t have to be the leader of the team.
“That has been shown for years with me and even the year that Jason Kidd played with the Knicks -- he was kind of the leader of the team and that team was a good basketball team. That’s kind of how I perceive him. He is a great player and one thing I love about Melo is he practiced hard every day. He didn’t sit out games. He was a good soldier, pretty sure he still is. But I think he needs other strong leadership in that locker room with him.”
Team president Phil Jackson could be thinking on the same page as Billups. Will the Zen Master be able to put the right pieces around Anthony this summer or next?
“I am not sure,” Billups said. “This is uncharted waters for Phil Jackson. He’s never put together a team and been the president. I got faith in him as a coach.
“I have seen what he can do as a coach but I haven’t seen what he can do as a president. I got to think that he’s got a great feel for putting the right egos and talent and skill sets together. But in this short little span, we haven’t seen it yet.”
GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- Phil Jackson says the Knicks could be busy before Thursday’s trade deadline.
The Knicks’ team president said he is looking to add more cap space if possible but he is keeping an eye on this summer’s impending free agents. If any of those free agents potentially could be moved by Thursday’s deadline, Jackson is interested.
“We’re trying to do both,” Jackson said of adding more cap space but also looking at talent. “If we can get more cap room, great. If not, can we add a player that’s going to be a substantial addition to our team in the process so we don’t have to add so many team members when we come back next fall?
“We want to be in the conversation,” Jackson said of impending free agents that teams could move. “I don’t know how serious we can [be] about it. But we’d like to be in the conversation. So we’re interested. We’re staying open-minded.”
During his news conference to discuss Carmelo Anthony’s pending season-ending knee surgery, Jackson touched on a number of subjects. As far as whether the Knicks will be strapped by their lack of assets in potential trades, Jackson said he has enough to work with.
Jackson acknowledged there isn't any trade interest from other teams in Jose Calderon or Bargnani. Jackson said he is counting on Calderon to be the "glue" for the team with Anthony out.
And he did not discount Bargnani playing this season for the Knicks.
“It’s debatable,” Jackson said when asked if Bargnani will play if he's still here after the deadline. “Now that we have a gap in scoring, this is a guy that is a natural scorer. I think the coaching staff would like to have him on the court and be competitive with his scoring capabilities. Without Carmelo and Amar’e [Stoudemire] there, we are going to need some scorers out there. And we would like to give him a forum.”
As coach Derek Fisher says, “the dance floor is now open” as far as playing time for the remaining Knicks with Anthony out and Stoudemire gone.
Jackson says the stripped-down Knicks will be “competitive” on the floor. But obviously, the rebuilding process continues as Jackson heads into the summer armed with a high lottery pick and ample cap space to go after free agents. Even though those are two good things to have for a rebuilding team, it doesn't help the current situation.
“I am not happy," Jackson said. "But it is what it is. And that's what you have to accept, that this is what we got now.
"We are a little disappointed in how the outcome came," Jackson added. "... We’ve got a number of positions to fill ... And we knew that it was going to be like this last summer, Andrea’s [and] Amar’e’s contract is over, so we are not surprised at that lack of depth. But we didn’t anticipate that Sam [Dalembert] couldn’t come in and compete a little bit for us and that we wouldn’t have some continuity there. But that all being said, we would have been in this position come April 15 anyways -- season's over, we knew we were going to build."
Jackson said he heard quite a bit during All-Star weekend about whether New York can be a place that attracts talent.
"Why wouldn't it be?" Jackson said. "In this day and age, most of everybody has a roster that only has five, six, seven guys on the roster at the end of the season ... Now fortunately some of them have two or three players that look like, ‘OK, it’s fun to play with Carmelo, yes. LeBron [James], yes. Dwyane Wade, yes.”
“I can't imagine not wanting to play in New York because of [that and] the fans and the arena,” Jackson added. “The participation the fans have in basketball and their desire for our team, it's just a fact of the way this game is structured in this city that people know the game, like the game and pay attention to it."
NEW YORK -- Derek Fisher will always remember his first career victory as a head coach.
But the rookie coach might also look back fondly on his sixth career win. That’s because Fisher’s sixth win snapped a 16-game losing slide. The Knicks’ 99-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Madison Square Garden was something Fisher and his players haven’t experienced in a long time.
In fact, they had gone 39 days between victories, their previous win coming on Dec. 12 against Boston.
Still, Fisher was his usual self after the Knicks’ win. He never gets too high and never too low.
“We didn’t really talk about how many games we had lost,” Fisher said after the win. “We more so talked about that we have to act as if we expected this at some point.”
Of course, no one, not even the biggest Knicks hater, could see this debacle of a season coming for the Knicks. The Knicks (6-36) won for only the second time in their last 28 games, becoming a punch line for many around the league.
But Fisher said before the win that one day he and his coaching staff will be able to look back on these tough times and laugh about it when they’re able to get to where they hope to go.
“I think there are always spaces to see positives, bright spots, to laugh at yourself even when things aren’t going well, to accept the fact that you know, things don’t always work out the way you plan,” Fisher said. “That’s just kind of a part of life. Definitely have talked many times with our coaches about how we’ll look back on this time and how we felt, how other people feel about us.
“We’ll embrace it when the story is different,” Fisher added.
Fisher had to earn his sixth victory. His roster has been stripped down by Phil Jackson, who is focused on clearing cap space for this summer, rebuilding the Knicks with the aid of a potentially high lottery pick and changing the culture of the locker room.
In the Knicks’ previous win on Dec. 12, Fisher was playing the likes of Iman Shumpert and Samuel Dalembert –- two Knicks who are no longer on the team.
On Monday, Fisher leaned heavily on 10-day contract players like Langston Galloway (21 points), Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas –- who all played 22 minutes or more.
Fisher said management would decide whether to sign Amundson and Thomas to second 10-day contracts. Galloway has already signed a second 10-day deal.
“I cast my vote,” Fisher said. “I will leave it at that.”
The Knicks and Fisher might not have to wait another 39 days for their next victory. The Knicks play the Sixers, Magic, Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Lakers and Celtics in seven of their next eight games.
It didn’t take Fisher long, though, to move on from the Knicks’ rare win.
“We obviously enjoy it,” Fisher said in his first postgame answer. “But we still get back to work and not feel so good about it because it feels [so] good to win that we lose sight of coming back tomorrow and trying to get better.”
This is a good thing, because Anthony's role in this rebuilding process is only about to begin. With his team at 5-35, Melo has nothing left to play for this season. Like Jackson, Anthony's eye has to be fixated on the future, first and foremost this summer.
That's why Anthony needs to play in next month’s All-Star Game if his knee will allow. Representing New York in the Big Apple gala would certainly be one bright spot in what very well could be one of the worst seasons we have ever seen in New York professional sports history.
New York needs Melo in the All-Star Game to begin the recruiting process and start getting in the ears of future free-agent All-Stars.
Melo doesn’t even need to leave his home to recruit. Instead, the stars are coming to him and the Garden. For one weekend, New York will be the center of the NBA universe and Melo can serve as the host.
Anthony was asked Monday whether he can be persuasive as a recruiter later this summer.
“I don’t think that'll be an issue, just as far as me trying to persuade guys to come play in New York and play for the Knicks despite kind of getting them to overlook what’s going on right now,” Anthony said. “I think I’m a good salesman. But we’ll see what happens when that time comes. I mean, it’s a long time until that comes.”
Still, Melo can get a head start at All-Star Weekend by practicing and playing alongside the galaxy of Adam Silver's superstars. Yes, we all know that NBA rules don’t allow any recruiting before midnight at the start of free agency.
But let’s be real: Players talk about it all the time and at some point during that weekend, a few NBA buddies might discuss the crazy notion of forming the next superstar trio to take the NBA by storm.
In today’s NBA fishbowl, the stars all talk to one another and are all boys either from their AAU days or from Team USA experience.
Kevin Love said last month that the idea of one day playing together came up while he worked out with Kevin Durant and Anthony in Los Angeles last summer. So it happens all the time. (And that would be the same Love who might opt not to stay in Cleveland this summer as one player and an executive said they’ve been hearing lately ... although a lot can happen between now and July.)
The point is, the best players in the game are always looking for whatever advantage they can get to win rings and cement legacies. And that means aligning themselves with as much talent as possible.
Dwyane Wade was back in 2010. No matter whose idea it was for LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh to team up, it was Wade and Pat Riley who made it happen.
The minute Phil took James Dolan's millions to try to turn the Knicks around, he knew he would need to form the same kind of union Wade and Riley have with his franchise player.
Jackson persuaded Anthony to stay. Now Anthony has to help Jackson recruit another star or two to come.
Phil can put all 11 of his rings on the table in front of any prospective free agent. But Jackson isn’t returning to coach as far as we know. And if any prospective free agent doesn’t think he can win with Melo, Phil's bling and Dolan's checkbook won't matter.
“Who wants to play with Melo?” one Western Conference player recently asked. Anthony is one of the friendliest stars in all of sports, someone who gets along with dozens of stars around the NBA. But Anthony might also have a a bit of a perception to battle when it comes to persuading a star to join his team -- one of a potentially difficult player to win with.
“I haven't had a complaint yet in my 11 years in this NBA about playing with me,” Anthony said in October 2013. “I think people would love to come to play in New York. And when that time comes we'll be working on that. I have a big black book. I have a big Rolodex."
Like Wade taking a step back and putting aside any ego about being the man in Miami when James and Bosh joined him, Melo has to be ready to sacrifice if necessary in order to win a championship. Phil has alluded to this before when talking about Anthony and what he has to do to take that next step to become a winner like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Melo has shown he can share the spotlight with stars on Team USA. Now he likely will have to show he can share his own team, city and spotlight, if he wants to play alongside another star and win -- something I think he is willing to do, and more important can do, after these past two nightmarish seasons.
Anthony hopes to return to the court Thursday against Milwaukee in London. The plan is to keep playing after that, but Melo acknowledges he very well may have to shut his season down eventually and head into surgery.
Knicks fans should hope Melo can stay healthy enough to play in February's All-Star Game and remind prospective free-agent All-Stars how good he is when healthy, to start planting the seed about coming to New York whether it be this summer or next (the summer of Durant).
Come July, a weekend of Melo practicing, playing and partying with fellow All-Stars in February could end up being the best thing to happen for the Knicks during this forsaken season.
NEW YORK -- Phil Jackson’s salary dump of a trade last week has given the New York Knicks more cap space to work with this summer. It also gives New York's younger players a chance to prove themselves over the next three months.
One player with a great opportunity to turn his season around is Tim Hardaway Jr.
So far, things haven’t gone as planned for the second-year shooting guard.
Hardaway is shooting 38 percent from the field this season and 31 percent from beyond the arc, both down from his surprising rookie campaign.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher noted this week that Hardaway, like most young players, needs to develop a more consistent approach to the game.
“Tim’s a second-year player, he’s not going to have all that you need to be consistently successful at this point,” Fisher said. “But he’s doing well and he’s having a rough patch right now, but he works hard every day.”
The former Michigan standout surprised many around the league with a strong rookie season last year, establishing himself as one of most accurate young shooters in the league. Hardaway had the highest 3-point field goal percentage among rookies with at least 55 attempts.
Early on this season, Hardaway wasn't playing regular minutes, which may have impacted his shot. And despite playing more regularly lately -- Hardaway has been the Knicks’ starting shooting guard for the past month -- the results haven’t changed much. During that span, he’s averaging 14.2 points per game on 37 percent shooting (30 percent from beyond the arc).
Hardaway’s defense continues to be an issue as well. His defensive real plus minus -- a measure of a player’s impact on his team’s defensive efficiency -- is minus-2.84, which ranks 90th out of 96 shooting guards who qualify.
Hardaway is under contract for next season -- but every Knick outside of Carmelo Anthony could be available in trades. If the Knicks get a strong offer for Hardaway, they would probably be open to moving him.
Phil compliments Stoudemire's “heart”: Amar’e Stoudemire has missed nine straight games due to a sore right knee. Derek Fisher said on Saturday that Stoudemire may practice this week. Phil Jackson said Stoudemire has impressed the coaching staff with his willingness to risk injury to help the team.
“People always bring Carmelo [Anthony] up, but also Amar’e has also been extremely important to lose for us,” Jackson said on Saturday.
“When we were in Chicago [Dec. 18] and we were having a difficult time with injuries, [Stoudemire] stepped forward," Jackson said. "He’s got a great heart and we appreciate that about his effort.”
Jackson wasn't as complimentary of point guard Jose Calderon. Calderon was the main component for Jackson in his trade of Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas. Calderon, owed $15 million over the next two seasons, has struggled in his first season in New York, shooting just 40 percent from the floor.
“Jose’s going to play better. I think he’s going to recover and have a substantial increase in his capabilities as the season goes on,” Jackson said. “I’m sure he’s as disappointed as we are in his start to the first half of the season.”
He was dressed in a sharp blue designer suit and was cool, calm and collected.
Even when a skirmish broke out between Quincy Acy and John Wall in front of the Knicks' bench, Fisher stayed on the sideline while his assistants did a terrific job of making sure no Knicks ran onto the court.
At the same time, the Knicks on the floor didn’t rush to Acy’s aid when the Wizards came to Wall’s defense. Sure, Acy started it with a hard foul, something the Knicks actually needed, considering how Wall shredded them for 24 points and 11 assists without the slightest resistance. Eventually Carmelo Anthony tried to calm and restrain Acy from escalating the situation.
While Fisher doesn’t condone hurting an opponent or seeing a Knick ejected, the coach probably didn’t mind seeing some fight from one of his players, even out of frustration. But he will need his players to be united and have one another's backs when a scuffle breaks out.
Now Fisher and the Knicks are a dreadful 5-26, which isn't where they thought they would be at Christmas. The losses keep piling up like postholiday credit-card bills, and it feels like there’s no end in sight to the Knicks’ disaster of a season.
A few fans could be heard high up in the stands chanting “Fire Fisher” throughout the game. It was nothing more than a smattering. Still, people need to exercise patience with the rookie head coach like Nets ownership did with Jason Kidd last season at this time.
Last Christmas, the Chicago Bulls ripped through the Nets like a wrapped present en route to a 95-78 rout on national television. The Nets fell to 9-19 exactly one year ago after proudly touting their championship aspirations entering the season.
Kidd heard loud calls for his head from fed-up fans at Barclays.
After that debacle, Kidd -- who some thought was in over his head during his first two months on the job -- lit into his players in the locker room. Kidd called them out; Kevin Garnett stormed off, upset at some of his teammates’ lack of fight; and the Nets looked like they were unraveling.
But after a turbulent 10-21 start, Kidd kept the team together and the Nets had a stunning turnaround, winning 33 of their next 46 games after Jan. 1.
It’s highly unlikely we will see another post-New Year’s surge like that with the Knicks. Fisher doesn’t have a roster full of former All-Stars like Kidd did.
But Kidd is a clear example of why people should not rush to judgment on Fisher. Sure, Kidd’s exit from Brooklyn was ugly, and as in any divorce, both sides played their part. But now in Milwaukee, Kidd has the baby Bucks at an unexpected 14-15 despite recently losing his prized rookie Jabari Parker for the season.
Kidd looks more comfortable in his second year as a coach, and it’s easy to forget that at this time last year he was still figuring out little things, like when his team needed him to show more emotion on the sideline, or not to spill soda to buy time to draw up a final play with no timeouts left. Any mistake he made was played out on back pages or nightly highlight shows.
“You find out quickly you don’t have the ball, so you can’t take a charge, you can’t come up with the steal,” Kidd said during the preseason about what Fisher will learn in going from player to coach. “You might see someone who’s open on the extra pass and you can’t make the pass. You can only communicate it to them, show him, and hopefully at some point the trust and respect kicks in and they can kind of find it.”
Like Kidd, Fisher has shown little frustration despite the losing.
“I never saw that,” Anthony said when asked whether he has seen Fisher get frustrated or upset. “Of course he knows and is feeling [the tough losses]. ... Coach Fish is not a guy that will show frustration."
“And he is our leader. If he’s discombobulated, then everybody is going to be discombobulated.”
Thus far, Fisher has taken the Zen-like approach of his mentor and boss, Phil Jackson, and has shown little emotion. But he says that will change when needed.
“No, I have plenty of [emotion],” Fisher said. “It’s just there are appropriate times to do it. ... Emotions during the game are already high enough. Oftentimes that’s when you see confrontations between players and coaches.
“There are ways to be confrontational and let guys know how you feel without being angry and out of control. But as time goes on, the longer I’m here, the more you’ll see.”
Phil and Fisher have a plan. And Jackson will give his protégé all the support he needs.
The Knicks have to stick to Jackson’s master plan even as the losses mount at a franchise-record pace. If the Zen Master gets things right, this Christmas will be the first of many Christmas games coached by Fisher for the Knicks.
Jackson tweeted that Santa will bring Knicks Nation “a better 2015 than 14.”
“The effort and skill of our team will grow as the players learn how to play with and for each other,” he tweeted.
The only way to see whether Fisher can turn this mess around this season or next is to emulate the rookie coach: stay calm and have patience.
#knicknation Merry Christmas to all and Peace on earth. Please be assured your hopes and wishes are getting through to Santa. He will bring— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) December 25, 2014
#knicknation a better 2015 than 14. The effort and skill of our team will grow as the players learn how to play with and for each other.— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) December 25, 2014
It’s good to know the team president thinks there are brighter days ahead, because things couldn’t get much worse for the Knicks.
They took the court on Christmas Day with a 5-25 record. That is the third-worst record for a team playing on Christmas, according to Elias.
The Knicks are among the worst teams in the NBA in overall defense, 3-point defense and getting to the free throw line. That’s not a good statistical profile for a team Jackson thought had a chance to make the playoffs entering the season.
And there may not be any help coming later this season via the trade market. Jackson said recently he would make a trade only if it brought back a player who would fit into the Knicks’ long-term plans. So unless Phil changes his mind and decides to shake up the roster via trade, the Knicks likely will continue to struggle.
There’s a silver lining at the end of the season, though. New York will have a first-round draft pick in June. So all of the losing increases the team’s chances of landing a top pick. The Knicks are also expected to have significant cap space to offer free agents this summer.
So maybe when Jackson talks about brighter days ahead for 2015, he’s referring to next season.
Question: What would you like to see Jackson do to fulfill his promise of making the team better in 2015?
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NEW YORK -- Let’s make one thing clear: Carmelo Anthony is not the sole reason the Knicks are 5-25. If you’re making a list ranking the factors behind the awful start to this Knicks season, Anthony’s play wouldn’t crack the top 10.
Start with New York being last in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. That's certainly more crippling than anything Carmelo is or isn’t doing. As is the Knicks’ porous 3-point defense (they allow opponents to hit a league-high 38.9 percent of their 3s).
Injuries to rotation players such as J.R. Smith, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani haven’t helped. Neither has the team’s failure to create easy baskets at the rim (the Knicks rank last in points created off of drives, per NBA.com). The Knicks' inability to consistently get stops (they’re 27th in defensive rating) hasn't helped either.
There are also locker room issues. ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported earlier this month that some players have been reluctant to embrace the triangle. That’s not exactly the Zen approach that team president Phil Jackson has preached.
So Carmelo may not be playing his best basketball, but he’s not the only reason the Knicks are off to the worst 30-game start in franchise history.
In fact, Anthony seems to be doing all he can on offense to help keep New York in games.
With Anthony on the floor, the Knicks are scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions. That would be the sixth-highest rate in the league. With Anthony off the floor, the Knicks’ scoring drops to 98.2 points per 100 possessions. That would rank as the fourth-lowest rate in the NBA.
Carmelo’s per-game scoring (23.7) is the lowest it’s been in seven seasons, but he’s been fairly efficient on offense.
His field goal percentage (45.8 percent) is the third highest of his career. Anthony is also attempting two fewer shots per game this season than the number he’d averaged over the previous two seasons.
“You can’t complain much about what he’s done on offense,” a veteran Eastern Conference scout said.
But what about the other areas of the game? Is Anthony doing all that Derek Fisher and the rest of the Knicks staff have asked of him? With New York already 20 games under .500, is Anthony doing all he can to help dig the team out of this mess?
“I always feel like I can do more, do better. I mean, that’s just the way I think,” Anthony said recently. “The way my mind works, if we’re in the basketball game by a couple of points, I always feel like I look back at the games, and man, I can do something better.”
So what, exactly, does Anthony need to do to help the Knicks wake up from this nightmare?
Team president Phil Jackson may have the answer to that one.
“I’d like to see him flesh out the rest of his game,” Jackson said earlier this month. “He’s been getting some assists. He’s been getting some rebounds. But every opportunity to offensive rebound, which is one of his strengths, I’d like to see him continue to [pursue].
"I’d like to see him continue to be aggressive defensively -- a leader at that end of the floor too.”
Jackson explained that the triangle offense oftentimes requires Anthony to be in position to grab offensive rebounds.
A quick look at the numbers from this season shows that Anthony hasn’t exactly thrived on the offensive glass.
His offensive rebounding rate – an estimate of the available offensive rebounds he gets – is 6.0 this season. That’s right near Anthony’s career average – but it doesn’t put him in great company.
Carmelo ranks 38th in offensive rebounding rate among players who average at least 25 minutes per game and have played at least 20 games this season.
“He’s got good size, good strength, he could be a better offensive rebounder at times,” the scout says. “It’s just a matter of having the desire, putting yourself in position to battle for the opportunity. Whether he’s fighting fatigue or whatever, he’s got to have the desire.”
Desire may be an issue for Anthony on defense as well.
Jackson hinted on two occasions that he needs to see more from Anthony on that end of the floor, in part to motivate his teammates.
“There’s a certain amount of energy that players can give on the court, activity level, that I think is really required to lead a team,” he said in November.
The numbers show that Anthony can be a bit more active on defense, to say the least.
His defensive real-plus minus rating, which measures a player's impact on team defense via points allowed per 100 defensive possessions, isn’t pretty.
Carmelo ranks 78th out of 80 small forwards in this area with a rating of -2.26. That puts him just below Doug McDermott and Jabari Parker and just ahead of Chris Copeland.
Not great company. (For those wondering, Carmelo’s -2.26 would rank 96th out of 100 power forwards who have qualified for the statistic.)
“In fairness to him, I think it’s kind of tough,” another longtime Eastern Conference scout said. “They ask him to carry such a load on the offensive end and they ask him to play 40 minutes on some nights. It’s tough for him to really excel on the defensive end when you’re playing that many minutes and you’re trying to carry such a big scoring load.”
Fatigue indeed may be an issue for Anthony.
Late in close games, with Carmelo on the floor, the Knicks have suffered through defensive lapses that ended up costing them victories.
New York has played in a league-high 19 games that were separated by five points or fewer with five minutes to play. The team is just 3-16 in those games.
There are issues on both sides of the floor, but the defense has been atrocious late in close games. Entering play Tuesday, the Knicks were allowing 119.6 points per 100 possessions in clutch situations -- the worst defensive rating in the NBA.
Of course, there are five players on the floor at all times. So it's unfair to point the finger at one player for a team's defensive lapses. But it’s clear that Carmelo has the physical ability to do more to help the Knicks get stops late in games.
Some wonder, though, if it’s too late for the 30-year-old to change his approach to defense.
“Is he ever going to be a lock-down defender? I just don’t think it’s in his DNA,” the longtime scout says of Anthony. “He has the focus to score the basketball, that’s his desire. But is his desire to do the little things on defense, to rotate, block out his guy, stick with a cutter? It doesn’t seem like it.”
Later, he adds: “It’s going to be tough to change a player at this point.”
With that last thought, the scout brings up one of the greatest challenges of Jackson’s presidency: improving Carmelo.
Jackson said back in October that Anthony has “just touched the surface of his greatness.”
But can the Zen Master, who is being paid in the neighborhood of $60 million to rebuild the Knicks, drastically change Anthony’s approach? Anthony is in his 12th season in the NBA. Are we at the point where his bad habits are irreversible?
“I’m not sure,” the scout says. “But I think what you see is what you’re going to get at this point.”
It’s on Anthony -- and Jackson -- to prove that perception wrong.
Barkley, a TNT analyst, was calling the Knicks-Bulls game for the network.
Jackson apparently didn’t like what Barkley had to say.
The Knicks president tweeted during the broadcast:
do I have to mute this game? Chuck just remember your fundamental...key to ▲— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) December 19, 2014
Barkley responded at halftime by saying, “I can respect Phil Jackson ... But he’s too old to be tweeting.”
Barkley added: “He takes it personal when people talk about the triangle. ... You need players, the league has always been about players, and always will be.”
A minute later, Barkley concluded that “Phil’s gotten sensitive in his old age.”
Barkley is a longtime critic of the Knicks, but this season it’s hard to argue with anyone who is tough on the team.
New York fell to 5-23 with Thursday’s loss and is off to the worst start through 28 games in franchise history.
One issue for the Knicks, according to Barkley, is that their players in the final years of their contracts aren’t fully committed to the triangle.
“These guys aren’t trying to run the triangle and make it look pretty, they’re just trying to get numbers,” he said.
Question: Do you agree with Barkley? Are the Knicks not fully committed to the triangle?
“I hope they cheer for him,” Anthony said about when the Mavericks visit the Knicks. “He was a guy who came in and won Defensive Player of the Year here. He was a big part to what we were trying to create here and what we did at one point in time."
“I don’t think they need to boo him or anything,” Anthony continued. “The only reason you boo him [is] because he’s on another team. If you want to do that, then you should boo everybody that’s on another team. I don’t think you should boo him because he left the New York Knicks.”
The 5-21 Knicks sure could use Chandler this season. Without him, the Knicks lack presence inside the paint. Amar'e Stoudemire has probably exceeded expectations this season, but the Knicks desperately need an intimidating big man.
Chandler and Raymond Felton were dealt to Dallas in the offseason in a trade that brought back Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and two second-round picks. The deal was largely made by Phil Jackson to unload Felton, but it cost them their best defender and rebounder along with Chandler’s expiring contract.
Jackson also said he was trying to improve team chemistry and “start with some character guys” when explaining the trade. Last season, Chandler made some headlines when he questioned Mike Woodson’s defensive schemes.
By the end of a disappointing 37-45 campaign, Chandler seemed ready for a fresh start elsewhere, as he and some of his teammates took their fair share of heat for last season’s struggles.
“That’s the state of our game, man,” Anthony said when asked about how some people made Chandler to be a scapegoat for the Knicks' disappointing season last year.
“That’s what we have to deal with as players. If something ain’t going right, they find somebody to pin it on. In Tyson’s situation, they [critics] said it was him. That’s the nature of our game. There’s always going to be somebody that they point the finger at. In that situation, it was him during that time.”
“I don’t see anything he did wrong,” Anthony added. “I think he did a great job of coming to play when he was here.”
Chandler looked like he had something to prove to the Knicks when they last met, on Nov. 26.
Anthony sat out that game due to back spasms but watched Chandler create havoc against the Knicks.
“I remember him having a hell of a game,” Anthony said. “I was drugged up that day [due to the back pain]. ... Everything was kind of blurry to me. But I watched it, I saw it, how impactful he was during that game, how excited he was to play against us.”
Of course, the Knicks have more things to worry about than what kind of reception Chandler draws in his Garden return. The Knicks just need to win and pull through in a tight game for once.
Stoudemire hopes Chandler’s presence will add buzz to the game.
“I think [Tuesday] is going to be a great game for us and also for Dallas with Tyson being back in New York,” Stoudemire said.
"Tyson gave us some good years, he truly did, he was a true pro,” Stoudemire added. “His defensive methods were great. I think the crowd will give him a cheer because 'once a Knick, you're always a Knick.' He does play for Dallas, and they might not cheer him for all too long."
The System: The Knicks had some success using some pick-and-roll sets during Sunday’s overtime loss to Toronto. Anthony, though, believes the Knicks are getting better at the triangle.
“I don’t want to keep talking about the system,” Anthony said when asked if learning the triangle is still an issue. “The system is just a foundation of what we are trying to run on the offensive end. It is just a matter of what we do in that system.
“Yesterday we did some things that didn’t involve the actual system, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t,” Anthony added. “I do think we are getting better at learning the actual system and learning the counters to the system. Now we got to start believing in it more and becoming more comfortable day by day.”
Injury report: The Knicks practiced on Monday but had several players sit out. Anthony (recovery), Larkin (illness), J.R. Smith (left plantar fascia), Pablo Prigioni (sore ankle), Iman Shumpert (left shoulder) and Stoudemire (recovery) all did not practice.
The Knicks are 4-20. They’ve dropped 10 straight games. Team president Phil Jackson sees too much of a loser's mentality infecting his team. There’s injuries and in-house bickering between some players, who are not feeling the triangle according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
Frustration is boiling. And Fisher, in his first year as a head coach ever, has to keep everybody calm, keep everybody believing in the triangle and keep everything from falling apart.
“You can’t waver on becoming successful,” Fisher told reporters on Wednesday. “You’ll never get there if you waver or give up. That’s what we have to expect as a group.”
“Losing affects everybody,” Fisher added. “But you must take something from it and learn something from it if you want it to change. We have to take our lumps and accept what it is at this moment, but not necessarily accept that it’s going to stay that way.”
The Knicks are trying what they can to snap out of this funk. They’ve held a team meeting and have tried to diffuse any strife when asked about it in interviews.
But the only thing that likely can make things better is just winning.
“It's kind of hard to deal with,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “I’m trying to stay strong, not to let frustration set [in]. To be quite frank, it's not easy at this point. But I don’t know man, we've just got to stay positive.”
Friday night’s game at Boston (7-13) may end up being the Knicks’ best chance for a win in quite some time. After that game, the Knicks’ next six games bring a brutal stretch against Toronto (16-6), Dallas, (17-7) at Chicago (13-8), Phoenix (12-11), at Toronto and against Washington (15-6).
Potentially making matters more difficult on Friday is the physical health of the team. Anthony (sore left knee) and J.R. Smith (heel) did not play on Wednesday at San Antonio and are listed as questionable by the Knicks to play against Boston.
With all that is going on, Fisher has to find a way to keep things together and try to get his team a much-needed win.
“I’ve been in these locker rooms for a long time,” Fisher said when asked if he’s concerned about any discontent in the Knicks’ locker room. “I’ve been on teams where it’s all good, been on teams where it’s not all good at times.
“But the common ground that kind of binds everybody together is just being committed to winning,” Fisher continued. “That kind of evens the playing field for everybody. We’ll all have some issues with things we don’t like. But if you just keep winning on your mind when you’re out there on the floor, it kind of simplifies things.”
Ian Begley contributed to this report
“I’m not going to make movement for movement’s sake. There is sometimes addition by subtraction but I don’t see anybody that doesn’t want to be part of this organization, doesn’t want to play with his teammates, doesn’t want to learn,” Jackson said.
Last month, Jackson said he’d like to have an idea of which players were learning the team’s concepts by Thanksgiving or December. He said on Monday that he had a good idea of which players fit into each category for the 4-18 Knicks. But he added that he’d only consider a trade if it brought back players who could be long-term fits for the team and wouldn’t make a move to eat into the team’s projected cap space this summer.
“What we have to do is we have to protect our future. We can’t get so enamored with what is happening right now that we don’t protect what’s ahead of us, so that’s a concern,” Jackson said. “If we evaluate a player and see he’s going to be a long-term person who is going to fit in our organization, we’ll do that. But right now those things aren’t jumping out.”
Jackson also dismissed a question about the value of losing games this season to increase the Knicks’ chances of landing a high draft pick in June.
“We’re not thinking in those terms,” he said. “We’re obviously solicitous of our draft pick. We hadn’t had one last year. We want to have a draft pick, we want to have a good opportunity to evaluate people that are going to be draftable in our position and that’s the process you go through."
He insisted that the front office was currently focused on succeeding and digging itself out of a significant early-season hole.
"We’re not talking about the future," he said. "We’re talking about the present, we’re talking about this week’s game and the week’s games following that. ... Those are the things that are important to us. There have been a number of teams in this league that have had bad starts and have come out and made the playoffs. So we’re not counting that out.”
Jackson added that the wins and losses weren’t necessarily weighing on him as team president. He was more concerned with players showing a lack of "hustle" or "conscious" play on the court.
The Knicks' president did acknowledge, however, that all of the team's losing this season may impact how free agents view New York as a possible destination this summer.
“Yeah, and I’m not happy about that,” he said. “We have players that are part of our long term that must consistently perform at a level in this system of offense to demonstrate that they’re progressing and what the advantages are to what we’re doing.”
Question: Do you think Phil Jackson should make a trade to improve the roster this season or are you content with losing with the hope of securing a higher draft pick?
NEW YORK –- For about three weeks this past summer, a Big Three with the kind of All-Star firepower the Knicks and Phil Jackson can only fantasize about met regularly in a Los Angeles gym.
Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love traded 3-point bombs and fine-tuned their offensive arsenal. And, of course, the subject of playing together did come up among the Olympic teammates.
“I think naturally being around each other this summer and the Olympics and just in common passing, we have always talked about the opportunity to obviously play against each other but playing with each other as well,” Love said in a conversation with ESPNNewYork.com while promoting BodyArmor SportsDrink. “It is always something fun to think about when you have a bunch of guys in the gym this summer. And if not on our respective teams, then maybe at the Olympics.”
Love said this when asked if he and Anthony ever discussed playing together during the workouts. It's not far-fetched to think that at some point the same idea was entertained by Durant with his future set to dominate the NBA rumor mill when his 2016 free agency approaches.
As for Melo, you know that dark place he wanted to avoid? He might as well be sinking further into the deepest and darkest pit. And he may not see sunlight for a while.
The Knicks are 4-16, their worst 20-game start in team history, after falling 90-87 to the Cavaliers at the Garden. This season is rapidly slipping away. And really all that matters now is finding a way to get significant help around Anthony without wasting more years of his prime.
For the second straight game, Anthony struggled badly in the fourth quarter, missing all four of his shots and failing to score a point in the last quarter. This after he shot 1-for-9 and scored two points in the fourth in a loss to Brooklyn on Tuesday.
For the second game in a row, Anthony missed a potential-game tying three-pointer at the end of the game. Perhaps it was fitting that his last miss came with his good friend LeBron on his hip.
Anthony was trying to beat James for a second time this season, but it just felt like such an unfair fight. The Cavs are still very much a work in progress but they’re going to get their act together. And when they do, it will feel like the Knicks are light years behind them.
Even on a night when they were vulnerable, the Cavs just seemed to have an advantage at all the most important places on the floor against the Knicks. All you needed to do was look at point guard where Irving lit the Garden up with an array of dazzling moves for 37 points.
Derek Fisher finally got a timeout and had to run to midcourt to get it, but the Knicks ended up with Shane Larkin missing a 10-foot floater in the lane with 33.2 seconds left. Seconds later, Irving hit an old-man playground shot high off the glass over Amar’e Stoudemire, putting the Knicks down three with 10 seconds left.
Melo says his back is not an issue, but he hasn’t looked the same these last few games. And that has only made it even more painfully clear just how much help Anthony needs. It could be a long time before he has the kind of firepower to deal with James, Love and Irving –- if ever.
It’s a long shot, likely even a pipe dream, that the Knicks could get another superstar like Durant to play alongside Anthony. The odds of landing Marc Gasol next summer might even be low.
But if Love, Anthony and Durant even spent a millisecond this summer entertaining the notion of one day playing on the same team, the Knicks then have to exhaust every single avenue and resource possible in trying to see if they can get Melo that kind of help even if it means just one of them.
Who knows where Durant will end up when he becomes a free agent in 2016. You have to give Oklahoma City the benefit of the doubt that it can hold onto its superstar. And Washington and Brooklyn will likely be making a play for Durant. And sleep on the Lakers and Heat at your own risk.
The competition for KD will be stiff, but he is every bit worth the wait, especially if there isn’t much to be had on the free agent market next summer for the Knicks.
If Durant ever entertained the notion of playing in New York with Melo no matter how frivolous, the Knicks have to see if they have a shot. This is, after all, what Phil was brought here to do -- to build a winner and lure superstars like Durant in with his Zen-like things and rings.
Love had said himself earlier this summer before his trade to Cleveland that Phil made New York more intriguing.
“It is always something fun to think about,” Love said when asked about if he and Anthony had ever discussed the possibility of teaming up. “New York is one of my favorite places in the world, I spend a lot of time in New York.
“And going to play [there] whether it is the Barclays Center or even more so Madison Square Garden, I said it last year, it is the mecca of basketball. Everybody loves to play there. So it is always something fun to think [about].”
Love is exactly what the Knicks and the triangle need –- a silky-smooth shooting big who can rebound with ease and pass. The sweet-shooting Love can opt out of his contract after this season but he says he plans on staying in Ohio for a long time.
“[Maybe] 10, 20, 30 games to really get on a roll," Love said of how long it might take the Cavs to come together. "We’ve had our little flashes, our little shows of how good we can be, and we are going to continue to work hard.
“The good thing is we have guys who are committed to this organization, to this team -- like myself -- who are probably going to be here for a long time, so we are excited.”
The idea of these Cavaliers being together for a long time is the harsh reality facing Melo and Phil.
If the Knicks are going to have any shot of catching up to LeBron and his dream Big Three, Phil has to dream big and see if he can make a lighthearted conversation that took place in a Southern California gym a reality.