Derek Fisher's Big Apple challenge
1. Good move or bad move for Phil Jackson and the Knicks?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Good move. It's not as if the stakes are high for the Knicks' upcoming season, so might as well see if they can get a hit like Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix or Jason Kidd in Brooklyn. One drawback: Fisher doesn't have ties to the Knicks like those guys did from their playing days with the franchises.
Ian Begley, ESPNNewYork.com: Good. If Knicks president Phil Jackson missed out on Fisher, his coaching search would have turned into a circus. Jackson already had whiffed on Steve Kerr and would have had to scramble to find a Plan C. Also, Jackson was looking for someone who shared his basketball philosophy and found that candidate in Fisher.
Robert Silverman, Knickerblogger: Good move. Jackson had a very specific, limiting set of criteria in his coaching search, but Fisher certainly checks off all the boxes in that regard. You can be critical of Jackson for not casting a wider net, but given the Knicks' seemingly total lack of a coherent plan in their recent history, even a possibly flawed, narrow decision-making process should be considered an upgrade.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: It was the only move left on the board for Jackson, who had to get Fisher if he couldn't get Kerr. The signals coming out of New York have been consistent for weeks (months, even) that Phil was determined to hire a young coach he could not only mentor but who also wouldn't mind seeing Phil on the floor as a guest lecturer during training camp and occasional practices. Yet even Phil himself acknowledged during the process that the Knicks' next coach also had to be able to generate some sizzle, too. We can debate whether Fisher can immediately deliver actual sparks, given his complete lack of coaching experience, but there will be no shortage of headlines and curiosity.
Royce Young, ESPN.com: Good move. There is no player in any NBA locker room who has the kind of admiration and respect of his teammates that Fisher does. Former Thunder teammate Nick Collison recently said of him: "He's unique, one-of-a-kind. The only guy I ever played with who can address the team in a way as a leader." Fisher will have a locker room that loves him, and will be the kind of guy players will want to play for (cough, Carmelo Anthony, cough).
2. Good move or bad move for Derek Fisher?
Adande: Good move. For one thing, he went from making $1.4 million for playing in Oklahoma City to $5 million to coach. Even with the higher cost of living in New York, that's a nice bump. It's also a quick transition to his next phase and an opportunity to get some on-the-job training from Phil Jackson, who can play the mentor role Pat Riley has with Erik Spoelstra in Miami.
Begley: Very good. Fisher will learn his craft on the fly, but will do so under the watchful eye of one of the best coaches in NBA history. Jackson's presence, though, can be a double-edged sword. Fisher's first mini-losing streak may be met with chants of "We Want Phil" from the Madison Square Garden faithful.
Silverman: Good move. If he was dead-set on coaching immediately, the Knicks are as good an option as there is, even with a bloated salary cap, ill-conceived roster and tempestuous (to say the least) owner. More importantly, for a coach with zero actual experience, it's pretty hard to call signing a reported $25 million contract a bad move, even if he fails miserably.
Stein: Amazing move. Fisher simply could not say no to a contract that lucrative -- and the chance to learn the coaching biz at Phil's elbow -- with a team in the one-good-move-away Eastern Conference. He'll surely find a way to cope with all of the many downsides of coaching the Knicks when the other terms are that good.
Young: Good move. If coaching was to be the next step for Fisher, the Knicks offered probably the best job available. Teaming with Jackson has to be exciting, and though he'll be in the pressure cooker that is New York, Fisher is well equipped to handle it all quite well.
3. What should be Fisher's top priority as coach?
Adande: Listening to his assistant coaches. Fisher has much to learn, quickly. He also needs to stay on the media's good side. That shouldn't be a problem, because he has been a go-to quote since early on in his playing career.
Begley: As a first-year coach, Fisher has a lengthy to-do list. But as with all things around the Knicks, the answer to this question has to be viewed through the prism of Carmelo Anthony's free agency. Assuming that Phil wants to re-sign Anthony, then Fisher should make it a priority to huddle with Anthony ASAP to ensure that he's comfortable playing for a new coach.
Stein: Don't just assume that Anthony wants to bolt. Try to get a decent dialogue going in the 20-odd days before free agency starts. Fish is a pretty persuasive speaker. Who knows?
Young: Building an identity. Obviously, convincing Anthony to stay is high on the to-do list, but Fisher's job is to grow a culture and build an identity. Whether that's through an offensive system like say, the triangle, or with a rock-steady defensive mindset, Fisher has to nail down who he wants the New York Knicks to be, and get whoever is on the roster to buy in to that.
4. How do you think this will affect Melo's future in New York?
Adande: It shouldn't make a difference. The only reasons for Anthony to stay in New York are financial. The roster makeup is the primary criteria for championship contention, and he won't find that caliber of team with the Knicks. So if winning is his top priority he'll head elsewhere, regardless of who's coaching in New York.
Begley: Fisher is well-respected among his peers and, as a five-time champion, he has the résumé to command respect in the Knicks' locker room. But will Anthony be willing to play for a coach who'll have to deal with the inevitable bumps in the road early in his tenure? That's unclear at this point.
Silverman: It won't have any effect at all. Fisher is fairly universally well regarded around the league, with Kevin Durant in particular kvelling about his leadership skills. But Melo's decision will be based on the talent on the roster, and whether he's willing to accept less to play with a contender versus hanging around for what's bound to be at best a transitional year in New York.
Stein: Not as much as you'd think. If Melo decides to stay in New York, it'll be for three reasons: 1. He's sold on Phil as the guy who can build a winning team around him; 2. He can't bear to leave the Madison Square Garden stage; 3. He can't bear to relinquish the extra year worth an additional $30-ish million that only the Knicks can offer. Melo has surely talked enough with Phil since the season ended to know that an untested coach like Kerr or Fisher was on the way.
Young: Considering the incredible amount of respect Fisher draws from around the league, it obviously isn't going to hurt. I wouldn't guess that it seals the deal for Anthony, but I'm sure there was some input from him on the position.
5. With Fisher gone, whom should the Lakers pursue as coach?
Adande: They should stay on track with the veterans they've pursued. If this team will still be oriented around Kobe Bryant, they should have an experienced coach whom Kobe will listen to, such as Byron Scott. As much as Kobe likes and respects Fisher, it's hard to imagine Kobe having the patience to watch him go through on-the-job training.
Begley: The Lakers have made it pretty clear that they are leaning toward hiring an experienced head coach. If that's the case, they'd be wise to make a run at Mark Jackson and/or Jeff Van Gundy. These are two candidates who can bring Los Angeles instant credibility and put the franchise on the fast track to turning things around.
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Silverman: There has been a lot of chatter that Los Angeles is dead-set on hiring a veteran, with names such as Scott, Mike Dunleavy and George Karl being bandied about. As Jared Dubin outlined last year, they'd probably be better served hiring a fresh face. My choice would be Tyronn Lue, an ex-Laker who has been learning the trade as a member of Doc Rivers' staff.
Stein: I suspect it's not going to be a splashy hire with the roster in its current state. My sense is they're going to hire a familiar face who knows Kobe -- which is why Scott is such a prime contender -- to oversee things until they have a clearer picture of what their post-Kobe roster is going to look like. They're just not in a great place right now to attract a marquee name, strange as that sounds when we're talking about the Lakers.
Young: It's so complicated for the Lakers in that they could be hiring a coach simply to fire him. Their rebuild is really slated for 2015, so it might be a lame-duck season for whomever they pick. They need a company man, someone who can pat Kobe on the back and tell him to hang in there. So either Scott or Kurt Rambis probably fit best.