NEW YORK -- Not many pundits believe the New York Knicks can win the NBA title this season.
But team owner and Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan expects them to do so.
In a recent meeting with the coaching staff and some team executives, Dolan said he believes the Knicks have enough talent to win a title and that he expects them to do so this season, league sources with knowledge of the owner's message during the meeting confirmed.
"He told them he believes they have enough talent to win it all," one source said, "and he expects it to happen this year."
The Knicks won 54 games last season, finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and won a playoff series for the first time in 13 years.
But many teams in the upper crust of the conference improved in the offseason.
The Chicago Bulls have 2010-11 league MVP Derrick Rose back after he missed last season following ACL surgery. The Brooklyn Nets added veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to a deep roster, and the Indiana Pacers -- who defeated the Knicks in the second round of the playoffs -- added Luis Scola and expect to have forward Danny Granger back.
Due largely to salary-cap restrictions, the Knicks had a quiet offseason relative to those teams. They added 7-foot sharpshooter Andrea Bargnani, re-signed reigning Sixth Man Award winner J.R. Smith and signed free agents Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih.
Based on those offseason moves, many NBA pundits predict that the Knicks will finish no higher than fifth in the East.
That's why, according to sources, Dolan's expectations left some staffers in the meeting with an uneasy feeling.
"A few people were a bit surprised, taken aback. But he's the owner. He has a right to expect it," one source said.
When asked Wednesday about the meeting, which was earlier reported by the New York Daily News, Knicks president and GM Steve Mills would neither confirm nor deny that it took place.
"In terms of an edict, we try to win every year. And our goal is to try to win a championship and try to be as competitive as we can possibly be," Mills said.
It's certainly understandable that Dolan would expect New York to win a title this season. The Knicks, who last won it all in 1973, have the second-highest payroll in the league behind the Nets, according to basketball-reference.com.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, incidentally, expects his team to win it all this season, as well.
For what it's worth, Knicks coach Mike Woodson has said several times that he thinks the Knicks have enough talent to compete for a title. But Dolan's expectation could put additional pressure on the coach, the players and team executives this season.
An added layer to Dolan's title expectation is that the owner wanted to employ younger players at the end of the roster.
According to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking, Dolan directed the front office to keep younger players with the final roster spots so that they can develop within the organization.
Some members of the team's hierarchy had hoped to keep veteran players in the last three roster spots, particularly if the expectation is for the Knicks to win now.
Ultimately, New York kept three training camp invitees on the 15-man roster: 23-year-old guard Toure' Murry, 26-year-old guard Chris Smith, the younger brother of J.R. Smith, and 24-year-old center Cole Aldrich. They cut 30-year-old veteran forwards Ike Diogu and Josh Powell.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.