Keith Schlosser, Lead WriterAs the Knicks await Carmelo Anthony’s free agency decision, it’s fair to remain cautiously optimistic. If he opts to remain in the Big Apple, such a decision will say the superstar believes in Phil Jackson’s vision for success. With Anthony on board and Jackson running the show, a new window for championship hopes in New York might just crack open once again.
Someone who knows what that experience is like all too well is Knicks’ legend Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. Having won an NBA championship in New York (alongside Jackson, in fact) Monroe recalls just how sweet it is to achieve success in the Big Apple.
I caught up with the former flashy floor general to discuss some of the latest hot-topics surrounding the team. Continue reading below for Monroe’s thoughts on Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony’s future and what he is up to now…
Schlosser: This is obviously a transitional period for the Knicks. What do you think of the job your former teammate, Phil Jackson, has done so far?
Monroe: It’s a matter of building up again. They’ve done a good job of upgrading their basketball situation. Getting Samuel Dalembert was a good thing. He’s not only a good shot-blocker, but he also takes up space underneath the basket. That’ll bode well with the team’s other players. He’s not a bad offensive player, but they’re not going to need much out of him anyway. He’s just got to grab rebounds and play good defense.
Schlosser: Having not watched the Knicks win a championship in quite some time, and then to see things unfold as the team experienced a set-back this past season, it’s safe to say fans are a little anxious. Do you think they need to remain patient? Can they have faith in Phil Jackson, a rookie executive?
Monroe: They can have faith in Phil. If I’m Phil, I’m not looking for this to be a three-, four-, or five-year process. I’d want it to be much sooner than that. He has that in mind. It’s about getting Carmelo Anthony to stay and then building around him. Even though the team had a bad season last year, they weren’t that far off. They need to look at the current players and see how those guys fit into the system that Phil wants to play. I think they’ll be pretty good.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is coming off a good rookie season. Even with Iman Shumpert, all he needs to do is figure out what he should be doing and see what other things he can do to be an asset.
Schlosser: Let’s talk more about Anthony’s forthcoming decision. What do you think he’ll do?
Monroe: At this point, he wants to win. He’ll want to go where he can win championships. If Carmelo believes in what Phil wants to do, that may be a possibility. But if he doesn’t think this is the place for him, then he should leave so that the Knicks can start building with other guys.
Essentially, in Phil’s mind, he’s building for a championship. He wants to bring another one to the city.
Schlosser: The other teams in competition for Carmelo’s services already have superstars in place. The team that you and Phil Jackson were on was a very-well balanced one. That was a essentially a major key to your championship win. Should Carmelo team up with other stars, or should he want to remain with the Knicks and be recognized as “the man?”
Monroe: That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. If he stays in New York, they’re going to build around him. A lot of times, a player doesn’t know what they’ll encounter if they go to another team. In New York, he’ll have guys around him and will be able to play more freely. In the end, that’ll be much more fruitful.
Schlosser: And for Knicks fans wondering what you’re personally up to now, what’s your latest venture?
Monroe: I have the Sports Candy Store. That started about a year and a half ago. We were able to get a licensing deal with the NBA, so as soon as that happened, I knew I wanted to be in the candy business. We’re doing a great job. We not only have access to every team in the league, but we’re able to put players on the boxes as well. We’ve got lollipops, gummy bears, and other candies for kids as well. We’re starting to develop sugar-free candies for people like myself, who have diabetes, to enjoy too. We’re definitely looking up at things.