Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer
Coming into last season, there was much to be said and speculated about Phil Jackson’s
involvement with the Knicks. Would he merely be using Derek Fisher
as a mouthpiece? Was the incoming head coach simply brought in to be a “yes man?”
Many believed that Jackson would be overbearing and not allow Fisher to develop into his own sort of coach.
Having said that, it seems as though the opposite may have happened. Speaking to the media on Friday, Jackson admitted “Maybe I stepped back too much last year” as he watched the Knicks struggle mightily.
“I wanted Derek to be his own person and have his own feel for this. I think that was multiplied in different ways. But Derek’s asked me to be a little more present this year, actually,” he explained. “Not in the coaching aspect, but just being around and talking basketball. Being influential with observations. I think I’ll be more involved than I was with being suggestive and watching film with Derek at times.”
It’s clear that Jackson and Fisher each have their own respective roles on the team. There will be a line drawn in the sand that is likely to still be well recognized. Still, Jackson’s success as a coach and overall knowledge of the game should still be considered a huge asset. The Knicks could undoubtedly benefit from all that, as evidenced by the void his absence in the team’s on-the-court identity created last season.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time away from the team, talking basketball and talking shop,” Fisher said about working with Jackson more closely. “Just learning more from one of the greatest basketball minds that we’ve ever seen.”
It’s safe to say that it sounds as though Fisher may have been the one to push for some added involvement from Jackson. In revealing a bit of a lack of communication last season, the coach said, “I do think there were times last season, we didn’t want to bother each other or overload each other with too much information and conversation.”
The Knicks Blog Podcast is back for the 2015-16 season. Anthony and Moke recap all the Knicks offseason news from this past summer and look ahead to Training Camp beginning on Tuesday.
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Keith Schlosser, Lead WriterAs media day nears, here’s a look at three major questions the Knicks’ brain trust of Phil Jackson, Steve Mills, and Derek Fisher should be faced with answering…
1) What are fair expectations for the Knicks this season?
This is obviously a reasonable question. Last season, Phil Jackson asserted that he believed the Knicks would make the playoffs and win over 40 games. 17 wins later, and the team clearly fell way short of that mark. Because of such struggles, New York will need to do much more than simply double their win total if they want to compete for a playoff spot this time around. With a healthy Carmelo Anthony and a revamped yet bolstered roster, this shouldn’t be totally out of the question in the weaker Eastern Conference.
2) Does Phil Jackson plan on serving out the remainder of his contract?
There’s been plenty of speculation that Phil Jackson will depart the Big Apple before the five-year, $60 million contract he initially signed expires. Should New York start to play well, Jackson will be credited with improving the roster and sparking a potential turnaround. This would likely motivate him to continue to stay the course, and at least oversee things through the summer of 2016.
However, should the Knicks struggle early on, there’s a good chance Jackson will resist the urge to fire his hand-picked coach in Derek Fisher and opt to fall on the sword himself. And while Jackson has helped the Knicks get into better position financially with regard to the salary cap, continuing to lose will be considered a failure on his part. All of the transition toward the triangle offense will have been for nothing.
Jackson has said previously that Steve Mills will be his eventual successor, but that doesn’t make much sense, considering Mills was stripped of his President title upon Jackson’a arrival. Help was needed.
3) What kind of impact will Kristaps Porzingis make? How soon?
Ideally, the Knicks aren’t looking to rush the development of number four overall pick Kristaps Porzingis. Still, the pressure is on for them to succeed as a team, and the prized draft selection (whomever that turned out to be) was expected to be a big part of that. Drafting Porzingis doesn’t align with remaining competitive in the short-term while Carmelo Anthony is in town. How long will it take for Porzingis to adjust and come into his own? Have the Knicks bolstered their front-court and the overall roster enough to play well in the meantime and still exercise patience with the young gun? That remains to be seen.
Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter
The Knicks officially announced the signings of former Michigan State guard Travis Trice and former Georgetown forward DaJuan Summers to training camp deals.
The Summers signing was reported Monday by SNY.tv.
Trice averaged 15.3 points, 5.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds while averaging 33.6 minutes in 39 games as a senior at Michigan State. He averaged 19.0 points and 4.2 assists in leading the seventh-seeded Spartans to the Final Four of the 2015 NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 202 three-pointers, fifth best in school history.
He recently appeared in seven Summer League games for Miami’s entry at Orlando and Las Vegas, averaging 4.4 points and 1.3 assists over 10.6 minutes.
Training camp begins Monday.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider for SNY.tv. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.
Appearing at a recent “Just for Men” promotion, Knicks legend and broadcaster Walt “Clyde” Frazier discussed some of the keys to the team’s potential success this season.
“Hope [Carmelo Anthony] can come back healthy. Obviously he’s the catalyst,” Frazier pointed out.
“$30 million isn’t what it used to be,” Frazier said of the Knicks’ cap space this past summer. “We didn’t acquire a real superstar. We got a lot of good role players to fill in, but those guys are going to have to have career seasons in order for the Knicks to make the playoffs,” he said.
Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer
That’s a pretty bold assertion, but perhaps it’s relatively close to being true. Arron Afflalo was reeled in to New York with the hope that he can be a reliable number two scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony. The team will undoubtedly need him to step up as such, because frankly, they don’t exactly have another candidate they can turn to for that type of production. Afflalo had an off year last season while splitting time in Orlando and Portland, but did average a career-high 18.2 points as recently as the 2013-14 season. At 29-years-old, Afflalo is still in his prime.
At 27, Robin Lopez will need to earn every last bit of his reported $54 million. Lopez has never really been much of a numbers guy, per se, but his defensive instincts and respective presence on the boards and down on the low block will make him valuable in New York. The team desperately needs a defensive anchor. “The biggest weakness for the Knicks is defense. Lack of defensive intensity,” the broadcaster said. “Too many guys literally walking to the basket.” Perhaps what Lopez does will be infectious. He has never averaged a double-double, so that might be something to shoot for.
As for the likes of Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin, and Derrick Williams, they’re all still on the youngster side. Each of them is still waiting to have a breakout season. Though this happens to be the case, the Knicks will be dependent upon them all for notable contributors off the bench or during spot-starts. As Frazier notes, they, too, will need to step up as more minutes and ample opportunities come their way.
Frazier was also optimistic about draft pick Kristaps Porzingis, adding, “[He is] a tremendous talent. He’s 7’3″ and has the three-point shot in his arsenal. He can block a shot without leaving his feet, so he can be an intimidator there,” before also saying the number four overall pick will also need to get much stronger.
Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer
Upon initially signing with the Knicks, many wondered if Sasha Vujacic
‘s addition was merely a favor of sorts from his former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Such speculation was quickly put to rest when it was revealed that his contract would be fully guaranteed for the upcoming season. Alas, Jackson and Derek Fisher, Vujacic’s former teammate in Los Angeles, are expecting him to make an impact on the court.
What’s more, the pair is hopeful that the guard can also provide off the court support when it comes to his new teammates learning the triangle offense. Though the Knicks attempted to execute the triangle last season, the personnel necessary wasn’t exactly there, and the players struggled to catch on.
Vujacic is more than happy to lend a helping hand and share his knowledge, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley. At 31 years old, the guard is older than most of his new teammates. He’s been spending time in New York over the past few week, getting to know the likes of Kevin Seraphin, Cleanthony Early, Kyle O’Quinn, and others. Vujacic appears ready to embrace more of a veteran role, though he doesn’t consider himself to be over the hill.
“I was always someone that helped players on the court. We have a lot of rookies and a lot of younger players –- I still consider myself young by the way -– so we have a great mix of guys and I’m looking forward to teaching them and giving them help,” Vujacic told Begley.
Since joining the Knicks, Jackson has tried to reel in some individuals from his Lakers days to assist him in this rebuilding effort. Obviously Fisher is coaching, and the team has signed the likes of Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown over the years. While Odom never saw the court and Brown’s Knickerbocker tenure was rather short, having the latter around to tutor the younger players in the NBA Summer League last offseason certainly made a positive impact. There’s a similar hope when it comes to Vujacic.
Vujacic will be a good mentor, but let’s hope he’ll also pull his weight in the form of contributions. That’s arguably even more important. He has appeared sparingly in the NBA since 2011, so perhaps it could take him a bit of time to become acclimated once again. He likely isn’t too out of touch, however (some may say the triangle itself is out of touch with today’s NBA, but that’s besides the point), as his specialties on the court are easily translatable. Vujacic can push the tempo while playing either position, and the majority of his shot attempts come from downtown. He serves as enough of a threat to help the Knicks space things out and spread the floor. How efficient he will be remains to be seen, but he’ll likely turn out to be a positive addition in more ways than one.