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NBA AM: 4-18 Wasn’t The Knicks’ Plan

The Knicks have problems and Phil Jackson is starting to see why…

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4-18 Wasn’t The Plan:  Last Friday in this space we covered some of the Knicks problems and whether or not they could be fixed.

Yesterday Knicks president Phil Jackson tossed a couple of more logs on the fire.

“I think guys understand what we’re trying to do,” Jackson said to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. “Hopefully, they’re getting to be more compliant. There’s some resistance to discipline and order and culture change and things like that. I will call it a crucible for what we’re going through here. The process, maybe the heat, is going to refine some of the stuff so that we come out and be a pretty good team after all is said and done.”

This overarching message was basically what the Knicks players said last week, however as Jackson pointed out yesterday there is a little resistance to what’s going on and what’s being asked of certain players.

As one Knicks insider put it last week, there are times during games when it’s evident that guys are looking out for themselves and their own future, which is an unintended consequence of having so many guys who know they are not part of the long-term.

As the source pointed out, there are times when guys may have not had a shot in a while and rather than running the system and looking for the open man, they fire up something out of sequence, as a result no one is there to rebound and the ball goes the other way, often for an easy shot in transition.

Several coaches have tried to install the Triangle Offense that Jackson made famous and is trying to run in New York and failed miserably. While Jackson is part of the program, he’s still working through his coaching staff to reach the players and like other places when things get tough, some of the players revert back to what they know and the offense comes apart.

Unlike most offensive systems in basketball, the triangle is a rules-based read-and-react system. You bring the ball down and the next action is based on what the defense does. That requires players to make decisions and be intellectually engaged in the game as players are asked to make their own decisions based on what they see.

As we’ve seen throughout Jackson’s coaching career, when the triangle is ran well and with discipline, it’s an amazingly fluid and effective offense that is tough to guard. The problem is requires a 100 percent buy-in from the players and that’s not happening on a consistent basis in New York.

As the Knicks cross the 20-game mark of the season it’s pretty clear that Jackson may not have the right players for how he wants his team to play and that change seems somewhat inevitable.

The Knicks are mindful of their cap position going into the summer and are not going to do anything to jeopardize their ability to hand-pick their guys in the offseason, but Jackson did say he would be looking at opportunities to improve the team, just not at the expense of the future.

“I’m not going to make movement for movement’s sake,” Jackson said. “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.

“What we have to do is protect our future. … If we evaluate a player and see he’s going to be a long-term player who is going to fit in our organization, we’ll do that.”

As things stand today the Knicks have just four players with guaranteed contracts next season – Carmelo Anthony ($22.87 million), Jose Calderon ($7.4 million), Tim Hardaway Jr (1.3 million) and Cleanthony Early ($845,000). Guard J.R. Smith has a player option worth $6.39 million. Iman Shumpert is heading into free agency and may or may not receive the $3.69 million qualifying offer from the Knicks as that comes with a cap hold of $6.54 million.

If the season ended today the Knicks would have what amounts to roughly $39.116 million in committed salaries, assuming Smith stays in his deal and the Knicks pass on Shumpert. The salary cap for next season is expected to come in at $66.3 million, giving the Knicks roughly $27.18 million to play with.

The Knicks have been linked to free agents like Boston’s Rajon Rondo, Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Detroit’s Greg Monroe and Orlando’s Tobias Harris.

Of the bunch Rondo, Gasol and Monroe will be unrestricted and can choose any team they like, while Butler and Harris look to be restricted free agents that would require maximum or near maximum offers to get their home teams to blink on matching those deals.

Players like Rondo and Gasol are going to be eligible for max deals that start at $19.89 million given their years of NBA experience, while younger guys like Monroe, Butler and Harris will be eligible for contracts with a first year of $16.57 million.

The Knicks are said to be looking at scenarios in which they could shed Smith’s contract and get their available cap cash closer to $33 million and room for potentially two major players in July.

»In Related: Who Still Has Cap Salary Space? How About Cap Exceptions?

The Cavs Are Buyers:  This may not be news as much as an update. The Cleveland Cavalier wants to add another piece or two to the roster.

The Cavs are among the many teams sniffing around for a December trade.

Armed with a $5.28 million Traded Player Exception, a young scorer in guard Dion Waiters and the interestingly structured contract of Brendan Haywood, the Cavs have been sniffing.

Let’s start with the TPE: the Cavs obtained it after sending out Erik Murphy, Dwight Powell, Malcolm Thomas, John Lucas III, a 2016 second-rounder and a 2017 second-rounder to Boston for Keith Bogans, then dumped Bogans on Philadelphia along with a 2018 second-round pick.

The TPE can’t be combined with anything else, so it basically allows to the Cavs to take on unwanted money.

The Cavs have recently been linked to Memphis’ Kostas Koufos, who wants to be in a position to play and is trying to push his way out of Memphis. Koufos is set to make $3 million this year, so the TPE could work in this scenario if the Grizz don’t want Waiters or Haywood.

The Cavs have also been after the Denver Nuggets on Timofey Mozgov, who is set to make $4.65 million this season. Mosgov is playing and playing well for Denver, but they have a log jam in the frontcourt and may have to move someone to keep the peace.

The Cavs have dangled a Waiters-for-Mosgov package a few times since the start of the season.

The pie-in-the-sky move is a deal for possible free agents in July. Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan gets mentioned frequently, however Clips sources say he isn’t even remotely on the table and Pacers’ big man Roy Hibbert, who has the option to be a free agent in July, also seems unobtainable mainly due to his $14.89 million contract.

The Cavs seem willing to part with Waiters, who hasn’t been exactly the sixth man fit they had hoped he’d be and he clearly wants a bigger role than he’s getting in Cleveland. Waiters is set to earn $4.06 million year and has a guaranteed $5.138 million owed to him next year. Waiters alone might be able to return a contract like Mosgov or Kofous, toss in a draft pick and that might get a real conversation going.

The Haywood contract is interesting, mainly because it is worth $2.21 million this year but is non-guaranteed for $10.52 million next year. It may not be of value to the team that trades for him now, but it does become an interesting trade chip in June around the Draft and in July as teams trying to clear cap space or construct sign and trade deals.

The Cavs are also one of several teams with interest in free agent guard Ray Allen, who sources say will start seriously looking at teams in January with the belief that he’ll sign at some point in February for a playoff run and the Cavs are one of the leaders in the proverbial club house to nab him.

Interest in making a deal does not mean the Cavs can execute one, but they are not sitting on their hands.

After a rocky start to the season the Cavaliers have won seven straight games and are now just three games out of the first seed in the East.

»In Related: Who Are The Top NBA Draft Prospects For The 2015 NBA Draft?

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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