Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson talks about his team’s recent play, Kenneth Faried’s success and more in this exclusive interview with Basketball Insiders.
Phil Jackson Era Begins
Move over Carmelo Anthony, you’re no longer the New York Knicks’ biggest star. That distinction now belongs to Hall of Fame head coach Phil Jackson, who was officially introduced on Tuesday as the team’s new president.
For a franchise that has not been a serious title contender since the late 1990s, Jackson provides hope, credibility and most importantly a much needed change in direction. Knicks fans have become increasingly impatient and frustrated with the state of the team. Most of the criticism has landed on the desk of team owner James Dolan and rightfully so. He’s had full autonomy over personnel moves, but that now lies with Jackson.
“Willingly and gratefully,” Dolan said when asked about handing over complete power over to Jackson. “I am by no means an expert in basketball. I’m a fan, but my expertise lies in managing companies and new businesses. So I think I’m a little out of my element when it comes to the team, I’ve found myself in a position where I’ve needed to be more a part of the decision-making for a while. It wasn’t something necessarily that I wanted to do. But as chairman of the company, I felt obligated to do it. I’m happy now that we have the team of Phil and Steve to do that, and my whole job here now, is supporting them to win a championship.
“In addition to the tremendous respect I have for Phil regarding basketball, over the last several months, I have had the opportunity to get to know him personally and have developed a high regard for his character and passion as an individual. I am confident that he and Steve Mills have the right combination of complementary skills to make this franchise successful.”
At this point in the season, there’s very little that Jackson can do other than observe and evaluate as the Knicks try to chase down the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. He did drop the following hints over what kind of team he plans to build once the time comes to makes some moves.
“I think that this is an opportunity and that’s what I look at it as, not as a possible failure chance,” Jackson said. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity to do something that I love and that’s be with a basketball team, hopefully create a team that loves each other and plays with each other.
“We want to build a team. A team that doesn’t have ‘I’ in it, we’ve used that expression a few times as coaches but this is a franchise that developed a team in the 60s that was consistently playing team basketball for seven, eight years. The idea of developing a culture is a overwrought word in the NBA right now, but that’s what brought me here. Players need to know they are supported by the team and the coaching staff. I believe in system basketball. I came out of a system here. I believe that’s something we want to accomplish here.”
Jackson’s deal with the Knicks is rumored to be worth $12-15 million annually over the next five years. Among his biggest decisions this offseason will be over whether to offer the aforementioned Anthony a deal for the same duration. His camp will undoubtedly ask for the maximum salary available, which in his case is around $129 million. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith claims that Anthony is as good as gone because even with Jackson in charge, the likelihood of being a contender next year is slim. But if he leaves, it won’t be because he’s unwanted.
“There’s no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, maybe the best individual isolation player in the game,” Jackson said. “I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans … I was on record a year ago, as great a player as he is, still has another level he can go to. To get him with the team we create, he can get there.
“Carmelo’s had a load to carry this year, and he’s remarkable in that. He showed in last Olympics, coming off the bench and playing a role as a bench player on a magnificent team that won a gold medal, that he can play a role if he has to play a role. I think he’s a basketball player, and I think that’s what players want to do, to be able to cut, to pass, to be in different spots on the floor, to attack or to play and I think Carmelo will be just fine. I see no problem in it.”
It was in Jackson’s triangle offense that both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant transformed their games. Like Anthony, they were known primarily as scorers, but in the triangle they changed their legacies completely. They bought into the team concept, trusting their teammates and as a result won a combined 11 championships – all with Jackson on the sidelines. Anthony has already said he is willing to change his game if Jackson asks. But, approaching 30 years of age, Anthony is understandably antsy to play for a contender.
“I know you all know about the vaunted triangle offense,” Jackson said. “It’s been maligned in the past few years, but I believe in system basketball. Steve Mills came out of Princeton, I came out of a system we ran here in New York in which team ball was an important aspect of playing and we believe that’s what we want to get accomplished as we go forward from here.”
The popular belief right now is that while Jackson avoided making any definitive statements on current Knicks head coach Mike Woodson’s job security, he’s going to let him go at season’s end. Former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr, who currently is an analyst for Turner Sports, is regarded as the frontrunner to replace him. Kerr has never been a head coach, but is a Jackson disciple, winning three titles under him in Chicago. Because of his inexperience, it would be vital to surround Kerr with a veteran head coaching staff; both Jim Cleamons and Frank Hamblen, fellow Jackson disciples and triangle advocates who worked for him in Chicago and New York, would likely be offered positions on his staff.
Kings Re-Sign Royce White
The Sacramento Kings announced today that they have signed Royce White to a second 10-day contract.
He spent his first contract in the D-League with the Kings affiliate the Reno Bighorns. He played four games with the Bighorns, scoring 8.8 points, grabbing 4.3 rebounds and dishing out 2.8 assists in 24.8 minutes on average.
White, a 2012 first round pick of the Houston Rockets, has yet to play in his first NBA game. His rookie season consisted mainly of public feuding with the Rockets over treatment of his anxiety disorder. They traded him this offseason to the Philadelphia 76ers, who waived him prior to the start of the regular season.
There seems to be a good chance of that changing, though, as the Kings aren’t playing for anything at this point and might as well see how White fairs. His ability to play the game has never been questioned; he’s a special talent, but he has to prove that he can handle everything that comes with being a NBA player, including the rigorous traveling and serious time commitment.
March Madness is Here
The 2014 NCAA Tournament is about to get underway, and Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth coverage of March Madness you’ll find:
Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
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