Phil Jackson On The Coaching Search, Melo, & Draft Plans

by Jonah Ballow

On Friday morning at MSG Training Center, Knicks president Phil Jackson provided some context to the recent developments involving the coaching search, communication with Carmelo Anthony, and plans for the draft as he works through his first offseason in the front office.

Let’s take a look at the myriad of topics covered on Friday:

Melo Options
Carmelo Anthony celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday and faces a major career decision this summer.  During his exit interview, Anthony vocalized his desire to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.  However, Jackson confirmed conversations with Anthony that surrounded a variety of options for his future, including opting-in and delaying free agency until 2015.

 “We have a communication that’s going on and I like it,” Jackson stated.  “I like the direction.”

Jackson added, “I’ve told him it might be a good idea to hang in here and see what it’s like for a year and go out the next year.”

Anthony is fresh off one of his best seasons in the league, posting 27.4 points and 8.1 boards per game while hitting 40.2 percent from downtown.  This is also the first time in Anthony’s 10-year career he has missed the playoffs. 

Jackson’s past success of molding ultra-talented scorers into championship level leaders could appeal to Anthony in the midst of his decision making process.  The former Bulls and Lakers maestro understands the importance of a dynamic scorer on the roster, especially in critical postseason moments.

“We recognize his talent and skill is the kind of skill and talent that gets you through playoff games where things get sticky, grind out, and basketball becomes a force game and suddenly you need a player that has that capability of scoring with someone hanging on them in a situation that is critical.  He is one of those players – one of the few players that can do that,” Jackson acknowledged. 

Coaching Search Continues
Since Steve Kerr decided to select the Warriors as his first coaching gig, several names have surfaced as potential candidates for the Knicks.  Most notably, Thunder point guard Derek Fisher and Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw. 

Jackson cleared up these rumors surrounding his former players. “I’ve had a series of interviews with people who are unnamed.  I have not talked with Derek Fisher.  I have not talked with Brian Shaw.  Brian is under contract with Denver.”

The Knicks president did reveal that Fisher is on the list of candidates for the job in New York.  Jackson also described the rational reasons for hiring a coach in his circle.

“I like to have a prior relationship with a coach, so that we know that we’ve gone through some kind of issues together, we’ve dealt with some kind of battle situations, we’ve had conflicts, we’ve had disagreements, and we know how to work things out,” Jackson explained.

One aspect to consider when looking at the coaching landscape is the options at the college level.  Jackson told reporters his search is not limited to NBA coaches and he may consider a college coach to lead New York back to the postseason. 

Once again, Jackson all but ruled out a return to the sidelines, “I wouldn’t see myself being physically prepared to take on the grind of coaching a basketball team right now.”

Draft Plans
Despite not owning a pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the Knicks are exploring the option of buying a selection, most likely a second rounder.   The 2014 class is extremely deep and New York could seek a prospect on June 26. 

 “Teams do sell draft picks and we’re going to approach teams and ask them if they’re willing to allow us to buy a draft pick if we feel like there is a player that we want to have at a position that comes up, so that’s a bang-bang situation,” Jackson said.

Despite an aggressive approach, the Knicks president remains cautious about the draft strategy.  “There are a lot of teams that don’t have draft picks besides us, so it can be a bidding war.  We’re not going to run ourselves into the ground chasing this if it doesn’t work out.”

Future Roster Moves
Rumors were circulating that some of New York’s players were told they were on the trading block following the last game of the season.  Jackson denied these claims but admitted to listening to teams around the league and clearly outlining a summer plan for his current players.

“We haven’t told any players that ‘we’re looking to trade you,’” Jackson declared.  “We’re telling players to ‘get yourself ready, start a 10-12 week program of exercise, weight training, conditioning, so that when you come back here, you are not trying to get in shape in September, you are in shape so you are ready to play in October.’”

Lamar Odom signed with the Knicks prior to the season finale.  In conversations with Jackson, Odom has expressed his desire to return to the NBA and a spot on New York’s roster is a good risk-reward situation for both parties.  The former Laker and two-time NBA champion is expected to arrive in New York next week to begin offseason training.