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Phil Jackson and Steve Mills Provide Glimpse of Knicks Summer Plan

by Jonah Ballow

April 16 is the official end of the regular season for the New York Knicks.  This date also signifies the start of a new era for president Phil Jackson and the Knicks front office as they are armed with salary cap space and a top 2015 NBA Draft pick to begin building the structure of a playoff bound team.

Last Thursday evening at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, Jackson and general manager Steve Mills provided candid responses to season ticket holder questions.  Let’s examine some of the highlights from the event that will air in an hour-long special on MSG Network at 10:30 PM on Wednesday night.

The Draft Pick
Last Thursday night, Jackson chuckled about knowing whom he would pick in the upcoming draft by joking, “I do…” On May 19, the Ping-Pong balls will decide the Knicks fate in the 2015 Draft.  The lottery determines the draft order and New York is guaranteed a top selection due to its 2014-15 regular season record. 

“A first draft pick can move an entire organization as Patrick Ewing did here in the early 80s,” Jackson acknowledged.  “We want to see if that player is the one that can move the whole franchise ahead as a direct cause.  All the other options are there on the table for us and what happens behind that is we have zero big men.  We have Carmelo [Anthony] as our only big man that’s under contract, so we have to pick not only draft picks but also free agents to fill out our roster, so what combination will go together with the people that we draft and a free agent market.”

The 2015 class figures to be stacked with talented guards and big men, especially near the top of the draft.  On April 26 we’ll know exactly how deep the draft is following the deadline for early entry eligibility.

“It’s a very talented crop and we’re happy to have this opportunity and we’re going to make the most of it,” Jackson stated.

The last lottery selection for New York occurred in the 2009 season when the organization picked Jordan Hill out of the University of Arizona at No. 8.  Six years later, Jackson and the front office are preparing for the next young player to hit the hardwood for the orange and blue.

“We want a player that has multiple skills,” he added.  “I’m very impressed with the young players that are playing in college right now.”

Free Agency Strategy
Starting on July 1, teams with cap space will begin to court prospective restricted and unrestricted free agents.  With a significant amount of money under the cap, the prestige of Jackson, and the lure of New York City, the Knicks are prepared to be a player in the market.  However, the front office will take a calculated approach to an important summer for the franchise.

“We will not go after the biggest name that’s out there,” Mills confirmed.  “We will go after players that fit in the system and style of play, so it may in fact be one of the big names but one thing for certain it will be a person that fits system wise with us.  One of the things that Phil brings to the table for us is allows us to sort of clear the deck, to speak, so that we know exactly the skills that players need to have to be successful in our system and we’re going to go after players like that.  It will be a combination of big names and guys that are just system fits.”

Members of the Knicks staff have traveled overseas in recent weeks to scout European players and seek out reasonable buyouts.  Jackson and Mills expressed the importance of exploring all options to build the roster for the next season and beyond.  As part of their due diligence, conversations will take place with agents of players to pitch the Knicks plan for the short and long term.

“You’re constantly planting seeds on why this would be a good place for their players and that’s a process that takes place all the way throughout the year,” Mills disclosed.

Who Will Return?
The Knicks re-shaped the roster midseason and entered evaluation mode to assess the players on the team that would fit the desired style and culture for the franchise.  On Thursday night, Jackson and Mills praised Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas, and Langston Galloway for their play on the floor and professional approach to the game. 

“They brought a lot of joy to us just by watching how they play,” Jackson smiled.  “Great energy, team players, they do a job out there and they all can play defense and they’re two-way players as we say.  So, that kind of says in a nutshell about what’s going to happen with this team.  That’s the direction we’re looking to go.”

This does not rule out the potential return of other players on the roster as Jackson and Mills will make those decisions in early July. 

“On July 1st, we chase free agents that we know are likely to come to this organization and we do that in a way that compliments our draft choice and compliments the team and the way we want to play basketball,” Jackson asserted.

“An Evening with Phil Jackson & Steve Mills”
To hear more from Jackson and Mills reflecting on this past season, looking ahead to the NBA Draft and free agency, tune to MSG Networks on Wednesday night at 10:30 PM.


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