LAS VEGAS — Carmelo Anthony believes the Knicks have assembled a team that should make the playoffs next season, but he stopped short of saying how good they can be.
The Knicks underwent another major facelift, bringing in three starters and nine new players in all. So Anthony is holding off on guarantees right now.
“We have a very special team on paper right now,” Anthony said after the U.S. men’s Olympic team held its first practice Monday. “I think we have a good opportunity to do some things this year. It’s all about what we do. It’s all about us now. It’s all about how we come together, how we jell together. For the most part, the pieces are there, so it’s up to us.”
Anthony used the expression “on paper” three different times when talking about the Knicks. Chemistry and how some of the players whom team president Phil Jackson brought in hold up healthwise and under the scrutiny in New York will determine where the Knicks end up.
Overall, though, the Knicks took positive steps toward ending a three-year playoff drought with the trade for Derrick Rose and the free-agent signings of Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings.
Jackson said he did it to try to meet Anthony’s timetable for being a competitive team. Anthony is 32 years old and doesn’t want to waste any more years rebuilding.
“Thank you,” Anthony said. “Thank you, Phil. I’ll take it.
“I think the time is now for us, for the Knicks. I think the time is now for the city, the fans. I think the time is now. Everybody’s been tired of waiting and waiting and waiting. Now is a time when we can go out there and put a competitive team out there and play. For me, the time is now. For us as a city, as an organization, that should be the mindset — the time is now.”
If Rose, Noah and Jennings — all of whom have been hobbled by injuries in recent years — can stay healthy and if Kristaps Porzingis can take another step in his development, this could turn out to be the best team Anthony has played on with the Knicks. He said they at least should be a playoff team.
“I believe so,” he said. “On paper, we look good, we look real good. It’s just a matter of everybody coming together and buying into what we want to do.
“I think those guys can really help, will help, and give us a competitive edge now, guys we can go out there and compete with on a night-to-night basis. On paper, we look good. It’s just a matter of when training camp starts, putting it together.’’
Anthony wouldn’t say whether he recruited any players. He said he wants no credit and that Jackson and general manager Steve Mills “did everything.” But Anthony has reached out to the players since they became Knicks. He has spoken to Rose a couple of times and worked out with Noah in New York and Jennings in Los Angeles, and he said he’s not concerned with their health.
“As far as injuries go, it happens,” Anthony said. “I think sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air, in Derrick’s case. I talked to him maybe once or twice, but he’s locked in right now. He’s focused. I’m hearing he’s healthy.”
When healthy, Rose and Jennings will be the best point guard tandem Anthony has had. He said “hopefully” Rose will take some of the scoring load and attention off him.
“The front office stepped up,” Anthony said. “It was a collective effort. They did their job and they did what they had to do to make some moves and make things happen. They put us in a situation to give us an opportunity. All we have to do is take advantage of that.”