The clock is ticking on the Knicks' window to build a championship contender. It actually started the moment Carmelo Anthony signed his contract.
This season already is lost, so Derek Fisher said the Knicks have to be smart and quick with the moves they make from here on out, because Anthony isn't getting any younger.
The Knicks, who built a 21-point lead late in the fourth quarter before beating the Lakers, 92-80, Sunday at the Garden, are banking on the next two offseasons to make huge jumps in talent and in the standings. But Fisher said the Knicks can't make the same mistakes that past regimes have made by overspending and limiting their flexibility.
"I think we owe it to Carmelo to do it the right way," Fisher said. "At the same time, he just signed a contract for five years, he's 30 years old. We don't have 10 years to figure this out.
"We need to do some things right away, as soon as we can. But at the same time, not necessarily put ourselves in the same position we've been in the last few years where we try to get a bunch of guys that don't have favorable contracts that don't allow you to plan for the future."
The Knicks (10-38) took control of this pre-Super Bowl matchup against the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers in the first quarter and rolled to their fifth win in seven games -- matching their victory total through the first 41 games.
Anthony scored 18 of his 31 points in the third quarter. Despite needing left knee surgery at some point, he also showed some surprising lift, throwing down a one-handed alley-oop dunk off a lob from 7-footer Jason Smith before looking at the bench.
Anthony said some teammates joked with him before the game that he's getting old. "It was just one of those moments where I had to look at the bench and let them know that I still got it," he said.
The Knicks and Lakers (13-35) are on similar paths. They're rebuilding and have money to spend in free agency.
The Lakers hope to make one last championship run with Bryant, who is out for the season after shoulder surgery, while planning for life without their superstar. The Knicks plan to build around their lone superstar before it's too late.
"I'm tired of hearing I'm old," Anthony joked before turning serious. "The time is now. The time is now to kind of start building for the future. I don't think we can wait. Not just for my sake, just in general, I think the time is now. The window is now. I think we've got to take advantage of that."
The bloated contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani are up after this season, and the Knicks have four players with fully guaranteed deals next season. That could change with the trade deadline less than three weeks away.
But the biggest change will be made after the season.
The Knicks will have a high draft pick in June and could have about $30 million to spend in free agency. But top-tier guys Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge are expected to stay with their current teams. The Knicks likely will make runs at them, as well as Paul Millsap and Wesley Matthews, but more likely candidates could include Greg Monroe and Goran Dragic.
They still want to maintain flexibility for 2016, when Kevin Durant will be their top target.
"A lot of teams in more recent years have gone the route of building a roster through the draft and free agency that won't just make a splash for a couple, two or three years, and then those guys that you go get are in their prime and past it, and now you got to start over again," Fisher said.
"I understand our fans and the city wanting to hurry up and get to a championship. We obviously want to win. That's what we've done in our past. We still have to be smart."
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