Phil Jackson and winning go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s the chief reason he’s been tasked with bringing a championship to the Knicks, who haven’t won since he wore the No. 18 jersey for them.
His chief task will be to bring Carmelo Anthony back, but what’s next is unclear. He could mandate the organization cash in trade chips and go all in on next season, or his Knicks could be more patient and clear the books in advance of the 2015 free-agent class. Both methods have merit, and here’s a look at the pros and cons of each.
Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani are ticketed to cost the Knicks a combined $50 million next year, but each has an expiring contract. Such deals are often more desirable to NBA general managers than players who will help a team win. Jackson and his general manager, Steve Mills, could dangle one or more of these players in an effort to bring in role players around Anthony.
Jackson said yesterday that while he won’t force the triangle offense — his bread and butter while coaching 11 championships with the Bulls and Lakers — on the Knicks, he believes in “system basketball.” A reliable point guard or other offensive facilitator would be priority No. 1, but beyond that, the Knicks might be able to build a team that’s ready to compete in the East by the fall.
On the other hand, if the Knicks are willing to bite the bullet on the Stoudemire, Chandler and Bargnani contracts, that frees up $50 million in cap room for the team entering the 2015 offseason. That year’s free-agent class boasts unrestricted free agents LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Tony Parker and DeAndre Jordan, and could also feature Kevin Love, Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson, Brook Lopez and Arron Afflalo.
It’s a talent-rich class, especially when it comes to big men. Imagine the Knicks pairing Anthony with Rondo at point guard and LaMarcus Aldridge in the low post. That’s the kind of Big Three that could keep Jackson’s team winning year after year, as long as fans and the front office are willing to be patient.