Knicks take Wichita State's Cleanthony Early with 34th pick
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Phil Jackson said the intent of the blockbuster trade with the Mavericks was to change the Knicks' chemistry and that there will be more moves to come.
In Jackson's first draft Thursday night, the Knicks took Wichita State forward and Bronx native Cleanthony Early with the 34th pick and used the 51st selection on Greek forward Thanasios Antetokounmpo, whose brother Giannis plays for the Bucks. They also acquired the No. 57 pick from Indiana for cash and selected French power forward/center Louis Labeyrie.
Jackson hopes his moves and draft picks will appeal to Carmelo Anthony, but he continues to challenge Anthony to take less money in free agency.
This is an interesting tack for Jackson to take, knowing that teams with better rosters will be in pursuit when Anthony hits the open market Tuesday.
"He's the one that opened that up that it wasn't about the money," Jackson said before the draft began. "So I challenged him on that because I want our fans to see he's a team player, that he's going to do what was best for this team to get ahead farther and faster."
The Bulls are considered the frontrunners to get Anthony if he leaves the Knicks. He reportedly will meet with the Bulls, Rockets and Mavericks when he becomes a free agent. The Heat and Lakers also could get in the mix. The Knicks can offer Anthony roughly $34 million more than any other team can, but Jackson said it's difficult to build a championship team with a player making max money.
He also said he doesn't know what to expect, given that LeBron James also will be a free agent. Teams are trying to clear money to get James and perhaps Anthony as well.
"But we have every confidence that Carmelo is good for what his word is," Jackson said. "That he wants to be in New York, he likes playing in New York, he wants to compete, he wants to be part of a playoff team that is bound toward a championship."
Jackson said it will be tough to trim enough payroll to sign Anthony and another star-caliber player, but he didn't rule it out. He also wouldn't say whether he would do a sign-and-trade with Anthony if he goes elsewhere.
But Jackson believes the Knicks took a step in the right direction by acquiring Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and the No. 34 and 51 picks in the draft for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton.
Jackson said the biggest reason he made the trade was that he noticed chemistry issues at the end of last season.
"We saw that what we wanted to get accomplished was we had to change some of the chemistry on this team," he said. " . . . I saw guys that looked at each other like, you didn't back me up, you weren't here when I needed help. There just wasn't the right combination or feel [where] it felt like everybody was in sync all the time."
Jackson said he informed Anthony a couple of weeks ago that the deal was on the table, and he added that Anthony saw the "value" in the trade. "We want to send a message to all of our players that we are on the move and we are making changes and we are making changes to move forward in the direction that we want to go," Jackson said. "We want to be more aggressive defensively, we want to have a certain sense of offensive alacrity, getting up and down the court and challenging defenses to get back and protect the basket."
Because the Knicks acquired three guards in the trade, they have a glut in the backcourt that Jackson plans to address. "We can't be overwhelmed by our roster from that standpoint," he said. "We'll work on that. We'll get that straightened out.''
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