Phil Jackson doesn't have enough fingers to hold all of his championship rings, but that much success gives the Knicks' president the street cred to ask Carmelo Anthony to be more selfless than he's ever been.
The last two times Jackson has spoken with reporters, he has said he hopes Anthony will accept a less-than-maximum contract, and he wants him to opt in instead of opt out this summer.
It's not often that Anthony is challenged this way publicly, but it's obvious that Jackson is the face of the franchise now. Although Anthony might have other ideas, both of Jackson's suggestions / requests would be a win-win for the Knicks.
Anthony has said all along that he will opt out and become a free agent July 1, but he also has said he would be willing to take less if it gives the Knicks flexibility and improves their chances of winning a championship. Jackson, an 11-time champion as a coach, is holding him to that, and also is trying to get him to wait until 2015 to be free.
"We have an opportunity in the next couple of years to get back in the hunt for free agents that are headline players," Jackson said Friday. "This year, not so. But we're going to make improvements on this team regardless. But next year and the year after, we think that we're going to have that opportunity. Can we get two instead of just one? Yeah, that's a possibility. Reality of how to do that involves Carmelo's compliance.
"It may not be a $20-million player, $16-million player, $12-million player -- it may be a $10-million ballplayer. But that's the way things work out now. There's a possibility we can do that. That's kind of the way we looked at it with Carmelo, and he's willing to do that because he wants to win a championship.
"That's not the end of our appeal and that's not the end of our negotiations with him. But that's a point of emphasis that he opened the door and I stuck my foot in it and said this is what we can do."
The 2015 free-agent class could include LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rajon Rondo, and the 2016 prize is Kevin Durant. Jackson has plenty to do before then -- picking a coach, preparing for life with or without Anthony and determining how he can improve the team now.
That's been Jackson's focus as he waits for leading coaching candidate Derek Fisher, whose Oklahoma City Thunder faced the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night, to end his playing career and become available.
The Knicks have begun workouts with draft-eligible players and Jackson said they would be willing to buy a pick because they don't have one. But trades and signing players to short-term deals likely will be the way Jackson tries to immediately improve the Knicks. "I don't think it's any secret that everybody that we have on our roster is up for discussion," he said.
Jackson said Anthony and high-priced players who will be free agents after the 2014-15 season -- Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani -- "are not to be discussed, but the roster that we have beyond that is open for discussion."
The thinking is that the Knicks don't want to give up the flexibility they have for next year's free agency. But Jackson still didn't rule out taking back players or salaries that could impact the Knicks without giving up flexibility for 2015.
"If we get back what we think we need to fill out the character and the type of player that we want to have, we're going to go forward with it anyway," Jackson said. "We're not the only teams that are going to be chasing these players."
Jackson believes that if Anthony returns, combined with whatever moves he can make to improve the team, the Knicks will contend next season.
"Yeah, I do," he said. "I think it has to have kind of a refreshed attitude. I think they call it a beginner mind. It needs a beginner mind to start over again. In the process to bond together, that's what teams do that are successful and come back with 'OK, we can do this. We can collectively get ourselves back on the same page, same breath and same idea of selfless behavior, whatever our roles and get out there and play the game that's competitive.' There should be ample opportunity for this team to come back into competition next year."
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