ORLANDO, Fla. — Jeff Hornacek said he texted Carmelo Anthony after Phil Jackson’s presidency ended on Wednesday. But when he was asked if he wants Anthony on the roster next season, Hornacek paused a few seconds, and he never said yes.
“Carmelo’s a great player,” Hornacek said Thursday. “The guy can really score the ball. So that’s management decisions and us coaches, we coach who they give us.”
Jackson’s departure doesn’t mean the Knicks won’t still try to move Anthony, who has a no-trade clause in his contract. His future as a Knick remains a major question heading into the busy part of the offseason.
Free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and the Knicks’ plans have changed now that Jackson no longer is calling the shots. The change is the kind of players they will pursue.
Last season, Hornacek said the Knicks would be looking for players who fit the system, which was the triangle offense. That’s not the case anymore, he said after summer league practice Thursday.
Hornacek said he spoke to Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan and general manager Steve Mills and added that they’re “all on the same page.”
“I don’t think you necessarily need to look at, ‘Does a guy fit this system or that system?’ ” Hornacek said. “It’s, ‘Can this guy play ball? Can we mold him into what we want to do?’ ”
It’s certainly a change in philosophy from the previous three years, when Jackson continually went after players to fit his system rather than use a system that fit the personnel. Hornacek made it sound as if the Knicks will go the more conventional and popular route now.
“We’re always trying to figure out what’s best for our players,” Hornacek said. “We don’t even know what the roster is going to end up looking like. We have some ideas. But all of that will come together later in the summer.”
Hornacek said he isn’t totally abandoning the triangle. He said most teams, including the Warriors and Spurs, use triangle aspects or options. But he plans to blend in more pick-and-rolls, play more up-tempo and try to space the floor more.
That’s what worked for Hornacek when he coached the Phoenix Suns. They played small and fast, ran pick-and-rolls and shot a high volume of three-pointers.
“We’re going to work on different things and add things, find an offense that fits,” Hornacek said. “We’re going to do a lot of things from last year, some new things and we’ll blend it. Maybe it gives us some more space.”
Last season, Hornacek tried to “blend” offenses, but by February, Jackson made him go all-in on the triangle. Jackson even gave a triangle clinic to the guards.
Hornacek said he didn’t feel confined running a system he’s never played in or coached. He did say, however, that he believes free agents will look at the Knicks differently now that they’re not going to be forced to play the triangle.
“I would think so,” Hornacek said. “Golden State, San Antonio had portions of it. Every team. When you look at the triangle and you look at what it could do, there’s a lot of options and there’s a lot you can do. You can take pieces of it. You can spread it out. You can do all kinds of things. I don’t think that should be an issue.”
As of now, the Knicks could have about $16 million to spend in free agency if they waived players with partially guaranteed deals (Maurice Ndour and Marshall Plumlee) and renounced Derrick Rose’s rights.
Ndour and Plumlee are on the Knicks’ summer league team and Ndour’s salary becomes fully guaranteed Friday. The Knicks also have interest in bringing back Rose. He’s close to Mills, and he’s one of the better pick-and-roll guards in the league. Rose also has an interest in returning.
“We’re in constant communication with the Knicks and other teams as well, so we’re going to see,” said Rose’s agent, B.J. Armstrong. “There’s been a change and they have a lot going on right now. All we can do is talk, and we’ll be speaking to them at the appropriate time and waiting to hear the direction they’re going to take and what they’re going to do moving forward.”
Point guards the Knicks could target include Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry, but they’re likely out of the Knicks’ price range. More inexpensive options are Jeff Teague, George Hill, Darren Collison and Michael Carter-Williams. The Knicks also need to improve defensively on the wing, so P.J. Tucker, who played for Hornacek in Phoenix, and Oklahoma City restricted free agent Andre Roberson are options.
The Knicks also would like to re-sign restricted free agents Ron Baker and Justin Holiday, Jrue’s brother. Baker attended the Knicks’ summer league practice Thursday and sat with Mills. He left before speaking with the media.
Three free agents the Knicks could target:
1. Jeff Teague, G — The Knicks tried to acquire him a couple of years back. They need a veteran point guard to help mentor Frank Ntilikina. But can they agree on a price?
2. George Hill, G — Solid pro and good decision-maker who would fit any system the Knicks might run. The Knicks would need to create some salary-cap space for the point guard. But after playing on winning teams in San Antonio, Indiana and Utah, would Hill be willing to go for a rebuild?
3. Andre Roberson, G/F — A defensive-minded wing player who can guard multiple positions. The Knicks need that, but Roberson is a restricted free agent, so it might take a creative deal to get something done.