Phil Jackson said passing isn't a strength of Carmelo Anthony's, and he wants J.R. Smith to play smarter, and Amar'e Stoudemire to defend and rebound more.
Jackson had plenty to say about every player on the Knicks' roster in an interview with ESPN.com. He was very thorough and honest in his evaluation, particularly of Smith, whose past performance has many wondering if he will buy into the triangle offense.
"J.R. is easily the best athlete on the team," Jackson said. "But J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot. His defense also needs work because he tends to be a ball-watcher, and he's late in chasing his man around screens when he should be tailgating him."
The interview with Jackson was done early in training camp, so many of his critiques have been addressed. But Smith admitted after forcing some shots in the Knicks' 103-100 preseason win over the Wizards at the Garden Wednesday night that he's having a difficult time adjusting his game in this system. "The type of player I've been, it's a struggle," Smith said. "I'm not going to lie. Trying to think about the rest of the team over myself and my scoring is something I've never really had to do before."
Jackson was critical of eight players' defense. In Anthony's case, he talked about his offense.
"Carmelo Anthony is obviously the team's only certified All-Star," Jackson said. "It's also no secret that Melo has to keep the ball moving, but he's committed to doing this. Passing has never been a great strength of his, but in the triangle he'll be able to have checkoff reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third."
Jackson said Anthony still will get isolation and post-up opportunities. He converted the game-winning three-point play with 13.9 seconds Wednesday night and finished with 30 points. Jackson also said that Stoudemire is "one of the keys" to the Knicks' season. "We hope he'll be able to play four rotations of eight minutes per game," Jackson said. "That's because Stoudemire can still be a potent scorer."
Jackson called Iman Shumpert "one of his favorites" because he's the Knicks' best on-ball defender, but said his shooting mechanics are inconsistent.
He praised the smarts of point guards Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni, but said both need "to be much better on-the-ball defenders." He believes Tim Hardaway Jr. "will become an excellent all-around player in this league."
Jackson also called Cole Aldrich an "emergency center" and said he wouldn't play much unless "somebody gets hurt," or their big men "suffer a plague of foul trouble."
Van Gundy rips triangle
Jeff Van Gundy believes the Knicks will make the playoffs, and if they do it won't be because of the triangle offense.
"I think anybody confusing a system with a reason for success is making a huge mistake," the former Knicks coach and current ABC analyst said on a conference call. "Systems don't win games, players do.
"The triangle itself is not going to be the reason they win or lose. It's going to come down to Carmelo Anthony playing exceptionally well, [Iman] Shumpert bouncing back with a big year. J.R. Smith playing well. All of those things. It's not going to be because of a system."
Notes & quotes:Calderon (right calf strain) didn't play. He may return for Friday's preseason finale against Toronto . . . Andrea Bargnani (right hamstring strain) missed his fifth straight game, and isn't sure when he will return.