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Phil Jackson on Knicks' draft: 'We're taking a really good player'

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at a press conference before a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Phil Jackson says point guard and small forward are two positions the Knicks have "kind of covered," but he won't rule out taking one in Thursday's NBA Draft.

"We're taking a really good player, we know that," the Knicks' president said on ESPN radio Monday morning. "We don't know who's going to fall in our direction and yet we have needs on this team. The positions we're kind of covered is lead guard and small forward. But that doesn't matter. We can still take the best player that comes along at that position at No. 4 if we have an extraordinary pick.

"We think that there's enough talent to have somebody that's going to be really good and be a starter hopefully on our roster."

There should be at least one point guard available when the Knicks select fourth: Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay, who played in China last season. Duke's Justise Winslow and Arizona's Stanley Johnson are the highest-ranked small forwards, but they're projected to go later than fourth.

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The Knicks have needs all over, particularly the frontcourt. The 6-8 Carmelo Anthony is the tallest player under contract, so the Knicks could go big with Latvian 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis or -- if they trade down -- 7-foot Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein, Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky (who has been listed as anywhere from 6-11 to 7-1) or 6-10 Kentucky forward Trey Lyles.

Small forward is Anthony's spot, but point guard has been a longtime area of need for the Knicks. Jackson apparently thinks highly of Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway. If Russell is there, though, Jackson could take him.

Porzingis is an intriguing prospect whom the Knicks have worked out twice individually, including Monday, according to league sources, and saw in a group session in Las Vegas. He plays both ends of the floor and can shoot, but he might need time to develop. Jackson, an 11-time champion as a coach, could want players who can help the Knicks now.

Jackson reiterated Monday that when his time is up, he sees general manager Steve Mills taking over. Of course, that's up to Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan.

"I have a five-year contract," Jackson said. "I finished Year One. I anticipate it's going to take a while to turn this around, and I want to be here through that phase. That was my commitment with Jim Dolan.

"He asked me to try and find a brand, so to speak, for our franchise in which people know how we play, why we play and identify the style of ball that we play. Part of that is my history of coaching in the NBA. I think that it allows you to take players that fit into a system that works well and have had success. Hopefully I can kind of lead the way to do that, and as time goes on, I can allow Steve to take over the whole operation. I don't anticipate that that's going to be a big deal."

Jackson also answered critics who say he's not fully committed to the job.

"I don't have a reaction," he said. "That just doesn't make any sense. I moved to New York. I'm living here and going to work and doing what has to be done in my position, and that's make decisions. The aspect of recruiting, that's also going to be a big part of my job. We'll see what happens as we go through free agency."

Pistons big man Greg Monroe remains a top target and is considered a good fit for the triangle offense. Jackson said his pitch in free agency will be "to preach and plea" to players that the system works.

"I think the idea is we play a style of ball that benefits players," Jackson said. "It's full participation. We don't have guys that are standing in the corner waiting to shoot three-pointers and bigs that all they're doing is setting picks and rolling to the basket. We have people that make plays and participate in full in an NBA basketball game according to how I think basketball should be played."

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