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Phil Jackson trying to mold his new players into a team

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at a pre-draft news conference at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LAS VEGAS - Phil Jackson hasn't spoken with Carmelo Anthony since he revamped the Knicks' roster and doesn't seem concerned about his franchise player's patience level.

Jackson spent nearly $100 million on four free agents but didn't get a single marquee player. With a focus on defense, he signed Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams and acquired Kyle O'Quinn in a sign-and-trade.

Jackson doesn't know if he has assembled a playoff team, and that might not sit well with Anthony, who is 31 and coming off knee surgery.

"We're a team sport," Jackson said Monday night. "When we're putting a team together, that's our first priority -- how do we make a team that works together? That's the important aspect. How this all comes together is still a mystery for us. We've got five months to kind of get into it here.

"Obviously, Carmelo is a guy that is a premier player, we understand that. But it's a team game. And it has to fit together."

Anthony signed a five-year, $124-million contract last summer. The Knicks offered him the most money, but Anthony also said he believed in Jackson's plan to turn the franchise around. But Year 1 was the worst season in franchise history, as the Knicks finished 17-65.

They were expected to make a big splash in the offseason, but they dropped from two to four in the draft lottery and took 7-3 Latvian project Kristaps Porzingis. They also obtained former Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant in a trade during the draft. In free agency, they failed to get Greg Monroe and were no better than long shots for LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan.

Jackson reiterated that it was by design that the Knicks didn't go star hunting. "I don't look at basketball that way," he said. "That's what we've done over the years in New York. That's not what I'm doing. We're going after solid players that will step into vacuums and play ball, and if we have a system that we play basketball together with, that will all work out."

Next summer, the Knicks are expected to go after the big fish, namely Kevin Durant. But Jackson said there's only one way for them to become a team that the big stars want to join.

"Win," he said. "We need to win. Be a competitive team. I think we showed agents and players around the league of a serious nature of what we're trying to get accomplished. People who know basketball will recognize that and we'll get people who want to come here.''

Jackson believes the Knicks can make the jump the Bucks did last season, going from 15 wins to 41 and a playoff berth. But he isn't predicting or guaranteeing anything. "I don't know if we win 30 more games,'' he said. "That would be an awful massive jump for any team. So we'll just go with what we have and not anticipate anything else."

Afflalo has proved he can score, but the team that Jackson has put together would seem to put more of the focus on Anthony to carry the Knicks offensively. But Jackson continues to say that within the triangle offense, everyone gets the chance to score when it's run properly.

"I don't know if that's how I would even state that," Jackson said when asked if Anthony is more important than ever. "With him in mind is a lot of how we directed what we did. His scoring is still going to be very important for us. We really said we wanted to play defense and this is what we're attempting to do with our free agency and this is what makes a difference in how teams win -- by defensively taking a stance."

Monroe had been linked to the Knicks all season and would have been a legitimate second scoring option, but Jackson said he wasn't surprised that he chose the Bucks."Greg went to the right spot," he said. "That's the right place for him. We understand that entirely.

"We made a defensive attempt in free agency to really kind of solidify our team and really give ourselves a basis in which we can work from. I think everything went according to how we thought it would go.''

Notes & quotes: The Knicks beat the Lakers, 76-66, in summer league play. Langston Galloway and Cleanthony Early had 13 points each, Grant had 10 points and eight assists, and Porzingis had nine points in 19 minutes.

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