57° Good Afternoon
57° Good Afternoon

Phil Jackson: 'We believe that we're going to be a playoff team'

Knicks head coach Derek Fisher, left, and president

Knicks head coach Derek Fisher, left, and president Phil Jackson talk to the media during a press conference at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y. on Sept. 26, 2014. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Phil Jackson is asked by New Yorkers at least once a day how long before the Knicks will be a championship contender.

That question was posed to the Knicks president again Friday during a pre-training camp availability with team officials.

"We hope it's expedient," Jackson said.

He can't answer that definitively. The Knicks are not like the teams Jackson took over in Chicago and Los Angeles that had multiple superstars, had been in playoff series together and were knocking on the door of a title.

They have seven new faces, a brand new coaching staff and are coming off a 37-win season. But Jackson thinks they have assembled a team that's good enough to reach the playoffs this season.

"This team has not got a personality -- over 35 percent of the team has changed," Jackson said. "So we still have to kind of come together in a bonding way that creates trust, teamwork, identity, some things like that.

"We believe that we're going to be a playoff team and then we don't know how far we'll be able to go. We're hoping for the best."

Like every season, health will be a major factor. The Knicks lost former center Tyson Chandler in the fourth game of last season and they never really recovered from a slow start.

Camp opens Tuesday at West Point, and the Knicks appear to be healthy -- including Amar'e Stoudemire -- and with a trimmed-down Carmelo Anthony. By all accounts, Anthony, who re-signed in July for five years and $124 million, is ready to play the role asked of him by Jackson and first-time coach Derek Fisher.

"There's no question he wants to win," Fisher said. "That's why he came back, because he believes that's possible. I don't believe it was just for the money. He could have gotten the money to go anywhere, but I do believe he's confident in not just where we are, but where we can go and he wants to participate in that in a very detailed way.

"I'm hopeful that we can all come in collectively, put our talents together to achieve some special things."

But it won't be expedient unless the Knicks can deal for some superstar talent.

They're set to have ample cap space the next two summers to sign stars. Kevin Durant, a free agent in 2016, is on their radar. In the meantime, Fisher plans to stress defense while Jackson hopes the Knicks can develop some chemistry.

"Where's our talent level?" Jackson said. "Do they have enough talent to reach the ultimate moment in basketball when you receive that trophy? Those are decisions that will be made in the offseason, and that's something else we will have to deal with.

"Right now, we're just looking at how well they play together, what kind of bonds will they form with the chemistry and how intensely they can play and how much energy they put out on the floor?"

New York Sports