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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Knicks are looking more like the Bermuda Triangle

New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher reacts

New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher reacts against the Charlotte Hornets in the first half of an NBA game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Derek Fisher is tired of losing and almost as tired of talking about and defending the triangle offense.

Fisher has gotten a little testier as the season has gone on, but it's hard to blame him with the Knicks holding a 5-36 record. It's a wonder he doesn't get more upset, pick up more technical fouls or publicly criticize his team more.

Instead, Fisher is trying to quiet the critics. But it won't happen until the Knicks start winning games.

Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright and Tim Floyd were NBA head coaches who found out you need the right players to succeed in the triangle. Fisher is learning that now, although he won't admit it.

In London on Thursday, an international reporter asked Fisher if he would be running the triangle if Phil Jackson wasn't the Knicks' president. Fisher never really answered that, but he defended the system again.

"If I'm ever in that position, I'll worry about that then," Fisher said. "I played for various coaches, played different offenses, obviously had a lot of success with the triangle offense. Good offense is good offense.

"Unfortunately, with our struggles, there's this fixation with the triangle as though it's somehow the plague and that it requires you to maybe think too much and not be able to just play basketball. Thinking too much about those championships is really hard to do."

Fisher's last remark was a shot at former Knick J.R. Smith, who said there's "too much thinking" involved after he was traded to Cleveland last Monday. That's probably why Smith is a former Knick.

There will be a lot of ex-Knicks because it's clear they don't have the right players for the triangle. Jackson acknowledged as much Jan. 10 in his "mea culpa" when he said, "I didn't do the right thing in picking the group of guys that were here."

It's been well documented and bears repeating that Jackson never won a championship without all-time great players running the system. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won six together in Chicago, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant won three with the Lakers, and Bryant won two more with All-Star Pau Gasol.

The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, but they need much more -- obviously.

The system doesn't require a top-flight point guard, but it would help if the Knicks got one. In Anthony's career, his greatest success has come with respected veterans running the team -- Chauncey Billups in Denver and Jason Kidd two years ago with the Knicks. Besides, Anthony doesn't seem proficient in the Jordan and Pippen role of running the offense.

A big man who passes well, versatile wing players and good shooters are needed in the triangle, and that's what Jackson will pursue through trades and free agency. But what can't be underplayed is the importance of defense. Jackson's teams, especially in Chicago, were strong defensively.

The Knicks don't have the right players on that end of the court either. In his playing days, Fisher was a better defender than any of his current players.

Draft talk

The Knicks' only positive this season is that they will receive a high draft pick, but finishing last doesn't guarantee them the No. 1 choice. Since the NBA went to the current weighted lottery system in 1994, the team with the worst record has won it three times, most recently in 2004. In the last nine years, the bottom two teams have picked second six times and never first.

The Knicks won't pick lower than fourth if they end up last. Either way, they have to hope whomever they take can develop quickly.

The top four projected picks are all considered freshmen: Duke center Jahlil Okafor, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (who bypassed college to play overseas), Kentucky big man Karl Towns and Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell.

Will Love bolt at some point?

Kevin Love tried to end speculation that he will leave the Cavaliers after the season and sign elsewhere by telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "I don't plan on opting out or any of that. I plan on being here."

If so, Love will be a free agent in 2016 when Kevin Durant is the prize of the class. The cap is expected to go up that summer because of the new TV deal, so maximum deals will increase.

There had been rumblings that Love could bolt Cleveland and sign with the Lakers this summer. He's from Southern California and went to UCLA.

It wouldn't be far-fetched for Durant to sign with the Lakers in 2016 and for Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook -- who played with Love at UCLA -- to join them in 2017.

The Lakers have the money. Only Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Julius Randle and Kelly Ryan are under contract next season, and only Young is under contract the following year.

Durant will be the most-sought-after free agent in 2016, with the Knicks, Nets and Wizards among the teams lining up for him.

Playoff format

NBA commissioner Adam Silver continues to say the league is looking at ways to change the playoff format because of how competitive the Western Conference is. Seeding teams 1-to-16 instead of the top eight in each conference or realigning divisions and conferences has been suggested, but Silver said the current system works best.

"All the alternatives raise different issues in terms of the schedule and the amount of travel," he said. "A lot of focus [is] on back-to-backs and four games in five nights. To the extent that we change the current conference and division structure, it would potentially require even more travel."

Buzzer beaters

Fisher on what he would change if he had a do-over: "If I could see the future, I would change our win-loss record."

Silver said there's no plan to have a team in Europe. He said the NBA would need to have "multiple franchises" there because of logistics: "We'd need to do it with a division as opposed to a single team."

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