Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

James’ opt-out is first step in getting him some more help


VIDEO: LeBron James dominates Game 2 of The Finals — the Heat’s lone win in the series

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – LeBron James will be a free agent on July 1. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Tuesday morning that James’ agent, Rich Paul, has informed the Miami Heat that James will exercise his early termination option, releasing him from the final two years of the contract he signed in 2010.

This doesn’t mean that James is leaving Miami. It just means that he’ll be signing a new contract this summer.

Can Riley re-tool?

Maybe this is good (and mostly expected) news for the Heat. If they ultimately convince James to stay, they’ll have him on board longer than the year or two they would have had him if he didn’t exercise his option. (The six-year, sign-and-trade deal he signed in 2010 had an early termination option in 2014 and a player option in 2015.) If he re-signs, they have him for the remainder of his prime.

We haven’t heard word about Dwyane Wade‘s or Chris Bosh‘s intentions, but they have the same contract options as James. And if all three opt out, the Heat could have some flexibility.

But in order for team president Pat Riley to truly upgrade the big three’s supporting cast, at least one of them would have to take a pay cut. Even though all would be free agents, their max-salary cap holds would still put the Heat over the salary cap. Once you replace one or two cap holds with lesser salaries, there’s space to sign other free agents.

And if the Heat are looking to upgrade around the big three, there are plenty of free agents to choose from. Point guards Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe and Patty Mills could be at the top of their list. If Wade continues to take on a lesser role and Bosh continues to play on the perimeter, they need help on the wings and inside as well.

The door is open

But if Wade or Bosh don’t want to take pay cuts, if Riley can’t get more help, and if James doesn’t see a bright future with the Heat, this opens the door for other teams to convince him that he has a better opportunity to win championships elsewhere. The Heat have been to The Finals each of the four seasons that James has been in Miami, but Wade obviously isn’t the same player he was in 2010, and Miami got absolutely crushed by the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals earlier this month.

If James is looking for younger stars to complement him, he should talk to the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah) and Houston Rockets (James Harden, Dwight Howard). But both teams would need to clear some salaries off their books in order to have the necessary cap space to sign the four-time MVP to a maximum, four-year contract.

Other teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets, have the space, but not the co-stars. Kobe Bryant‘s $23.5 million salary alone (forgetting the additional $9.7 million the Lakers owe Steve Nash,) would prevent L.A. from signing both James and Carmelo Anthony to maximum deals.

Cleveland? It’s always a possibility, but that organization is not exactly organized at this point.

The leverage play

Ultimately, this move gives James the most leverage. It pushes Riley to go out and improve his roster. It pushes Bosh and Wade to accept pay cuts or lose their golden ticket to The Finals. And it pushes other teams to show their cards. If James sees the right pieces around him (in Miami or elsewhere), he could be willing to take less-than-max money as well.

James is the best player in the world. He knows it, but also knows that, in order to win more championships and be considered among the best players who ever lived, he needs more help than he had this season. And opting out of his contract was the first step in getting it.

Morning Shootaround — June 24


VIDEO: The DraftHQ crew discuss Joel Embiid’s pro prospects

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Plenty of suitors for Anthony | Report: Scott favorite to land Lakers’ gig | Thomas opens up about free agency | Parker’s dad denies talk of Jabari tanking workouts

No. 1: Report: Field of Anthony suitors gets deep — New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony officially opted out of his contract yesterday, making him the No. 1 unrestricted free-agent target this summer. As such, he’ll get plenty of calls from the teams many expect to pursue him … and a lot more that might surprise you to be among the fray, too. According to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, no less than seven teams are expected to chase Anthony, although who will talk to him first and when remains unknown:

Carmelo Anthony has yet to publicly reveal the process by which he plans to entertain other teams in free agency now that he has opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks, but the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams that expect to have the opportunity to make their pitch to him starting July 1, according to sources close to the situation.

Teams can’t formally contact free agents until 12:01 a.m. ET July 1, but sources told ESPN.com that the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat are two more teams that could join the race for Anthony, depending on how things play out before, during and after Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Bulls are widely regarded as the early favorite to steal Anthony from the Knicks, with sources saying Monday that Chicago has been quietly planning for this free-agent pursuit for months, going back to the January trade of Luol Deng to Cleveland. Sources say every move Chicago made during the season’s second half — including the seemingly minor signings of veterans Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amundson and Mike James to very tradeable contracts — was made with the hope they might be helpful in a potential sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony.

Sources say the Rockets, meanwhile, have begun working on trade exits for center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin to clear enough space under the salary cap to make a representative offer to Anthony.

The Lakers are in the advantageous position of having enough room under the salary cap to make a maximum offer to Anthony without having to clear any salary, but it is believed Anthony would want them to strengthen their roster before he would seriously consider a move to L.A. Sources say the Lakers, to that end, have been exploring their options with the No. 7 pick in Thursday’s draft and have told teams they are prepared to package the pick with the expiring contract of Steve Nash (owed $9.7 million next season) for the right offer.

ESPNDallas.com reported Sunday that the Mavericks, armed with plenty of cap space themselves, likewise expect to be granted a face-to-face sit-down with Anthony.

Earlier this month, ESPN.com reported the Heat had begun internal discussions about pursuing the former scoring champion to try to grow their Big Three into a Big Four, but the Heat could pursue Anthony only if LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade opt out of their current deals later this week and are willing to take less money to re-sign and play alongside Anthony.

The Hawks would have to clear approximately $10 million to $12 million in salary-cap space to pursue Anthony, but sources indicate that is one of the many options Atlanta is considering, making it a sleeper team to watch.

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Morning Shootaround — June 23


VIDEO: Knicks.com takes a look back at Carmelo Anthony’s 2013-14 season

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Thibodeau spearheading Bulls’ Anthony push | Report: Gay opts in with Kings | Report: Mavs to pursue Lakers’ Gasol, Wizards’ Gortat | Impossible choice now for ‘Melo | Report: Celts to view Embiid’s medical records

No. 1: Report: Thibodeau spearheading Bulls’ push for Anthony — Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose once famously said he doesn’t recruit players to join him in the Windy City. That policy may not apply to Rose’s coach, Tom Thibodeau. According to the Chicago Sun-TimesJoe Cowley, Thibodeau is doing a lot of research on Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony, who recently announced he’ll be in this summer’s free-agency pool:

The Bulls’ push to acquire New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is heating up heading into NBA draft week, and perhaps no one wants his services more than coach Tom Thibodeau.

According to one of Anthony’s former coaches, Thibodeau has reached out to him and to several other coaches who have worked with Anthony with numerous calls.

‘‘I even told Tom that there may be days he will want to blow his own head off when it comes to Melo’s defense, but he keeps saying he knows he can make it work,’’ the coach said. ‘‘It’s not that Carmelo can’t play defense, it’s just how often. And he knows every trick in the book on getting around that.’’

That the Bulls are in full-court-press mode on Anthony comes as no surprise, considering center Joakim Noah courted him during All-Star weekend in February and continued the recruitment throughout the second half of the season.

And it would seem Noah isn’t alone. Point guard Derrick Rose reportedly has gotten involved, too, and Thibodeau has used back channels to let Anthony know his addition could mean big things for everyone involved.

‘‘There’s no question [the Bulls] would be better with [Anthony], with or without his defensive inconsistencies,’’ the coach said. ‘‘As I told Tom: ‘You’re in the East, Tom. Remember, you’re in the East.’ “

The question, though, is how does a deal for Anthony get done? Multiple media outlets have reported a sign-and-trade that includes the expiring contract of forward Carlos Boozer is the favored route, especially with the Knicks preparing for Anthony to announce Monday that he will opt out of his current deal.

Such a scenario likely would involve the Bulls sending at least one of their first-round picks — No. 16 or No. 19 — to the Knicks, who are in rebuilding mode and need to start with a point guard.

There are also reports the Bulls might be willing to deal another draft pick in pursuit of Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, which means they’re serious about pursuing a championship now.

The Bulls’ offseason aggressiveness isn’t shocking to anyone around the league. At the NBA Finals last week, several sources indicated general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson were ‘‘looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take’’ to make the Bulls a contender.

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Morning Shootaround — June 19


VIDEO: The San Antonio Spurs celebrate their championship at the Alamodome

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Celts may be on outs for Love | Anthony discusses meeting with Jackson | Young willing to give Lakers hometown discount | West calls Popovich ‘best coach’ he’s ever seen

No. 1: Report: Celtics may be on outs in any Love deals — From the moment Kevin Love visited Boston on vacation a few weeks ago (and shared a brief hello with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo at a Boston Red Sox game), the popular sentiment around Boston was that it had the inside track on landing Love. But according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the team’s chances of landing the somewhat-disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves power forward isn’t looking too hot:

The reality, however, is that this may be not be a blockbuster summer for the Celts. They may very well be left with a slower and steadier option as they seek to rebuild from their most recent run as a contender. And it may be their best choice.

The latest sparkler to be dimmed came when it was learned the Timberwolves are looking at other allegedly more palatable offers than that of the Celtics when considering a trade for Kevin Love. League sources from multiple sides told the Herald that Minnesota is seeking a player of substance as well as draft picks, if they are to part with their best player.

Those same sources cited Golden State and Denver, with others in the running, as well. The Celtics have expressed strong interest in Love, and they will continue working on a package that may entice the Timberwolves. But word is even a selection of picks, led by Nos. 6 and 17 overall this season, and either Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk isn’t going to be enough.

Is there a chance that Minnesota changes its opinion on the type of rebuild it wants to do and begins to look more favorably on the Celtics’ assets? Possibly. But a week out from the draft, the Wolves were hoping for something different.

At this point, the Celts are looking to find out more precisely what it will take to get Love, so they can see if they can cobble together the proper pieces.

“Minnesota looks at it that the team who gets the best player wins the trade,” one source said. “If they do make this deal, they know they’re going to be giving up the best guy in Love. So the picks they get will be nice, but they also want to get back a guy they know can play, a guy with some kind of track record.”

To meet Minnesota’s apparent need, the Celts may have to get more creative and involve at least one other team. If the Wolves are not enamored of what the C’s have to offer for a player, Danny Ainge could try to find such a player on another club and tailor the transaction to get him to Minnesota.

There is all evidence from league sources that the Celtics are already looking at these possibilities.

But all signs point to next week’s draft being the most likely time the Wolves make a move with Love. If they realize they are eventually going to have to build without him, it makes sense to start the process now and take advantage of this draft.

That may also be the Celtics’ position a week from tonight. And it may be the best course of action if they hope to build a team that gets into the championship equation and has the kind of depth to stay there a while.

And, Bulpett also tweeted out these interesting nuggets (if you mind the pun) about Denver getting in the thick of the Love chase …

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Blogtable: A coach, other details in L.A.

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What to do in Miami | Spurs faves in 2015? | Who wants to be Lakers’ coach?


> The Lakers still don’t have a head coach, and the NBA Draft is a week from Thursday. If you’re a Lakers fan, are you worried about that? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Worried about the coaching vacancy? Heck, if I’m a Lakers fan, I’m not even worried about the Draft. We’re the Lakers, remember. Our fate isn’t tied to any stupid Draft, much less any guy in a suit. We make trades and sign free agents when we need help, and the league is full of players dying to leverage their way to L.A. to make our jobs easier. OK, so it hasn’t happened lately and the Dwight Howard defection was a reason to wonder if — nah, heck with that, too. That was Howard’s mistake. We’re the Lakers, remember? Everyone wants us to be good, thus we soon shall be. We don’t sweat the small stuff. And if our surgeons are doing their jobs, we don’t sweat at all.

Kobe Bryant (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If I’m a fan, I’m far more worried that the Lakers don’t actually have a team.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: If I’m a Lakers fan, I’m not worried that we’re getting into late June and there’s no coach in place, I’m just kind of numb to the fact that there doesn’t appear to much sizzle among any of the candidates. And on a broader level, I’m concerned how Kobe Bryant accepts the new hire and how that dynamic will affect the next year or two as the Lakers desperately try to fast-track a rebuild.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: As if Lakers fans need a reason to get emotional. But on that point in particular, I wouldn’t be worried. Management signaled from the start this may be resolved later rather than sooner and did little to hide the possibility the search would reach beyond July 1 to match the coach with the roster and maybe even give a select one or two players input on the decision. If there is a concern, it’s that the Lakers didn’t have a strong commitment to a future with Mike D’Antoni and now are giving the same sense with his successor. If the front office had someone it really wanted, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak would have closed the deal by now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’d be more worried about the lack of young and healthy players under contract than the lack of a coach. They have four guys under contract, including two – Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash – who are over the age of 35, who played a total of 21 games this season, and who are owed more than $33 million next season. They have cap space, but not much in regard to assets to trade for a star or championship-potential to lure one in free agency.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: No. I’m much more worried about the fact that the Lakers don’t have much of a roster beyond Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Based on the absence of personnel to work with, the coaching vacancy is the least of my worries … if I’m a Lakers fan.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: What, we worry? The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, who looked pretty good on an indoor soccer pitch in Brazil this week. Other than that, what? Well, you’re going to get the number 7 overall player in the draft. And then you’ve got…a pretty nice arena? Look, expectations should be low for the Lakers because they are not a playoff team right now. They have a lot to figure out — coaching staff among these things — and they’ve probably built up enough institutional trust to be rewarded with at least a little patience from their fans. Give them some time to figure it out. Wait ’til next year. Then? If things aren’t headed the right direction by then, then you can make some noise about the demise of the Lake Show.

Kobe Bryant: ‘I’m 100 percent’

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kobe Bryant  enjoys the international game of futbol as much or more than any of his NBA peers. So it’s not a surprise to see him making the rounds in Brazil for the World Cup.

Of interest to Los Angeles Lakers fans, though, might be the words coming directly from Kobe that he is 100 percent healthy and ready for next season. He played in just six games in 2013-14, recovering from the Achilles injury that cost him the playoffs last season and then sitting the bulk of this season as his fractured knee healed.

He’s not worried about the Lakers’ listless coaching search or the fact that there are only three players (Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are the others in addition to Kobe — Nick Young has a player option on his contract and Kendall Marshall a team option on his deal) under contract for next season.

“That’s the best time,” he told an interviewer, “when people count you out.”

Check out Kobe live and extremely candid from (what appears to be a park bench) Brazil:

Morning Shootaround — June 18


VIDEO: The GameTime crew talks about the San Antonio Spurs’ offseason

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rockets ready to crash free-agent market | Randle doesn’t want NBA age limit | Parker to skip FIBA World Cup; Ginobili weighing choice | Nowitzki: ‘Cubes knows I don’t want to go anywhere’

No. 1: Rockets ready to be busy in free agency — Last summer, the Houston Rockets shocked much of the NBA world when they were able to lure free-agent center Dwight Howard away from the Los Angeles Lakers and team him with a promising, young All-Star talent in James Harden. Could Houston be making moves to pick up one of this summer’s big names — be it LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony? Don’t put it past them, writes Sam Amick of USA Today, who explains that the Rockets’ appeal overseas and other factors could help them once again this summer:

Dwight Howard couldn’t watch.

There he was at his favorite Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant on Sunday night, the Houston Rockets big man chewing on his favorite seafood fare and trying to take in the end of the NBA Finals like the other 22.4 million people who tuned in down the stretch. But as the San Antonio Spurs pulled away and LeBron James’ Miami Heat saw their three-peat pursuit coming to a close, Howard had to pull away too.

“I started eating, and as the game started dwindling down, I was just sick,” Howard, whose 2009 trip to the Finals with the Orlando Magic was the closest he came to winning it all, told USA TODAY Sports. “I just couldn’t eat no more. I just walked up out of the restaurant and got in the car. It was tough. I saw LeBron, just how he sat on the bench. It was so tough. I’ve been there in that position where you’re watching the other team celebrate, and you worked so hard to get there and you know the other team is just clicking on all cylinders. It was really, really hard to watch.

“I was happy for Tim (Duncan). I was happy for Kawhi Leonard. But it was just extremely hard to get up there and watch, so I just had to get up and get out. I was pretty much mad for the whole night.”

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have the ability to opt out of their Heat contracts, and Bosh would certainly be on the Rockets’ short list of targets should James decide to head elsewhere. Should Anthony opt out of his New York Knicks deal, he could take a similar path to the one chosen by Howard last July …

Daryl Morey has long been known as one of the most active executives in the league, and he has no plans to change now. This is music to the ears of players who want to know their general manager is always working to improve the roster.

“We’re always aggressive,” Morey said. “That’s just in our owner’s makeup, whether it’s adding Clyde (Drexler in 1995) to an already-championship team to adding (Charles) Barkley on a team (in 1996) that might have been just as good as their championship teams but came up short, to obviously doing moves for Tracy McGrady and then James Harden. Our owner has got aggressiveness in his DNA, and obviously I’m at the tip of his spear.”

Howard doesn’t plan on recruiting James, Anthony, or any other soon-to-be free agent personally, instead choosing to respect their personal process while they decide their respective next steps.

 


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses what might happen next for Miami’s Big Three

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Morning Shootaround — June 17


VIDEO: Kenny Smith gives his thoughts on the 2014 Finals and the next season

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kerr gets to know Bogut, Barnes | Pelicans’ Gordon on the mend | Bryant responds to Klinnsman’s comments | Wiggins’ visit to Philly mostly a secret

No. 1: Kerr gets jump on getting to know his playersSteve Kerr has been only been in his new role as coach of the Golden State Warriors a few weeks, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting to know his players. He recently took a trip to Melbourne, Austrailia, to visit center Andrew Bogut and spoke with second-year forward Harrison Barnes and his agent in the Miami area, writes 

New Warriors coach Steve Kerr went out of his way to meet with his players in person. To get to center Andrew Bogut, he flew to Melbourne.

“It showed a lot of respect to come here and see me,” Bogut told The Daily Telegraph on Monday.

“He had some good things to say about the direction of the team and what he wants to do. I’m really excited about Steve.

“The question is that he hasn’t coached before but the way he spoke to me when he was here it seemed like he knew what he was doing.”

Kerr also recently traveled to the Miami area to visit with Harrison Barnes and his agent.

“Steve felt that it would be a great thing for him to do to meet every single player — go to them, not have them come to him — and spend time with them, get to know ‘em, tell ‘em about what his plans were and how they fit in, and also see how badly they wanted to be a part of it as well,” Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob told KGO-TV on Sunday.

“I think the reception has been fantastic, and I think that over time — this is a process — that they’ll get to know him and understand the system he’s bringing in and what we’re going to do going forward. And I think by training camp, we’ll have a group of guys that are all on the same page.”


VIDEO: Take an All-Access look at Steve Kerr’s official arrival in Oakland

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Morning Shootaround — June 11


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played June 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Leonard gives Spurs a preview of their future | Hollins still hoping for coaching gig | Report: Lakers meet with Scott again | Nowitzki: Chances ‘slim to none’ he’ll leave Mavs | Battier a master at stealing play-calls

No. 1: Leonard gives Spurs an early look at their future Through the first two games of The Finals, Kawhi Leonard was a virtual non-factor as he had just 18 points in the series and was being outplayed by his matchup, LeBron James. The Heat’s star had another solid game (22 points), but Leonard broke out of his funk in a major way in Game 3. He poured in 29 points and powered San Antonio’s rout and as our Steve Aschburner notes, gave the Spurs a good look at what the team might look like when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker hang it up:

Kawhi Leonard, the presumptive future of the San Antonio Spurs, was sorely needed in the present, lest these 2014 Finals slip too quickly into his and the Spurs’ past.

So the future was now in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, Leonard scoring a career-high 29 points and shadowing LeBron James into the sort of mere-mortal game San Antonio will need if it hopes to do this year what it couldn’t do last.

Leonard was jerked out of his foul-plagued funk in the two games in San Antonio by some pep talks and tough love from the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan as if he was, oh, Roy Hibbert. And he responded, mostly by ignoring the circumstances of these games and playing as if this were January.

Offensively, Leonard attacked Miami from the start, hitting all five of his shots in the first quarter and scoring 16 of the Spurs’ 41 points that period. Defensively the 6-foot-7 forward with the pterodactyl wingspan and Wolverine hands helped limit James to 22 points, just eight over the final three quarters when San Antonio’s fat lead cried out for something special after halftime.

Leonard had been outscored 60-18 by James in Games 1 and 2 combined, but he had the edge this time by seven. By relaxing, by seizing the moment while forgetting how momentous it was, Leonard sparked the Spurs to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and stuck Miami with its first home loss of the postseason (8-1).

“That’s how he’s played all year long,” Popovich said. “He’s got to be one of our better players on the court or we’re not good enough. That’s just the way it is.

“You know, it’s the NBA Finals. You can’t just be mediocre out there if you want to win a game, and everybody’s got to play well, and he did that.”

Popovich acknowledged that he and others within the team had talked with Leonard in the two off-days before Game 3, though he declined to share. “Family business,” the Spurs coach called it.

Though the specifics were cloaked, the message seemed obvious.

“We just wanted him to be who he’s been the whole year, in the regular season and in the playoffs,” Popovich said. He said Leonard “overreacted” to the fouls called against him and “became very cautious.” “And he doesn’t play like that,” the coach added.

Said Duncan: “We’ve been on him about continuing to play.”

Leonard’s 29 points weren’t just his NBA career high – they apparently were the most he’d scored since high school. He had 26 for San Diego State as a freshman in a game at Wyoming, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reported, and 26 in an April game against Memphis this season. He’s the first player to set his personal scoring high in a Finals game since the Nets’ Kenyon Martin went for 35 in Game 4 against the Lakers in 2002.


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Kawhi Leonard’s monster Game 3 (more…)

Challenges await Knicks’ coach Fisher

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Fisher introduced as coach of Knicks

Veteran coaches George Karl and Lionel Hollins are still knocking on doors. Longtime assistant and former New York Knicks great Patrick Ewing still can’t get a sniff for a head coaching job even as 19 of the league’s 30 teams decided to hire new coaches since the end of last season.

Including Ewing’s old Knicks with their new president with the famous limp and all that bling.

Phil Jackson wanted to keep his coaching search within his Triangle-of-trust, so to speak, so once former top choice and former Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Steve Kerr spurned him to take the Golden State Warriors’ gig, Jackson tapped the next man up, freshly retired Derek Fisher. The former Los Angeles Lakers point guard put a wrap on a distinguished 18-year career following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s loss in the Western Conference finals just 11 days ago.

On Tuesday, the dapperly dressed Fisher was introduced as the 26th coach of the New York Knicks. Jackson, and Knicks owner James Dolan, awarded him a five-year, $25-million contract to breath some blue-collar life into a high-ego and seemingly incongruent, salary-cap-strapped roster.

Fisher, although, promptly pointed out, as any smart coach would, that he’s more optimistic about the immediate potential of his new team than are most observers.

“I’m not as down on the roster and the team as some of you in the room are,” Fisher said, smiling at reporters gathered at Madison Square Garden.

Fisher has always been something of a political animal.


VIDEO: Fisher talks about his experience

He was also the perfect set-up man and emotional stabilizer to play next to the Lakers’ high-strung star. Fisher was a steady, level-headed and intelligent quarterback who didn’t need to score to be satisfied, but was always ready to take the big shot. He made plenty of them along the road to five Lakers championships with Kobe and Phil.

Fisher, 39, never was the natural talent or showman like Jason Kidd, his now-crosstown coaching rival in Brooklyn who preceded Fisher by one year in making the rare move of stepping out of the locker room and into the coach’s chair.

But like Kidd, Fisher enjoyed a long career as a successful floor general and garners a high level of respect from the league’s players. With Oklahoma City for parts of the last three seasons, Fisher gained the trust and admiration of the Thunder’s front office and coach Scott Brooks, and served as a hybrid assistant coach-mentor-sounding board for the team’s two young stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“He’s well-respected in the locker room, knows the game of basketball, great basketball mind and he’s been in situations before,” Durant said during the Thunder’s exit interviews. “Having those guys that respect you and you have that experience, it helps. He’s a great leader, a great communicator … he works extremely hard and he’s dedicated.”

Jackson’s belief is that Fisher will forge a similar relationship with currently discontented Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, assuming he re-signs.

Even if Anthony stays, Fisher’s new job is going to be tough. The roster, despite Fisher’s early protestation, is in tatters. The Knicks do not have a first-round draft pick and because the team’s 2014-15 payroll is already pushing well into the luxury tax, Jackson’s hands are mostly tied to make impactful changes this summer.

It makes Fisher’s situation more dire than the one Kidd inherited after he retired from the Knicks following the 2012-13 season and surprisingly stepped into the Nets’ top job. Kidd took over a better roster, buttressed by former Celtics greats Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and one essentially free of troublemakers. Although the season started shakily with Kidd absorbing heavy criticism, even though early injuries played a significant role, Kidd eventually found his footing and the Nets finished the season strongly, advancing to the second round.

Fisher got a taste of wait awaits before he even woke up this morning. Eccentric shooting guard J.R. Smith proclaimed on Twitter in the early morning hours that he’s done with his sixth-man role:

Perhaps Jackson is taking a big risk by hiring a man with no coaching experience to handle this job. Jackson said he’s betting on Fisher’s experiences playing with this generation’s players, calling Fisher “hip-hop-ready.”

And even the most accomplished coaches, such as Karl, would have a devil of a time flipping these Knicks back into the 54-win team they were just a season ago. With Fisher, Jackson at least knows he’ll always have his ear and will always be on the same page. Jackson can guide Fisher’s entrance into the profession as a firm rudder and in shaping the style the Knicks will bring to the Garden floor.

Then it becomes about Jackson earning his $60 million and crafting a roster of players that can execute the game plan — and stealing Durant as a free agent in 2016 shouldn’t be Plan A, at least not yet. The cold, hard truth is this rebuild is going to take time and patience.

“He always tries to tell you and let you know what’s right,” the Thunder’s Westbrook said of Fisher. “It may not be what you want to hear all the time, but what’s right is what’s right.”

Words Fisher will want to continue to live by as a rookie head coach making the leap onto a very big stage.


VIDEO: Jackson, Mills talk about Fisher’s qualities