Fisher: With Melo back in mix, Knicks are playoff team

By on July 15, 2014

Derek Fisher, coaching Shane Larkin in Summer League, says Knicks roster is good enough for playoffs.Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images Derek Fisher, coaching Shane Larkin in Summer League, says Knicks roster is good enough for playoffs.

LAS VEGAS — Now that Carmelo Anthony has decided to return to the Knicks, Derek Fisher can envision a nightly lineup that will feature a perennial All-Star player he has referred to as “one of the best in the NBA.”

The first-year coach said Monday that he expects a return to the playoffs this season in the revamped Eastern Conference, and that he’s confident team president Phil Jackson will be able to eventually build a title contender over the five years of Anthony’s new contract.

“In my opinion, based on our roster and the things we’re going to do and who we’re going to become, we can compete for playing in the playoffs and for a championship in the Eastern Conference,” Fisher said after the Knicks improved to 3-0 in the Summer League with a 95-72 win over Charlotte.

“When that happens, putting dates on it, and how, that’s not my job… For me as a coach, I believe in the group of guys that we have.

“Even if nothing else changes (this summer), we’re good enough to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. But we obviously have to go out on the floor and prove it.”

Just as Jackson had stressed on Sunday, Fisher added that the Knicks will attempt to rely less on Anthony than in past years within the confines of the triangle offense, saying the seven-time All-Star has expressed that he no longer “wants the basketball and for us to say ‘save the day.’”

Jackson also brought in point guard Jose Calderon — and others, including intriguing rookie Cleanthony Early as a second-round pick — in a trade from Dallas to provide an upgrade at that position, shipping out Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler in the deal.

Barring another trade of the expiring contracts belonging to Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani, however, the Knicks will be hard-pressed to add another significant player this summer.

They still have available their $ 3.3 million mini mid-level exception to offer free agents, but Jackson indicated on Sunday that they will not use it just for the sake of spending that money. The Knicks are planning to have significant cap space to work with in 2015, with Anthony structuring his new deal to take less in the second year to help facilitate that possibility.

“I want to be fiscally responsible. You know, we’ve been a taxpayer team for a little bit and we want to limit that. So we’re not just going to foolishly throw money away because it’s available to us to load up,” Jackson said. “We want to make an appropriate move that brings our team forward.

“Right now, we have a roster that’s at a position that we can’t add a whole lot of players. We have to do some shedding of some roster spots to add, but we still know we have to have positions filled.”

During an in-game interview on Monday on MSG Network, Jackson indicated for the second straight day that he believes the Knicks’ roster currently has a glut of perimeter players with a need for another big man or two.

“I think the biggest thing for us is we do have a roster that’s full, but it’s full of two-guards, and we have to balance out our roster,” Jackson said. “We’re short in the big area and we know we have to do something there, so we still have some ways to go there.”

Fisher won five titles under Jackson running the triangle as a point guard alongside Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. He believes having Anthony back in the fold is a strong start to building the championship team they covet.

“For him to finally decide that our team, our city, our organization is where he’s going to kind of entrust where he takes this part of his career, that says a lot about what he wants to accomplish,” Fisher said. “So I’m thankful, I’m excited as a new coach to have that type of anchor to who your team can be; it’s a great feeling.

“I’ve played with some of the best players and they make everybody’s job easier, and Carmelo will do that. I’m for sure looking forward to all the different things we can do with our roster. As I’ve said before, a lot of people feel like everybody around Carmelo needs to be different. I don’t necessarily agree with that mind-set.”

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