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Fastbreaks: 3/12 Edition

Every week a group of writers for the Bad Man Bureau will discuss several topics regarding both the NBA and basketball at large with quick, paragraph-long responses. This week, we’ll be focusing entirely on everyone’s favorite dysfunctional franchise: the New York Knickerbockers and the many rumors surrounding their future. The panel for this initial edition of the Fastbreaks column are Andrew G, John, Jordan and international correspondent Callum.

 

Question 1: What do you think of the Phil Jackson-to-Knicks rumors?

Andrew G:  If recent reports are to be believed, then it looks very likely he will accept a front office position.  Phil has been interested in having a front office position for some time now, but he has been rebuffed by the most likely of teams in offering such a position (the Los Angeles Lakers).  It still remains to be seen what exactly Jackson’s position will be and how much sway he’ll have in an organization where owner James Dolan still has final say.  I’m not entirely sure his position in the Knicks front office will be more than a window dressing along the lines of Shaq’s place with the Sacramento Kings, especially if the reports about Phil Jackson being allowed to stay and to conduct his business in Los Angeles, on the other side of the country from the team, are true.

John: The perception seems to be that Phil wants a position that allows him to re-integrate himself into basketball and gives him authority on organizational decision-making, but not having to deal with the grind of coaching through an 82-game schedule. In other words, he wants to be Pat Riley. There’s conflicting reports regarding Phil’s interest in the Knicks and how far along they are in reaching an agreement. Rumblings of the Lakers giving Jackson the same position have also emerged. If expectations are tempered, the hiring of Phil will only be a plus for the Knicks in the midst of finding some solutions to their disastrous season.

Jordan: Phil wants to be involved in the NBA, but not as a coach. The Knicks are a mess. Phil brings not only the basketball mind needed to rebuild a franchise from the depths of hell they’re in, but also the reputation that can help restore some of the respect that they have lost over the years. A coaching change is definitely imminent, as Mike Woodson is ready to walk the plank. I don’t see Phil returning to the sidelines, but his glory could help them swing a top tier coach. While it would be nice for Phil for there to be some form of a future, I believe he’ll take the position. To any Knicks fans that are skeptical about the move: at least it’s not Isiah Thomas.

Callum: Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it, I would never question Jackson’s basketball acumen but I do wonder how well his coaching prowess will translate to working in the front office. If anything, he brings a spark of excitement to a team that’s floundering in mediocrity, years of mismanagement and bad decisions have left the Knicks with a shortage on first round picks and no real assets moving forward. Perhaps it will be a good move simply by bringing in someone who can stand up to James Dolan and provide some direction for the Knicks.

 

Will Carmelo Anthony stay with the Knicks beyond this season? (Credit to Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

Question 2:  If Phil Jackson does come to New York, will that influence Carmelo Anthony’s decision on whether to stay or go?

Andrew G: I’m not sure Phil’s employment should sway Carmelo into staying with this dysfunctional franchise, but it probably will keep Melo in New York.  Players know Phil Jackson has been a winner wherever he has gone, and while Jackson’s history as an executive is non-existent, I’m sure a player like Melo will see the Knicks are interested in winning a championship with (what sounds like) this largely symbolic move.

John: It doesn’t hurt. Ultimately, Melo will be concerned about what the Knicks can provide for him going forward. They can offer the most amount of money as well as one of the nation’s biggest media platforms and the most amount of money. Winning? Not so much, at least not right away. Jackson has a masterful reputation of balancing the interests of star players. He’s worked with talent (and attitudes) bigger than what would lay ahead. Depending on the state of the Knicks, Carmelo might keep an open ear to what Phil’s plans are going forward.

Jordan: The addition of Jackson would make one think that it would influence Carmelo to stay, but I believe he’s already made his decision. He’s leaving. As I said in the last question, the Knicks are in absolute shambles. Amar’e Stoudemire is an $18 million paperweight, their point guard is Raymond Felon, and they’ve chosen to be awful in the best draft class in the last 10 years-without a pick. If Carmelo can see past all the dollar signs that Phil and Co. will throw at him in July, he’ll pick up LaLa and walk away.

Callum: Reports have come out saying that Jackson wants a guarantee that Melo will re-sign before taking the job. Obviously this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but it does present an interesting conundrum for Carmelo. He should–and likely will–test the free agent market, but put Phil Jackson, his 13 championships and Anthony in a room together and I believe that anything could happen, not unlike Pat Riley’s infamous meeting with LeBron James back in 2010.

 

Question 3: If Carmelo does leave, where do you think he will go?

Andrew G: The recent reports that Joakim Noah has recruited Melo to join the Bulls next season is nice, but I’m not quite sure the Bulls front office will have the wiggle room to land Melo as they try to retool around Derrick Rose’s second return, especially with an owner who generally avoids entering the luxury tax.  If Melo doesn’t join the Chicago Bulls, one place I could see him potentially heading are the Los Angeles Lakers, simply because they’ll throw the money at him and his exposure probably won’t be greater than with Kobe in the Los Angeles market.

John: If Melo were to leave after this season, the reason would likely stem from the Knicks failures this season. If not through sign-and-trade, Anthony would have to find a rare mix of a prosperous roster and enough cap room to meet Melo’s contractual demands.

Popular opinion says the Chicago Bulls, but some not-so-easy strings would have to be pulled in order to accommodate for his salary. Boozer would have to be amnestied, Gibson would need to be moved for next to nothing, and Carmelo would need to take a paycut. That leaves the Bulls without a PF and excludes the possibility of paying for Mirotic’s services this offseason.

Among the semi-plausible destinations, the Phoenix Suns have the cap space next year to hit the ball park of Melo’s asking price and the Suns have an exciting, high-octane pace of ball that Anthony can fit into.

Jordan: In case you didn’t read my last answer, I’m a firm believer Melo will leave this offseason. The ideal situation for him would be in Chicago. He’d be teaming up with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and one of the best coaches in the NBA, who can likely transform Melo into less of a “chucker” (not being forced to take all the shots when the second best player on his team is Iman Shumpert). Amnestying Carlos Boozer and trading Mike Dunleavy for a case of Gatorade would free up around 19 million, the number that Melo would receive if he took the max, minus a few hundred thousand dollars that he’d have to sacrifice. A core of Derrick Rose (let’s hope)/Jimmy Butler/Carmelo/Taj Gibson/Joakim Noah with players such as DJ Augustin, Tony Snell and possibly foreign sensation Nikola Mirotic would spell for another contender against Miami in the East.

Callum: Chicago is the hot choice right now, but I’m looking at the Dallas Mavericks as serious sleepers to sign Anthony, Dallas has been looking to place a star next to Dirk Nowitzki for the past 4 years, and I think this is the year they swing for the fences. The Mavericks offer Melo a great front office, owner and head coach, plus an aging yet still effective star who would have no problem relinquishing the spotlight to him. The fit can look a little questionable on paper, but they’ve got the organizational structure to make it work.

Question 4: As a whole, what does the future for the Knicks look like?

Andrew G: Capped out with little hope.  New York still looks like an old-school team in terms of their team building: acquire as many veterans as possible and trade away future assets and young talent to get them.  In the current NBA, that simply doesn’t work.  The problem is that New York has traded away so many future picks and only have two viable young pieces–Iman Shumpert (whom they’re trying to get rid of) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (whom I still have my doubts)–that I can’t see any big name stars looking at that roster, even once they clear their cap sheet in 2015, and thinking they can win a title with the Knicks.

John: The closer to 2015, the better. For the next couple of years, they have almost nothing substantial to look forward to. Their roster is still one of the oldest in the NBA and prospects in New York come few and far between. With only 2-3 prospects under 25 in the rotation and without a 1st-round pick this year (a draft pick that currently sitting at 8th in the draft order), there’s not much of a foundation to build on.

However, in a free agency market that features prime cuts like Rondo, Gasol, and Love, the Knicks are looking to do their feasting there. If they can score well in this time period, we may be looking at New York in a much more optimistic light.

Jordan: It’s very neutral. They don’t have a pick in this draft, which would have landed them someone like Kentucky’s Julius Randle. They do own their 2015 pick outright, which if they fall further after Melo’s departure could net them an elite talent like Jahlil Okafor. Their cap situation isn’t in the best shape for the next few years because of Stoudemire, which may prevent them from getting a top tier free agent. They could certainly land a top player next year, and the Big Apple will certainly continue to attract free agents–just not the elite ones.

Callum: In one word, bleak. The only piece that should really be on this team in two years is Tim Hardaway Jr. He and a 2015 first rounder are the only causes for optimism for Knicks fans. Trading a 2016 first round pick for Andrea Bargnani manages to look even worse with every passing day. Thankfully though they will only have $13 million on the books after next year so they can certainly make a run at some premier free agents, but it will be an uphill battle to convince stars to play for a team that has only won one playoff series since the year 2000.

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