NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As far as Phil Jackson is concerned, Carmelo Anthony is the Knicks’ only star, but that doesn’t mean he and his teammates together won’t be able to run the triangle offense efficiently.
Jackson recently evaluated the entire roster to Charley Rosen of ESPN, and from the sound of it he’s totally content with the personnel, especially the players one would figure should lead this team.
New head coach Derek Fisher and Jackson have installed the triangle, which was a big part of 11 teams Jackson coached to the NBA championship. Now, as Jackson attempts to mold neophyte Fisher, who is in his first head coaching job of any kind, the Knicks will try their luck executing an offense that when run properly is very hard to defend.
As no surprise to anyone, Anthony, a former league scoring champion, will be the centerpiece of the offense, but Jackson expects more than just scoring from the seven-time All-Star.
“Carmelo Anthony is obviously the team’s only certified All-Star. It’s also no secret that Melo has to keep the ball moving, but he’s committed to doing this,” Jackson told ESPN. “Passing has never been a great strength of his, but in the triangle he’ll be able to have check-off reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third. There’ll be plenty of iso opportunities for Melo, and in the triangle it’ll be very difficult for defenses to double-team him. It won’t be like last season where he had to take clutch shots with a gang of defenders in his face. Also look for Melo to get a bunch of post-up looks.”
Jackson said he also very confident in the Knicks’ point guard situation, saying Jose Calderon “is a lights-out shooter,” and Pablo Prigioni “rarely if ever takes a bad shot.”
It’s no secret guard Iman Shumpert wasn’t former head coach Mike Woodson’s favorite player, but Jackson is absolutely enamored with him, saying “he’s simply our best on-ball defender at the 2 position and also against the bigger 1s. Once he learns the intricacies of the offense, Iman will be able to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and, unlike last season, he’ll know where his own shots will come from.”
The Knicks are deep at the shooting guard position. Jackson called J.R. Smith “easily the best athlete on the team,” but added Smith is far from a complete player.
“J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot,” Jackson said. “He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot.
“His defense also needs work because he tends to be a ball-watcher, and he’s late in chasing his man around screens when he should be tailgating him,” Jackson added.
The triangle also requires athletic big men, which Jackson believes the Knicks have. He said while Amar’e Stoudemireis getting up there in age and has been struggling with injuries for years, the plan is to count on him as a key contributor.
“Although his tender knees will require his playing time and his practice time to be carefully monitored, we hope he’ll be able to play four rotations of eight minutes per game. That’s because Stoudemire can still be a potent scorer,” Jackson said.
Jackson is equally intrigued by 7-foot Andrea Bargnani, who may not be counted on for a while due a strained right hamstring that required an MRI. However, Jackson said, when healthy, Bargnani could be a solid scorer in the triangle because he has both an inside and outside game.
“If Andrea Bargnani’s initial season in New York was a disappointment, I believe he’ll thrive in the triangle,” Jackson said. “The 3-point shot is a bit out of his range, but from 20 feet and in, Andrea is a deadly shooter. And those are the kinds of shots that the offense will generate for him.”
The Knicks open the 2014-15 season on Wednesday at home against the Chicago Bulls.
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