The New York Knicks began what one National Basketball Association analyst called the “second step” in trying to re-sign leading scorer Carmelo Anthony by firing coach Mike Woodson after two full seasons.
Anthony, 29, has said he will become a free agent this offseason and wants to stay if the team appears ready to contend for a title. TNT/NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony said yesterday’s dismissal of Woodson and his staff allows new team president Phil Jackson to continue changing the franchise’s culture and building a roster that meets the seven-time All-Star’s needs.
“Everything that’s done is with that in mind,” Greg Anthony said in a telephone interview. “The first step was when the brass was able to bring in Phil Jackson, showing Carmelo that they are committed to building a championship-caliber team. The second step is to get the coach that is best suited to go along that path, and obviously someone who is closely aligned philosophically with what Phil wants to accomplish.”
Woodson was dismissed after the team took a step back, missing the playoffs a year after its most successful season in 13 years. The Knicks finished with a 37-45 record and were eliminated from postseason contention with three games remaining.
“The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual,” Jackson said yesterday in an e-mailed release. “But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”
Steve Kerr, 48, who won NBA championships as a player under Jackson with the Chicago Bulls in 1996, 1997 and 1998, said yesterday on his weekly SiriusXM Radio show that he expects to speak with Jackson about the position.
“We’ve been very close,” Kerr said. “I do anticipate at least being part of the conversation and we’ll see where it all goes.”
Kerr has worked as a TV analyst since stepping down as general manager of the Phoenix Suns in 2010. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors are among the former players who made successful jumps from television analysts to first-time coaches.
“I think Phil sees a lot of himself in Steve,” said Greg Anthony, a former Knicks point guard. “He’s a guy that was an important part of a lot of great teams, but wasn’t the key guy. In a lot of ways that helps you in understanding why a lot of teams work well.”
New York’s “key guy” is Carmelo Anthony, who averaged 27.4 points per game this year, second only to Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. This is the first time in his 11-year career that Carmelo Anthony has not participated in the postseason.
“At this point in my career it’s about winning, nothing else matters,” Carmelo Anthony told reporters after the season ended. “I want to come back, but I also want to win.”
Woodson in 2013 guided the Knicks to their first playoff series victory since 2000. Amid championship expectations from team owner James Dolan, the team opened 3-13 and remained at least six games below .500 for the rest of the season.
In a bid to reverse the slide, the team last month hired Jackson, a former Knicks player who has won an NBA-record 11 titles as a coach, to oversee basketball decisions. Part of his task this offseason will be to add veteran experience and leadership to the roster to surround Carmelo Anthony.
“Carmelo is a terrific, terrific player, one of the best in the world, but not necessarily suited to be the voice of the locker room,” Greg Anthony said. “And that’s fine. But you have to have the right voice in the locker room, and I don’t think that the Knicks had that this season, and I think that’s one of the reasons that once things went sideways, it fell off the tracks altogether.”
The Knicks opened the season ranked 10th of 30 NBA teams with championship odds of 25-1, according to Bovada.lv. ESPN reported in October that Dolan told Knicks coaches and executives he expected this year’s team to win the franchise’s first title since 1973.
New York is the NBA’s most valuable franchise at $1.1 billion, according to Forbes Magazine. MSG Co. in October completed a $1 billion renovation of Madison Square Garden (MSG), where the Knicks had the third-highest average home attendance in the league this season.
Other candidates who could draw interest from the Knicks include Jim Cleamons, an assistant on nine of Jackson’s title-winning teams, and Los Angeles assistant Kurt Rambis, who was on Jackson’s staff for three of his Lakers title teams, according to Newsday.
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