Derek Fisher preaches culture change, says when introduced he has experience to turn Knicks around

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It’s not going to take just a couple of little tweaks to make the New York Knicks contenders again. The roster needs a lot of work, the organizational culture needs to change.

Phil Jackson has hired Derek Fisher to be his coach and help usher in that change, something that was made and Fisher’s introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. Fisher reportedly got a five-year, $25 million deal.

But is Fisher — a guy with no head coaching experience, who was still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple weeks ago — the right guy to help spearhead that change with Jackson? Fisher is confident he is. Very confident.

“There will be a lot of talk about my inexperience as a head coach, and that is obviously factually true,” Fisher said. “I have never been a head coach in the NBA or in college or in high school — but I am experienced. Basketball is a game that I am experienced in. Playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete and that is being a champion. That I have experience in. And that’s the experience I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization.”

It’s something the Knicks have not experienced for more than 40 years as an organization. That is why Jackson was brought in by owner James Dolan at the hefty price tag of $12 million a year, it’s why Jackson was given real power.

Jackson has talked about changing the culture at Madison Square Garden and Fisher echoed that sentiment. He said the bar needs to be set at a championship level.

“That is who we will become, that is who we are,” Fisher said. “It is here, it exists here, Phil experienced it as a player almost 40 years ago… and we know without a doubt we know what that is, what it means how to create that, how to live in that on a daily basis. I’m excited about this.”

Jackson said he had a feeling Fisher wanted to go this way based on conversations previous summers, and once hey started talking things progressed quickly.

Jackson mentioned Fisher a couple weeks ago at a press conference as a “person of interest” but Fisher was still playing for the Thunder at that time. That tampering earned Phil Jackson a $25,000 fine — and if you don’t think Jackson knew the fine was coming when he said it but he was willing to pay the price to get the message sent, you haven’t watched Jackson over the years. He is careful about what he says publicly, these kinds of things accidentally.

Jackson tried to dispel the idea Fisher would simply be a proxy coach for him, saying that a younger coach who could relate to the players was needed. The players don’t exactly listen to the Grateful Dead like in his day, Jackson noted.

“Obviously Derek’s in a bit of a learning process, but we think his experience the last three or four years has been one of more assistant coach/player role and he’s learned under some of the best coaches: Don Nelson, Jerry Sloan, and the latest in Scotty Brooks,” Jackson said, leaving himself and his 11 rings off that list.

Fisher said yes, you can expect to see the triangle in New York.

“I love the triangle system,” Fisher said. “I believe with the roster we have we can utilize it to be more efficient, more effective, to give ourselves a chance to play better defense by getting higher percentage shots, so I believe in the system.”

Carmelo Anthony would fit well in the triangle system, getting the ball at the elbow or spacing the floor on the wings at times. He’s the kind of elite scorer the offense needs (providing he is willing to move the ball in it).

Anthony can and is expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer, he can choose to re-sign with the Knicks or not. Jackson and GM Steve Mills are going to meet with Anthony in the coming days, according to Jackson. Even if ‘Melo does opt out he could re-sign with the Knicks. But mostly Fisher and Jackson dodged the question about the future with Anthony.

Fisher said he did have very informal contact with the Lakers but never seemed to be seriously considered, which is why he was surprised the Lakers released a statement saying they were not going to pursue him. But that flirtation was never serious, the Lakers are focused on getting an experienced coach.

Jackson hired Fisher and went another direction, but Fisher thinks he has the experience for this job. Fisher was never the best athlete, the tallest, the fastest guy on the court but he played 18 NBA seasons in part because of a high basketball IQ.

“(His past basketball experiences) all provide an experience for me that I look forward to sharing with our players, and helping us re-establish the championship culture that exists in the DNA of this organization and this city,” Fisher said

Are Raptors viable trade destination for Kawhi Leonard?

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The Lakers, Clippers, 76ers and Celtics have dominated Kawhi Leonard trade discussions for most of the summer.

But the Raptors have emerged as a trendy pick for the star’s destination. One betting site even gave Toronto even odds against the field – including the Spurs – as Leonard’s team to begin next season.

Are the Raptors actually a realistic landing spot for Leonard?

Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN discussed on The Lowe Post podcast.

Windhorst:

Toronto Raptors, I think they’re in the driver’s seat for Kawhi. Because I think the Lakers have given up. The Sixers have given up. And with the Nets, Bulls and Hawks spending their cap space, it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade. I think the Raptors are in the driver’s seat.

Lowe:

I’ve seen a lot of snark on Twitter that the Raptors stuff is a joke, that the odds went up because of something I said on my podcast and you said on TV. I’ve seen it being dismissed. It may not happen. Most NBA trades don’t happen. But if you think it’s a joke, you should probably recalibrate your expectations.

The Raptors can construct an offer built around:

Because DeRozan and Lowry earn more than Leonard, the Raptors could also take back a costly contract San Antonio wants to dump.

Such a deal would allow the Spurs to remain competitive now while gaining long-term assets under greater team control than Leonard, who can walk in unrestricted free agency next summer.

It’d also give the the Raptors a championship chance they wouldn’t have next season otherwise. The window might not remain open long considering Leonard’s health and contract status, but there’s something to be said for raising the ceiling when it can reach that level – even if it means lowering the floor. Plus, if Leonard left, Toronto could more easily transition into its next phase than if DeRozan and Lowry remained on the books.

This trade framework makes too much sense for the teams not to discuss it. But whether that’d result in an actual deal is another question.

Report: Kawhi Leonard considering participating in Gregg Popovich-led Team USA minicamp

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The Spurs want to repair their relationship with Kawhi Leonard and keep him long-term. Leonard wants to leave San Antonio. Potential trade partners want to know more about his health and mindset.

Something has to give.

Maybe it will next week.

Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich, taking over Team USA, will direct a minicamp in Las Vegas. Leonard is invited and – in a surprising development after he missed the few months of the season due to a quad injury – might actually play.

Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard is seriously considering participation in the USA Basketball national team’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week, an event for the embattled All-NBA forward to showcase the status of his recovery to prospective trade partners, league sources told ESPN.

Among NBA teams and USA Basketball officials, there is a belief that Leonard wants to participate in the camp, but could be dissuaded based on ancillary concerns.

Leonard holds some enthusiasm for showcasing his revitalized health in the wake of the quad injury that has been at the center of discord between the Spurs and him, sources said. The question being debated, sources said, is whether participating in the Team USA camp will ignite trade talks that deliver him to his preferred destination — the Lakers — or give the Spurs more cause to hold on to Leonard and push him to report to training camp in September.

For what it’s worth, there is conflicting reporting about Leonard’s preferred destination. Some say it’s the Clippers.

This low-intensity camp won’t be a chance for Leonard to prove he’s fully healthy, but he can show enough to ignite trade interest. Maybe that helps propel him out of San Antonio – though if it’s not to Los Angeles, how much would that mean to Leonard?

The camp could also give Leonard and Popovich a chance to reconnect. Depending on whom you believe, maybe some in Leonard’s camp or even Leonard himself don’t want to give the Spurs boss that opportunity.

If Leonard goes to Las Vegas, it’d become a media circus. All his movements and interactions, especially with Popovich, would be closely scrutinized. At one point, I would have figured the reserved Leonard would want no part of that. But I now believe we incorrectly assumed too much about him just because he’s quiet.

So, I’m not entirely sure what he wants – or what direction participating in this camp would send him.

Leonard knows more about the former. It’s on him to evaluate the latter.

Report: Kings get Ben McLemore back in trade with Grizzlies

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Since the NBA instituted a four-year rookie scale for first-rounders in 1998, just 22 top-10 picks spent their entire rookie-scale contract with their original team then left that team in free agency.

Many stayed on their first team long-term. Others got traded while teams were still intrigued by the talent that got the player drafted so high in the first place. Some were signed-and-traded, the threat of restricted free agency giving teams one last chance to recoup value from a high pick.

There’s a certain stagnancy with a player’s development and a team’s decision-making when a team drafts someone high, holds him for his entire rookie-scale contract then just watches him leave in his first free agency.

Former No. 2 pick Jabari Parker is an atypical example of that rare situation, as he was picked especially high before the Bucks let his value drain until he signed with the Bulls last week.

Ben McLemore is far more representative.

The Kings drafted him No. 7 in 2013, and his production oscillated between degrees of poor. Sacramento explored trading him numerous times, but never pulled the trigger. The Kings didn’t even extend him a qualifying offer last summer, and he signed with the Grizzlies.

It was a failure of development by McLemore and foresight by Sacramento. The Kings clearly just never figured what to do with McLemore – which makes this trade, oh, so special.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian:

To be fair to the Kings, maybe this isn’t about McLemore at all. He could just be a salary for matching purposes, the player receiving it completely irrelevant.

All three traded players are on expiring contracts. All three are overpaid based on their production. Temple is the best and highest-paid player in the deal. Davis and McLemore have better chances of helping Sacramento win meaningfully.

The Kings, generously, have minimal chance of winning a satisfactorily next season. Temple wasn’t going to change that, and at 32, he had little chance of helping once Sacramento was ready.

McLemore is a longshot to ever become an effective rotation player, but he has the requisite size and athleticism for an NBA shooting guard, and he’s not old at age 25. The 21-year-old Davis is far more intriguing as a bouncy center, but he must make major strides in effort and awareness.

Even as low-odds bets, Davis and McLemore offer more to Sacramento than Temple did. The second-rounder and cash only improve the Kings’ return.

Sacramento also opens $995,049 in additional cap space. Could that go toward signing another restricted free agent to an offer sheet after the Bulls matched Zach LaVine‘s? Marcus Smart? Rodney Hood? Clint Capela?

Temple is the biggest winner of the trade. He opted in for $8 million next season, even though that meant committing to the lowly Kings. But now he gets his money and gets to join a better team. He might even start at shooting guard in Memphis. Temple is a fine player and an upgrade for the wing-hungry Grizzlies. But he’s also 32 and showed slippage last year. Memphis hopes a change in scenery will solve that and it wasn’t simply aging.

The Grizzlies were wise to bet on Temple considering the low cost of acquiring him. They’re trying to win now, which isn’t necessarily the wrong move with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley under contract. It’ll still be an uphill battle in the loaded West, but Temple is another helpful addition along with Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi and Jevon Carter this summer.

Report: Nemanja Bjelica backs out of contract agreement with 76ers to return to Europe

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Nemanja Bjelica had his $4,937,499 qualifying offer pulled by the Timberwolves (so they could sign Anthony Tolliver while remaining out of the luxury tax).

Bjelica rebounded with the 76ers, agreeing to take the $4,449,000 room exception for one year.

But…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

DeAndre Jordan 2.0? Maybe. We don’t know exactly what, if any, contingencies Bjelica and Philadelphia put on the agreement.

A key distinction: Jordan pledged to sign with the Mavericks and reneged all during the July moratorium, when he couldn’t officially sign. Bjelica’s deal with Philadelphia came out a day before the moratorium ended, and he could have signed during the last 11 days.

Teams often delay signing players with the room exception, because they can exceed the cap with it. But the 76ers have long used up their cap space. Unless they have a bigger deal in mind and asked Bjelica to wait just in case, they should have known for a while something might be amiss.

Bjelica is better than any remaining unrestricted free agent, so he won’t be easily replaced. Philadelphia will probably hold its room exception for potential buyout players, as it’s unclear anyone available could command more than a minimum salary.

The 76ers certainly viewed Bjelica as a replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, who left for the Bucks. Depth matters, but at least Philadelphia still has a stretch four in Dario Saric, who improved his range (and a lot more) last season.

Bjelica’s defection will also help, though not solve, the 76ers’ roster crunch. They still have 16 players clearly getting standard contracts – one more than the regular-season limit – and 2017 second-round Jonah Bolden has stated a plan to sign with Philadelphia for next season. So, the 76ers might have to buy out Jerryd Bayless and/or waive players like Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz.