Report: Kevin Durant considering Knicks, being recruited by Carmelo Anthony

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When Carmelo Anthony was a free agent last summer, Kevin Durant recruited him to the Knicks.

Durant reportedly pitched Melo on the virtues of New York coach Derek Fisher, who was previously Durant’s teammate with the Thunder.

Now, Melo – who re-signed with the Knicks – is reportedly returning the favor.

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN:

I know for a fact that Carmelo Anthony has been and will continue to recruit Kevin Durant until the cows come home. I’m also hearing that Kevin Durant is giving the New York Knicks consideration.

For what it’s worth, Melo strongly denied Smith’s last major report about him, that the star forward was upset about the Knicks drafting Kristaps Porzingis. That doesn’t mean Smith was wrong, but it’s something.

To the matter at hand, I believe Durant is considering the Knicks. I also believe he’s considering the Thunder and Wizards and…

I doubt Durant has made up his mind about 2016 free agency. Why would he this soon?

But outside Oklahoma City and Washington – the two major favorites for Durant – New York would be my pick to land him. That’s still a small chance, though.

First, the Knicks must prove they have a legitimate chance of winning. I believe the New York market still appeals to players, maybe including Durant. But that’s not enough. Seventeen wins in Phil Jackson’s first full season – especially when he appeared to be targeting a playoff berth – is concerning.

The Knicks should be better this year, though. Melo will likely be healthier, and the roster has improved around him. Free agent center Robin Lopez is a significant upgrade.

Respectability on the court won’t be enough, though. New York also needs to clear cap room.

The Knicks have $67,964,567 committed to eight players. With roster charges, that puts New York $18,861,549 below the projected salary cap of $89 million.

Durant’s starting salary projects to be $25,136,700.

Player options for Arron Afflalo ($8 million) and/or Derrick Williams ($4,598,000) could clear more room. If Durant wants to come, the Knicks would surely do what it takes to dump Jose Calderon ($7,708,427), Kyle O’Quinn ($3,918,750) and/or Jerian Grant (   $1,643,040). The salary cap could also land higher than projected, though that would also raise Durant’s max salary.

Clearing cap space is an obstacle, not impossible.

New York’s market can open the door for free agents considering the Knicks. Durant’s fondness for Fisher only helps, and Melo’s recruiting could help lay the groundwork. But it ultimately falls on Jackson – the team he assembled this season boosting New York’s credibility and his ability to clear cap space and sell Durant on his vision for the Knicks.

Phil Jackson warns: Knicks might struggle early

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Last year, Phil Jackson said he believed the Knicks would make the playoffs.

Coming off a 17-65 season, the team president is being a bit more humble this year.

Jackson, via Charlie Rosen of ESPN

“We have a number of new players, so they may struggle early as they learn how to play with each other,” he says. “Where we end up as the season progresses is an unknown, but we have improved our roster and have a chance to be a good team.”

With Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams, Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant, the Knicks have improved their roster.

And time to build chemistry should help New York. But that’s only a secondary concern.

More than time, the Knicks need better players. Jackson did OK after the biggest free agents spurned New York, but the playoffs remain unlikely (though possible).

It should at least encourage Knicks fans that Jackson continues to take a long-term view in both words and actions. It’s been a while since this team had such a coherent and reasonable vision.

Phil Jackson: “I think we succeeded” in changing Knicks’ culture

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The Knicks were a flat out disaster on the court last season.

New York fans are not renown for their patience so rebuilding there would always lead to cries of pain, but the Knicks being terrible on the court was to be expected last season. The real question in Phil Jackson’s first season was not wins and losses but rather something more intangible:

Could he change the culture of the organization and start to lay a foundation for future success?

Jackson thinks he did, as he told Charlie Rosen for ESPN.

“I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Knicks since I left here. Love, because playing here was such a joy. Hate, because the Bulls always had to get past the Knicks in some very contentious series to advance in the playoffs. But I had to break up the team for us to move forward in the right direction. That means getting talented players that fit with each other on and off the court. Also getting players who understand that while playing basketball is fun, this is also a business. So we need guys who will ice after practice, watch what they eat, avoid having those three extra beers when they party, and get the rest they need. I think we succeeded in getting this particular cultural change.”

Guys such as Andrea Bargnani certainly did not get how to be professional, and they are gone. In their place come solid pros such as Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo. Those players should lead the way and set the example for Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, and Langston Galloway.

Throw in a healthy Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks should be improved on the court and better off it. Is that enough to make the playoffs in the East? If everything comes together they may be in the mix for a spot.

Is that enough to make the New York media and some fans happy? Certainly not.

But I’ve said this before: If Phil Jackson can keep owner James Dolan out of the decision-making process and guide/let the basketball people just do their thing, he’s worth $12 million a year. It still will take years to build the Knicks back up (and we can debate if Jackson is capable of that, I think the jury is still out) but if he can keep the Knicks on one path rather than the constantly changing it will let them build a foundation.

Arron Afflalo: Carmelo Anthony ‘very committed’ to Knicks

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Knicks color commentator/former great Walt Frazier openly wondered whether Carmelo Anthony would request a trade from the Knicks.

Here’s another point of view.

Al Iannazzone of Newsday:

Arron Afflalo has worked out with Carmelo Anthony in Las Vegas and New York, and he believes the Knicks superstar is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“From our conversations, yeah,” Afflalo said Wednesday at a Knicks basketball camp. “I don’t like speaking for somebody. But from our conversations and the way he’s working in the gym, I would say so.

“He’s very committed. He seems very, very, very hungry to succeed. And we’ll see. It’ll be here shortly.”

I think Frazier is thinking a step ahead of Afflalo, who is probably correct in his own right.

It’s not difficult to see Melo – 31, overcoming injury issues, highly paid – no longer fitting with the rebuilding Knicks. But it’d also be a leap for Melo to give up at this point.

The Knicks – with Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams, Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant – should be better than last season. There are reasons for Melo to be optimistic.

But the current bar is 17 wins. Melo’s expectations could very well rise more quickly than the Knicks can keep up. If that happens, I doubt Afflalo – or any teammate – will be the first person Melo tells about his change of heart.

Afflalo surely knows Melo well after playing together with the Nuggets, and I trust Afflalo to read Melo’s emotions. Whether Afflalo would accurately relay them to the public if they were negative is another story. Either way, if Melo loses faith in the Knicks, I doubt Afflalo breaks the news.

It remains perfectly reasonable to analyze the Knicks’ and Melo’s projected arcs and realize they might not overlap for long. But if Melo is this excited about the upcoming season, that makes it more likely he and the Knicks remain on the same page.

Report: Michael Jordan shot down Boston draft-day effort to get Charlotte No. 9 pick

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It’s a common practice in the NFL draft: Teams trade down to get multiple picks. The move is almost always seen as smart. For the NFL’s annual war of attrition, having the extra bodies makes a lot of sense.

You don’t see it much in the NBA for a reason — you only have a 15-man roster and only nine of them likely play on a given night. Talent wins out, and the talent drop off going down even five or six picks can be steep. If you can get a potential star with your draft pick, you take it, he will matter far more than two guys who may be guys nine and 12 on the bench. However, there are times trading down makes sense in the NBA, if you don’t think you’re getting that star.

That was the situation facing the Hornets in this past draft. They had the No. 9 pick, and Boston wanted it (for Justise Winslow, reportedly, who fell to Miami at No. 10). Boston came knocking on Charlotte’s door with a bevy of picks, and there was a split in Charlotte about whether this was a good idea, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland. For the first time, we know what was offered, and it’s pretty impressive.

Michael Jordan was the ultimate decision maker.

The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks.

Some members of Charlotte’s front office liked the Boston deal, but Michael Jordan, the team’s owner and ultimate decision-maker, preferred Kaminsky to a pile of first-rounders outside the lottery, per several sources.

source: Getty ImagesThe bet Jordan made was that Kaminsky is a star. Except nobody projects him that way. He’s a quality big who can pick-and-pop and be part of the rotations, sure. He’s a solid pick. But is he better than four first round picks for a Charlotte team that needs way more talent on the roster?

This feels like something that has happened in Charlotte before: Jordan watches a lot of the NCAA tournament, falls in love with a player who performs well (Kaminsky) and hijacks the draft process. The Hornets will deny this, but it’s how it looks from the outside.

At the No. 15 and 16 picks in this draft, Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier were taken, although guys such as Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, and Sam Dekker were still on the board. Kaminsky is more valuable than one of them, but will he ultimately produce more than two of those guys? Plus two future picks? Not likely. Charlotte is stuck in the rut of mediocrity in the East, picking Kaminsky doesn’t move them out of this lane. Do those four picks? Maybe not, but it’s a path, a chance.

Charlotte’s decision makers defended their choice.

“You have two minutes to decide: ‘Do I want to do this trade?’” says (Curtis) Polk, one of five men atop Charlotte’s decision tree. “You don’t have a day. You don’t have hours. After all the intelligence we’d done, we were comfortable with Frank. But now you have two minutes to decide if you make this trade, who you’re gonna take at no. 16, or maybe no. 20, and we haven’t been focusing on that range. In fantasy basketball, it sounds great: ‘Oh my god, they could have gotten all those picks.’ But in the real world, I’m not sure it makes us better.”

Adds Rich Cho, the team’s GM: “If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it?”

Because Boston saw Winslow as a star, and at a position they need help.

On draft night when this came up and the rumors flew around that four picks were being offered, I said it’s tough to say what to do because we didn’t know what the picks were, how far out and how protected. Now that we do… if I were in the Charlotte decision tree I would have pushed to make the deal.

Now we all wait three years and then can look back to see who might have been right. It would have been a difficult decision in the moment, but I’m not sure Charlotte made the right call.