By: Mike Cortez | @CortezEra
After weeks of speculation, tampering fines and James Dolan clashing, Phil Jackson finally found his guy to usher in the Zen Era in New York. The Knicks and freshly retired point guard Derek Fisher agreed to a five-year deal worth $25 million. If those figures look familiar to you it is because that is the exact contract Steve Kerr received from the Warriors after the Knicks reportedly low-balled him with a three-year offer worth a paltry $13 million.
Jackson wanted a young, inexperienced coach that he could mold in his patented triangle offense and who better than Fisher who ran that offense a majority of his career. While together in Los Angeles the two captured five championships including a three-peat in the early 2000s. It is assumed that Fisher will simply be Jackson’s on sideline buffer early on much like what Pat Riley did with Erik Spoelstra in Miami. One of the more respected players in the league, Fisher should not have a problem connecting with his players, something former Knick Coach Mike Woodson prayed for every night before he went to bed.
It will be interesting to see how the hiring is taken by free agent to be Carmelo Anthony. It was reported on multiple occasions that Anthony would embrace playing for Mark Jackson, but mum on other candidates. If Jackson expects to be competitive next year he will need his star back even if it is for an extra year a la Dwight Howard. Anthony has the option to opt in for one more season, allowing him to see how Fisher works out. In order to make Fisher’s job a lot easier keeping a player with Anthony’s skill set is a necessity.
The triangle offense was designed for a player like Anthony, a gifted passer, underrated rebounder and someone that can score with just about anyone in the league. With no draft picks in this year’s draft Jackson has to make do with the roster as is. Young highflyers like Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. (assuming they’re not dealt), Tyson Chandler down low, a sober J.R. Smith and Anthony as the centerpiece of the triangle is a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. If Amar’e Stoudemire can give a similar effort to what he gave towards the end of the season and the Knicks can sneak out an Atlantic Division title.
First, Fisher and the Knicks have to crawl before they walk. A whole coaching staff still needs to be filled and expect a lot of Jackson’s former associates to fill out those spots. Former players ranging from Scottie Pippen to Luke Walton have been connected to assistant coach jobs in New York according to Marc Berman of the New York Post in addition to former assistants such as Kurt Rambis.
When Jackson accepted to come turn around a Knicks franchise that has its focus on the glitz and glamor rather than basketball, he promised to build a winning culture and the Fisher hire shows that. While Fisher is the first to join Jackson in New York he will certainly not be the last. Could the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant end his career with the only two guys he shared his five championships with? Can James Dolan finally get his hands on LeBron James after whiffing on the king in 2010? Will Fisher just be another lame duck coach to leave MSG before his contract is up? These questions will get answered in due time, but until then Knicks fans should focus on the positive, they have a new coach and his name isn’t Mike.