A week ago, Derek Fisher was introduced as head coach of the New York Knicks.
And it didn’t take Fisher long to start installing the mentality he wants his team to have -- that the Knicks have enough to win already and can't hope for significant help to come soon.
Fisher seemed pretty realistic about the challenge that lies ahead of him. The new coach knows the team’s cap limitations likely mean the Knicks will have to win with what they've got and that there’s no significant help coming anytime soon. Fisher knows that New York likely will not be able to add another star until 2015.
So Fisher began selling the idea that the Knicks, who won just 37 games last season, must maximize what they have and not succumb to the prevailing thought that Carmelo Anthony needs more help in order for the Knicks to win.
“We’re not going to create magic by making someone Magic Johnson who isn’t Magic Johnson,” Fisher explained. “But at the same time, we have a guy, everyone has a franchise guy. ... Right now, as we speak, Carmelo Anthony is that guy for us. We have one, that guy.
“So the job is how do we not try to find a way to put him next to LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or other players equal to his talent,” Fisher continued. “But how do you make the most of what you have? That’s the message that I’ll send to these players, every single day. We have to bloom where we’re planted a lot of times in life. We can’t look for ways out, and excuses why you aren’t excelling and doing things at a higher level.”
Of course, Fisher knows he could lose Anthony in free agency next month, which certainly would make his rookie season as a head coach incredibly difficult. Fisher doesn’t have much of a choice, he has to believe he can win with much of the same core together.
Barring something unforeseen, the Knicks will have to improve from within, see what they might be able to land with the taxpayer's midlevel exception ($3.3 million) and hope that Lamar Odom has something left in the tank.
If Anthony remains, Fisher likely will have J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr. and possibly Raymond Felton, among others, supporting Melo. The Knicks certainly hope they can strike some deals to trade Felton and others. But any deal likely is going to be difficult.
Besides establishing a winning mentality, Fisher wants to find the right system to maximize his roster’s potential, one that will spread the wealth and not depend on one or two players.
“There are a lot of very, very talented players, not just average players,” Fisher said of the Knicks’ roster. “We obviously will have to work to keep some of those -- one guy [Anthony] we talked about in particular. But there’s a lot of talent, ability, versatility on this roster.
“So it’s our job to find a way to get the most out of the players we have,” Fisher continued. “There’ll be personnel decisions made going forward over the years that players will come, players will go, but at the end of the day we have to find a way to create a format, a system, a way of playing that makes it easy for players to play the game, to be more effective, to utilize the full talent of our roster, not lean so heavily on one or two guys. We believe we can do it.”
Phil Jackson obviously would like that system to be the triangle. Fisher believes in the triangle, but says he will do what he and his coaching staff think is best for the team.
“I’ve also played with other great coaches that don’t run the triangle,” Fisher said. “It’s not necessarily the only way to play basketball. But what we will do is do what we feel is best for our team. ... I believe with the roster we have we can utilize it to be more efficient, to be more effective, to give ourselves a better chance to play better defense by getting higher-percentage shots. So I believe in the [triangle] system.
“But ultimately we have to do what’s best for the players and the team to be successful,” Fisher added. “I love the triangle, but we’ll do what we feel like is best for the group.”