WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Knicks legend Willis Reed thinks new president Phil Jackson is the right man to lead New York to a title.
“The one thing I believe is that if anybody can change the fate of the New York Knicks, I think Phil will do it,” Reed said Wednesday from Knicks training camp. “He’s had a remarkable career as a basketball coach and what he’s been able to do, what he did in Chicago and LA. I think he’s a very shrew basketball player. I’m sure some of that came from [ex-Knicks coach] Red [Holzman], some of it came from Bill Fitch, who was his college coach [at North Dakota], and some of the experiences he’s had.
“I think that and [new head coach Derek] Fisher’s going to do a good job. I like the combination. I’m really happy.”
Reed and Jackson teamed together on the Knicks two championship teams in 1969-70 and 1972-73. New York hasn’t won a title since, a drought that spans 40 seasons. Jackson invited Reed to Knicks training camp in West Point to be around the team.
Reed spoke to the media before Wednesday's practice and predicted that New York would be back in the playoffs this season. The team missed the postseason last year for the first time in four years.
“I believe they have enough talent,” Reed said. “They got to play hard and play defense and I think they will play hard and I think they will play defense and be unselfish. I really believe if everybody stays fairly healthy -- Amar’e [Stoudemire] obviously is important -- and they keep everybody healthy, I think they will make it with the players they have now.”
Reed also said that he would have been upset if Carmelo Anthony -- the current face of the Knicks -- decided to leave New York in the offseason. He commended Anthony for carrying himself well as the franchise’s most visible employee.
“I love watching him play, score,” Reed said. “I know that he can do a lot more and I think he will do more.”
Reed will forever be a part of Knicks’ lore for his gritty performance in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.
Hours before the game, no one was sure if Reed would play in due to torn muscle in his right thigh. But he hobbled through the tunnel and onto the floor moments before the opening tip.
Reed inspired the Knicks by scoring the opening two baskets in a game New York eventually won to seal its first NBA title.
Some of the younger players on this year’s team may not have recognized Reed in West Point. But the team familiarized itself with Reed and the rest of the title-winning Knicks by watching an ESPN “30 for 30” Film “When The Garden Was Eden” which explores the team’s championship years.
“After seeing that film, that documentary, we all walked out of there, like we felt like we [were] one, we felt like was one team and we were together and we were here for a purpose,” Anthony said. “Today everybody was still talking about that from the film.”
Added Derek Fisher: “I think it helped a lot of us to understand I think the love affair first of all between the city and the Knicks and how far back it goes and why the team is so special to so many people.”
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