At West Point, where the New York Knicks began training camp for the first time this year, the vast grounds are covered with reminders of military idols.
There's a bronze statue of George Washington astride a horse. George Patton getting ready to sight the enemy through a huge pair of cast iron binoculars. Dwight Eisenhower standing with his hands on his hips and staring fearlessly into the infinite future.
And, high atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River to the west and the fabled West Point Plain to the east, stands the magnificent Thayer Hotel. Inside the hotel, a hoops idol sits at a large round table in a private corner of the elegant General Douglas MacArthur Restaurant.
Much has been made in the media about Phil Jackson's being a rookie administrator. However, he is a seasoned veteran in at least one critical aspect of his new job -- evaluating players. Here, the Knicks' new president of basketball operations points his scouting eye toward every player on the Knicks' 2013-14 roster before the start of his first season back in New York.
JACKSON ON: Jose Calderon, PG; Pablo Prigioni, PG
"Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni are heady and steady. Neither of them will have any trouble figuring out the triangle [offense]. Jose is a lights-out shooter and, like Pablo, rarely if ever takes a bad shot. Jose especially takes very good care of the ball. They're aggressive enough on offense to be a threat, but not nearly as aggressive on the other end of the court. The task for both of them is to be much better on-the-ball defenders."
JACKSON ON: Iman Shumpert, SG
"Even though Iman Shumpert was in [former Knicks coach] Mike Woodson's dog house for much of last season, he's one of my favorites because he's simply our best on-ball defender at the 2 position and also against the bigger 1s. Once he learns the intricacies of the offense, Iman will be able to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and, unlike last season, he'll know where his own shots will come from. Iman is an excellent driver but his shooting mechanics are very inconsistent. Sometimes he jumps too high to release his shot and sometimes he doesn't jump high enough. As a result, he never shoots the same shot twice."
JACKSON ON: Carmelo Anthony, F
"Carmelo Anthony is obviously the team's only certified All-Star. It's also no secret that Melo has to keep the ball moving, but he's committed to doing this. Passing has never been a great strength of his, but in the triangle he'll be able to have check-off reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third. There'll be plenty of iso opportunities for Melo, and in the triangle it'll be very difficult for defenses to double-team him. It won't be like last season where he had to take clutch shots with a gang of defenders in his face. Also look for Melo to get a bunch of post-up looks."
JACKSON ON: Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C
"One of the keys to the season will be the play of Amar'e Stoudemire. Although his tender knees will require his playing time and his practice time to be carefully monitored, we hope he'll be able to play four rotations of eight minutes per game. That's because Stoudemire can still be a potent scorer. He can get to the middle when he's in the low post, and in screen-rolls he's a threat to either screen-and-pop or drive to the hoop. Playing adequate defense is a real challenge for him and he's also got to improve his rebounding. The preseason will also discover whether Amar'e is more effective playing the 4 or the 5 positions."
JACKSON ON: Andrea Bargnani, PF/C
"If Andrea Bargnani's initial season in New York was a disappointment, I believe he'll thrive in the triangle. The 3-point shot is a bit out of his range, but from 20 feet and in, Andrea is a deadly shooter. And those are the kinds of shots that the offense will generate for him. Still, there are two aspects of his offense that he has to work on. Because he only approaches the rim in straight lines, he needs to develop some kind of change-of-direction move with the ball -- perhaps a crossover dribble. Also, he's a finger-roller, not a dunker. Could he have small hands? Or does he just need to be more aggressive?
"Bargnani's defense likewise needs improvement. With his long arms, he can be an effective shot-blocker, but he's usually too reactive on defense. In the past, Andrea has been slow getting back in transition defense, and once there he's been unsure of what his rotation responsibilities have been. And like Amar'e, Andrea has to see which of the frontcourt positions suits him best."
JACKSON ON: Samuel Dalembert, C
"The only natural center among the potential starters is Samuel Dalembert. He's a proven commodity who's going to challenge shooters at the rim. Sam doesn't have a real massive body so he has trouble getting around bigger men who post him up. He's a good offensive rebounder and always plays hard. He has an effective short-range jumper and, in the past he's complained about not getting enough touches. But so does almost everybody else. What Sam needs to learn is how to be a scoring threat in the pivot.
"I'm encouraged by how well Dalembert played against the Spurs in the playoffs. However, throughout his career he's been very susceptible to foul trouble, so his floor-time will most likely be limited to about 26 minutes. Even so, we'd like him to be a 10-and-10 player."
JACKSON ON: J.R. Smith, SG
"The 2 position is our deepest, and J.R. Smith is easily the best athlete on the team. But J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot. His defense also needs work because he tends to be a ball-watcher, and he's late in chasing his man around screens when he should be tailgating him. Defense is the key to any winning team, so Smith has to really work hard on his deficiencies in training camp."
JACKSON ON: Shane Larkin, PG
"I really like Shane Larkin. He's an energy player with great speed and quickness. He plays the passing lanes well and has a nose for steals. Because he played in the summer league, Shane's got a pretty good handle on the offense, and that's where he had the chance to prove that he's also a clutch shooter. However, at only 5-11 and 175 [pounds], Shane has trouble defending screen-rolls. Our philosophy is for the smalls to get over the screens, which is difficult for even bigger, stronger players because the refs allow the screeners to drop their hands and push the defenders in their backs. So, Shane needs a lot of help from his bigs to solve this problem. The best thing about Shane is that he's a winner."
JACKSON ON: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG
"In most colleges, defense is not really emphasized and the idea is for your player to outscore his opponent. That's why playing defense in the NBA is such a challenge for a young player like Tim Hardaway Jr. He has the aptitude and the desire to be aggressive on defense, and during his rookie season he's gained a certain familiarity with the guys he has to guard, so we expect marked improvement from him in this area. Tim's shooting touch has never been questioned, but he has a tendency to stand around and wait for somebody to kick him the ball so he can launch 3-pointers. Tim also has trouble finishing with his left hand. Like Shane, Tim's summer-league experience gives him a head start on learning the offense, which is a significant advantage. Also, Tim is two inches taller than his listed 6-6, which also enables him to play some small forward. I expect that with his talents and his work ethic, sooner rather than later Tim will become an excellent all-around player in this league."
JACKSON ON: Jason Smith, PF/C
"Jason Smith has certain similarities to Bargnani. Jason is a catch-and-shoot guy with 18-foot range and, like Andrea, needs work on his handle. Rebounding and defense are two more areas that need improvement. Otherwise, Jason is a bit tougher and meaner than he's given credit for. He's another player who has to determine whether he's a better fit at the 4 or the 5."
JACKSON ON: Cleanthony Early, SF
"Cleanthony Early is a rookie who has a lot to learn, but he's very athletic and is physically mature. Still, because he doesn't have a really big body, he's sure to get posted. On the plus side, he's very aggressive on defense and knows how to play the passing lanes. At the other end, he's good in the open court and has legitimate 3-point range, but his shot is a little flat. Like most rookies, he'll be a work in progress for a while."
JACKSON ON: Quincy Acy, SF
"I'm really enthusiastic about what Quincy Acy brings to the team. [Sacramento] was overloaded at his spot, so he didn't get much playing time last season. If Quincy is not always a stopper, we can count on him to always be tough, quick-footed and energetic on defense at both the 3 and 4 positions. Quincy also has the kind of tensile strength that surprises opponents. He's worked hard to become a threat from beyond the 3-point line, but he has a slow release because he has to have all his body parts perfectly lined up to make his shots. An outstanding offensive rebounder, Quincy has to learn how to make plays."
JACKSON ON: Travis Outlaw, SF
"Travis Outlaw is strictly a shooter, and a very good one. He lacks the quickness to play great defense, but he knows the league's personnel. Hopefully, playing in the triangle will give him a chance to regain his scoring touch and be a productive force off the bench."
JACKSON ON: Cole Aldrich, C
"Cole Aldrich is a blue-collar guy. He goes hard after rebounds, hustles around the hoop, knows his role, and can score with a jump hook. Last season, Cole played better the more he played. Right now, he's our emergency center, who'll probably get significant time only if somebody gets hurt or our other bigs suffer a plague of foul trouble."
JACKSON ON: Langston Galloway, PG
"Langston Galloway is destined for the D-League, but I have my eye on the rookie. He's long-armed and 6-2, with impressive elevation, scoring range, sneaky quickness and sound fundamentals. Langston can play both backcourt positions and will eventually be ready to play in the NBA."
JACKSON ON: Travis Wear, SF
"Travis Wear is another impressive rookie. He's 6-10 with a terrific handle, outstanding athleticism and a nice touch from beyond the arc. He was overshadowed at UCLA, but has the skill set to play every position from 1 to 4. We'll eventually place him in the D-League, where his possible NBA future solely depends on his ability to learn how to defend."
Charley Rosen is the author of 18 books about basketball and a former assistant coach under Phil Jackson in the CBA.