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Fisher determined to make Knicks champions

NEW YORK -- For first-timers in their current roles, Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher are ready to lean on their experience to bring a championship to the New York Knicks.

“It's an honor to work alongside Phil Jackson, who is both a legend and friend as we strive together to reach our ultimate goal of bringing a championship back to New York,” said Fisher, who was introduced Tuesday alongside Jackson, the newly formed president-head coach combination of the Knicks.

As a player for Jackson, Fisher was a five-time NBA champion.

Fisher, 39, was still an active NBA player in the postseason last month but was courted heavily by the Knicks when Steve Kerr reneged on his agreement with Jackson. The two sides finalized a five-year, $25 million deal to make Fisher a head coach after two months of methodical searching by Jackson.

Jackson said he didn't know how to answer the question of whether Fisher's championship pedigree would bring Carmelo Anthony back to the team.

“I think I'll have Derek wear all five of his rings the first time he comes in to meet Carmelo,” Jackson said, adding that they expect a meeting soon with the team's cornerstone player bound for free agency July 1. “Derek represented something when he was the head of the union at one time, when he was up there fighting for the whole league. The leadership he showed in that phase, the players all appreciate that and they will remember.”

The Knicks do not have a first-round pick and are strapped by big spending in recent offseasons unless Anthony, likely to receive a maximum-level deal or just below, is willing to take slightly less to stick around for what could be a lengthy rebuild.

“Only Carmelo can answer that question,” Fisher said. “Ultimately the decisions to be great, to be part of something special, it's your choice. … You ultimately make a choice that you feel like is best for you and your family. We want to help give him some confidence that with the personalities involved this is the place he can have the success he wants.”

Jackson, hired in April as team president of the Knicks, said in his introductory news conference he is looking for a coach who can put the team game on the floor at Madison Square Garden. Jackson's top reported options were all proteges with a past that traces to the triangle offense, including Fisher.

“After going through this season, he was able to decompress,” Jackson said. “I'm going to force him to take a step back a little bit still. Our summer camp in Las Vegas, Derek will be there and start exploring some of the ways we can use our personnel.”

Fisher holds the NBA records with 161 playoff wins as a player and 259 playoff game appearances.

But the Knicks won just 37 games last season and because of contractual commitments, the makeup of the roster the next two seasons is up in the air.

As of Memorial Day, Fisher said he wasn't even sure he wanted to be a head coach. After meeting with Jackson, he was apparently persuaded that now is the time to take over a franchise that was mediocre under Mike Woodson last season and might not possess the immediate financial means for a rapid turnaround.

It is likely Fisher received reassurances from Jackson, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal to take over the team, that patience will be practiced as the Knicks go about rebuilding the roster.

“I'm not as down on the roster as some of you in this room,” Fisher said Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers pulled back on their pursuit of Fisher over the weekend. Fisher said Tuesday he told the team not to bother if they weren't serious and that ended discussions quickly. The Lakers do think highly of Fisher and believe he will be a good NBA coach or executive in the future but changed course in their slow-going search to replace Mike D'Antoni, who stepped down at the end of the season.

Fisher helped the Lakers win five NBA championships in the 2000s as point guard under then-coach Jackson, now the Knicks' president. Jackson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for tampering for discussing Fisher while he was still active in the postseason with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Fisher averaged 5.2 points per game for the Thunder this season. He will be 40 in August.

He is the team's ninth head coach since the Knicks appeared in the 1999 NBA Finals.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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