Carmelo Anthony doesn’t get any help for the Knicks’ playoff push at NBA trade deadline.
Phil Jackson’s one change during trade season was canning Derek Fisher. The Knicks president then stood pat with a roster that needs a small miracle to get back in the playoff hunt.
Point guard Jeff Teague represented a top target for the Knicks, but he remained in Atlanta during a trade season that sputtered to a dull conclusion without a single star relocating.
Jackson acknowledged long before Thursday’s deadline that he isn’t working with desirable assets, which is partially an indictment on the roster he assembled. But the Knicks have also been more careful about keeping their draft picks under Jackson, whose greatest move as team president has been taking Kristaps Porzingis over the summer.
The Knicks don’t own a first-round pick this year — a consequence of dealing for Andrea Bargnani — but could’ve dangled their 2018 pick to upgrade the roster. Sources said Jackson resisted that urge in different discussions — as well as ideas of hacking into future cap space for Band-Aid fixes — even though Carmelo Anthony would prefer getting help now rather than from a rookie in two years.
In addition to inquiring about Teague, the Knicks made a run at Minnesota guard Kevin Martin, according to ESPN. They’ve been more open about their goal of making the playoffs since firing Fisher, and they’re attacking the remaining 27 games with a team that is 23-32.
“We hand-picked all of these guys. These are all players we picked, we wanted,” interim coach Kurt Rambis said. “We know this isn’t a finished product. We have to continue to improve. But we hand-picked all these guys so we like them and now we’re trying to develop them.”
The four teams the Knicks need to leapfrog to get in the playoffs — Wizards, Magic, Pistons and Hornets — each tried to upgrade their rosters with separate moves. The Wizards probably made the biggest deal by acquiring Markieff Morris from the Suns for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and a first-rounder.
The Magic and Pistons swapped Tobias Harris and Brandon Jennings. The Hornets acquired Courtney Lee from the Grizzlies.
Among the point guards traded this week were Jennings, Kirk Hinrich and Shelvin Mack. The Knicks still have an open roster spot and Rambis indicated they want to take a look at one of the players on the D-League affiliate in Westchester, where the marquee name is Jimmer Fredette.
“Guys are playing well in the D-League for us,” Rambis said.
The Knicks were trying to find a replacement for Jose Calderon, who has become a scapegoat for fans because of an inability to keep up with younger, quicker point guards. Calderon, 34, who is under contract through next season, understood he was one phone call away from relocating. He also defended his play as a complementary piece of the triangle offense, which has never been conducive to big numbers from the point guard.
“It doesn’t matter how I play. Sometimes when you maybe get off on the wrong foot or people don’t know you as a player and expect something else, it’s tough to change those minds,” he said. “So I’m pretty good with the way I am, the way I do stuff, the way I work. Like I said, if we go position by position, or player by player, I lost every battle in that situation. I’m not going to score more points than other point guards in this league. I’m a different kind of player. It’s not fun when you want to win for the Knicks and people want you out of the Knicks.”
Rambis extolled Calderon’s virtues as an offensive player, acknowledging that others — including himself — will have to pick up the point guard’s slack on the other end.
“If there’s a weakness, if there’s an overmatched situation, then the whole team has to do a great job of protecting where that weakness lies,” the interim coach said.
The Knicks already have a young point guard — Jerian Grant — who was the 19th pick in June.
However, Grant has struggled with his shot and composure, leading to a spot at the end of the bench. The 23-year-old did not play in Rambis’ debut last week against the Wizards.
“He’s just a young player. He’s growing, maturing, developing. There’s a lot to learn,” Rambis said. “The point guard position in the NBA is the most difficult to learn. And these last couple practices, he’s turned his jets back on and that’s really what we need him to do. But he’s got to be able to play at a speed where he can make high quality decisions.”
The Knicks have lost 10 of their last 11 heading into Friday’s game at Brooklyn. The reinforcements aren’t coming.
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