The Knicks Fix: Derek and the Dominoes

It’s been almost a month since Derek Fisher was named head coach of the Knicks, but he has gone weeks without a coaching staff in place and many of you have asked me via Twitter about this. A lot of the hold up had to do with some of the candidates being under contract with other teams (the NBA “year” ends on June 30). So there are still a few dominoes to fall here before a staff can be finalized.

The New York Post reported Thursday that Kurt Rambis is in negotiations to be Fisher’s lead assistant. Rambis, a longtime Phil Jackson confidant, was on Mike D’Antoni’s staff last season with the Lakers and was considered a candidate for that job.

I’m told Rambis may join the Knicks before the holiday weekend.

Jim Cleamons, another Jackson disciple, has been linked to the Knicks via reports. Cleamons is technically still employed as an assistant of the Milwaukee Bucks, who, in case you were in the pool (like me) and missed the news, fired Larry Drew after one season and replaced him with Jason Kidd, who left the Nets after one season.

According to reports, Kidd doesn’t plan on keeping Drew’s staff, so Cleamons is expected to become available.

Rambis and Cleamons not only have ties to Jackson (and Fisher, to that matter), but they are also former Knicks. Rambis was a third-round pick by the Knicks out of Santa Clara in 1980, but was not signed. Cleamons played for the Knicks from 1977-78 to 1979-80. He was signed by the team in Oct. 1977, which resulted in the Knicks dealing legend Walt Frazier to the Cavaliers as compensation.

Most teams prefer to have the bulk of their staff in place for NBA Summer League, which begins July 11 in Las Vegas. It’s also become a recent trend in the summer to see rookie coaches work the sidelines, while the norm usually involves assistants running the teams.

Last year, for example, Kidd ran the Nets in the Summer League. Steve Clifford did the same for the Bobcats/Hornets.

There was some initial talk that Fisher might do the same, but that has yet to be determined.

What’s notable is that the free agency moratorium ends on July 10, when the Knicks contingent – including Jackson and Fisher — is expected to be in Las Vegas. Will Carmelo Anthony come to Vegas to re-sign?


The Knicks Summer League team will display an interesting collection of young players (assets?), with experienced players such as Tim Hardaway Jr., Shane Larkin, Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler expected to be on the roster along with draft picks Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

The roster is not yet finalized so there will be other names. Toure Murry, who caught everyone’s attention last summer and earned a roster spot this past season, is a free agent and has not yet decided where he plans to play.


Carmelo Anthony is in Los Angeles Thursday to meet with the Lakers, led by a pitch from Kobe Bryant. Not many are speculating that the Lakers are a real contender for Melo, but they cannot be overlooked. Kobe’s presence, plus the LA market are enticing possibilities for Melo. The Lakers have plenty of cap space to offer Melo close to a max, but with Bryant and Steve Nash both in the twilight of their respective careers, the Lakers aren’t looking like a contender in the West.

According to reports from ESPN‘s Ian Begley and Chris Broussard, Melo is supposed to meet with the Knicks in LA right after his get together with the Lakers.

Melo was in Texas Wednesday for two contrasting recruiting efforts. First, the Rockets met him with all the pomp and circumstance one can muster in Houston. *crickets*

Dwight Howard came to offer rhetoric based on his experience in leaving a major market and tons of money on the table to play there (and later complain about not getting enough touches).

Clyde Drexler, who left Portland to sign with the Rockets (his hometown team) and won a title there in 1995, was also present to offer his perspective.

The Rockets, who have all-stars Howard and James Harden, tried to stoke Melo’s imagination with signage of him in a Rockets jersey and holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The controversy that arose from those images was that the Rockets had Melo in a No. 7 jersey . . . which happens to currently belong to another one of the team’s popular players: Jeremy Lin.



At first, the Rockets said they gave Lin a heads-up about the imaging, but Yahoo! Sports reported that Lin’s agents said their client had no idea. Lin lashed back at the Rockets for the dis with a Bible verse on his Twitter account: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

When a follower said he was entitled to be angry at the Rockets, Lin replied, “I’m entitled to standup for myself/say I felt disrespected as I did thru tweet but point is love unconditionally/as jesus loved me”

Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who is the PT Barnum of NBA general managers, later tried to explain the PR mess his team created (if you didn’t know already, Lin is an extremely popular and polarizing player) by saying “it’s standard practice.”

Oh? Please, go on.

“I get the sensitivity and I hate that it creates some hurt feelings, I don’t like that,” Morey told Fox 26 in Houston. “But that’s obviously Carmelo Anthony’s number, that’s the number he wants. He told us that. Bottom line, if Carmelo comes, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have to be traded. It’s just math. It’s not personal.”

Mark Cuban and the Mavericks took a much different approach to their pitch to Melo. Cuban tried to appeal to Melo’s business side.

“No tours, no banners,” Cuban said via Cyberdust. “All basketball and all business.”

The Mavericks have a lot to offer. Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent, but already promised to re-sign. They have a great coach in Rick Carlisle. They also have good cap flexibility in the next two years and a progressive owner.

On the court, however, they have issues. The team that pushed the Spurs to a seven-game series has already been broken up. There is a major question mark at point guard (Raymond Felton and Gal Mekel) and depth on bench. And they play in the unforgiving Western Conference.

It has been a whirlwind three days for Melo, who has a lot to take in and digest. There are pros and cons at every stop. We should be expecting an answer soon, though. According to the Wall Street Journal‘s Chris Herring, the seven-time All-Star is expected to make a decision before the holiday weekend ends.

FREE AGENCY ROUNDUP (Follow the NBA Free Agent Tracker)

  • The Pacers are reportedly trying to engage the Suns in a trade for Goran Dragic, the NBA’s Most Improved Player. The Suns know they can’t keep both Dragic (who has an opt out next season) and Eric Bledsoe. Man, Dragic would be a prototypical Triangle Offense guard, wouldn’t he? #justsayin.
  • Kyle Lowry became one of the biggest winners in free agency after he reached an agreement to stay with the Raptors for a reported four year, $48 million deal. Lowry, who emerged from the scrap heap as the best point guard in the East, essentially doubled his salary from last season. The Miami Heat were reportedly in hot pursuit, but he never got as far as a meeting with Pat Riley.
  • Meanwhile, in Miami, our friend Chris Broussard of ESPN reports that it is not a given that LeBron James will return to the Heat. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks on my weekly ESPN Radio show (shameless plug: Saturdays 10 a.m. to Noon), James wants a full max deal – the best player on the planet deserves that, don’t you think? – and the Heat can give him more than any other team. But what about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? And how do the Heat build a strong supporting cast with very little cap space left over?
  • The Knicks have reportedly expressed an interest in Pau Gasol, but the 33-year-old center will have plenty of suitors with a lot more money to offer. Gasol will talk to the Bulls on Thursday, according to reports, and will also garner interest from the Thunder, Mavericks and the Spurs, the latter of whom would be a very intriguing destination for the Spaniard.
  • Could we see a reunion of Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce? ESPN reports that the Clippers and Nets are engaged in sign-and-trade talks for the veteran free agent.
  • Carlos Boozer has been informed that the Bulls will use their amnesty waiver on him, according to reports, to give the team more cap flexibility. The move is hardly a surprise, but can’t officially happen until July 10.
  • Quick shout out to everyone who has reached out the last few days with kind words about the return of the Knicks Fix blog. I’ve missed it, too.
  • From my Twitter (@alanhahn): In regards to Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher: to save precious character space, henceforth we should reference the duo as #Phish.
  • Happy Anniversary to Wally and Shannon Szczerbiak, married 14 years and a wonderful love story. Oh and if Wally’s Tie Game dominance is Spurs-like, then Shannon is unquestionably Coach Pop in the equation.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July. God Bless America!