Knicks president Phil Jackson told a gathering of the team’s season ticket holders Thursday that he knows whom he would select with the No. 1 overall pick if New York wins the lottery, notes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. He offered hints that it would be either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, who are locked in a tight race atop most draft projections, and he tipped his hand when he pointed to defense as a key for a team’s big man, since Towns has the better defensive reputation, as Begley observes. Surprisingly, he cited Tyson Chandler, whom the Knicks traded away last summer and who’ll hit free agency in the offseason, as the sort of defender the team needs. We already passed along some more of what Jackson and GM Steve Mills had to say at the event, and we’ll cover the rest of the relevant news here, as Begley, Marc Berman of the New York Post, Peter Botte of the New York Daily News and Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv relay:
- Mills and Jackson indicated a willingness to listen to offers for their pick, though Jackson cautioned that part of his job is “shepherding the whole organization so that you don’t get caught in giving away draft picks, you don’t get caught without a future aspect.”
- Jackson said he’d like to sign one or two starting-caliber players in free agency, but he and Mills downplayed the idea of chasing stars. “It’s a different approach than in the past — we won’t go after the biggest name out there, we’ll go after players who fit in system and style,” Mills said. “It may in fact be a big-name player but it’s going to be who fits system-wise.”
- The Knicks fell well short of Jackson’s initial expectation of the playoffs, but the opportunity to rebuild “may be a godsend,” the Zen Master argues. “I commiserate for the people who put a lot of money out there, who have season tickets who sit and watch the game. I empathize with that part of it. To rebuild this team, we knew we were going to have to take the team apart to get where we have to. I can make the argument we had to go through it. [Expletive] happens and this season it did happen to us.”
- Jackson once more defended the Chandler trade, saying he made it because Chandler would be a free agent this summer and because of the risk involved with the now 32-year-old’s age and history of injuries. Still, Chandler has missed only six games for the Mavs this year.