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Phil Jackson says Knicks will be thinking defense first in draft, free agency

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson


Whatever system the Knicks are running next season, what they need more than anything else is better talent on the roster.

However, in selecting that talent look for the Knicks to think defense first. That’s what team president Phil Jackson told season ticket holders at an event Thursday, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

“Gotta have a defender,” Jackson said. "... That’s a good starting point -- a guy like Tyson Chandler (whom the Knicks traded over the summer) is the defensive backup that we have to have. In this day and age in our game, there are so many screen and rolls, so many 3-point shooters, so many things that a player of size has to (do). Not only cover the paint and protect the basket but he has to be able to step out defensively and play a guard. And do some defensive work on the extreme part of the floor so it’s very important that that player have defensive capabilities.”

That answer came in relation to a question about the draft. It suggests that should the Knicks land the top pick; they are among the growing number of teams leaning toward Kentucky’s Karl Towns over Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Towns is the better defender (and the better free throw shooter).

Of course, Jackson was peddling hope for the future to these season ticket holders — yes this season sucked but with the worst record they are guaranteed a top four pick. But he and Knicks GM Steve Mills also talked free agency plans, at least in broad strokes.

“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.”

That system may be a little less triangle, but there needs to be a system.

The Knicks are expected to have $25 million or more to spend, and if they could land Marc Gasol with that they would. But he’s not leaving Memphis for NYC. What Mills is suggesting is the right course of action — New York doesn’t need a home run this summer, it needs some solid singles and maybe a double or two. Get quality players in, build a foundation that can win some with Carmelo Anthony, one that shows hope for the future.

That’s how you draw a big name free agent to come in 2016 (or 2017) — you can’t just sell the brand and the city, you have to have some substance on the court.