With pressure from the New York Knicks' fanbase and, more importantly, Carmelo Anthony, the team has been aggressive this offseason and improved – at least on paper.
It all started with a pre-NBA Draft day deal with the Chicago Bulls as New York acquired former NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, and a 2017 second-round pick in exchange for Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez.
Entering the final year of his current deal, Rose, whose knee’s have been an injury concern the last five seasons, will look to build on a solid 66-game performance in 2015-16. He averaged 16.4 points and 4.7 assists in 31.8 minutes per game.
"I'm grateful to be where I'm at. I could have been anywhere,” the 27-year-old Rose said at his introductory press conference as he thanked Chicago for trading him to New York (via ESPN). “Not saying all the other teams are bad places, but to be in this market, to be in the city [with] the legacy, the history of basketball. ... I'm grateful. I'm grateful to be here. I feel like they're going to appreciate me a little bit more."
Rose said all the right things and the fact is, he’s the right move for an ailing Knicks team. While fans – and Phil Jackson – had dreams of landing Kevin Durant, Madison Square Garden and it’s losing Knicks franchise was not an appealing destination to the top free agent on the market. So, with that in mind, Jackson added a few more players in the same position as Rose.
In need of a center, the Knicks signed Rose’s longtime teammate with the Bulls, Joakim Noah, to a four-year, $72 million deal. Growing up a Knicks fan in NYC, Noah always had his sights set on the bright lights of NYC. Now, he will take his tenacious play and try to infuse some life into the Knicks.
“There’s definitely a buzz in the city. I think it’s on us to make it work,” Noah said at his introductory press conference where he, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings were introduced. “Winning in the Garden, I’m not gonna get a feeling like that anywhere else. I’m not here to just get a check and be happy. I want to be an animal. I want to make the city proud.”
Noah, much like Rose, is a reclamation project for New York as he’s coming off a season in which he played just 29 games and averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game.
“Wearing this jersey means everything to me,” Noah , 31, said while listing Larry Johnson’s four-point play, Michael Jordan’s 66-point performance, and the 1999 NBA Finals versus the Spurs as games he was in attendance for as a kid (via ESPN). “I’m not here to get a check and be happy, I wanna be an animal and make the city proud.”
Joining Rose and Noah are two solid veterans in Lee and Jennings. Lee, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal will be the Knicks’ starting point guard. Jennings, 26, who is still trying to fully recover from a ruptured left Achilles tendon he suffered in early 2015, will give the team a solid backup option off the bench. Lee, 30, is a solid veteran who can score and defend.
Outside of Lee and Noah, the Knicks did not make any long-term investments. Rose could be one-and-done in New York and Jennings is looking to reestablish his worth. It’s just like the Knicks, a franchise looking to reestablish itself as a popular free agency destination. With a lineup of Rose, Lee, Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Noah, the Knicks have improved talent-wise from last season.
“We like this team,’’ Jackson said to the New York Post about his free agency moves. “[Last year] we didn’t have the strength to provide a bench to cover injuries, fatigue or a rookie [Porzingis], who hit the wall in the middle of the season.
"We anticipate this is what the NBA will be like. Rosters have to be restructured at free agency. There’s a lot of turnover in the NBA and precludes having the continuity. It’s one of the difficult things about it. We’d like to have continuity and do a better job of it in the future.”
Also, with Russell Westbrook and others possibly hitting free agency next year, the Knicks could use the 2016-17 season as a reclamation project that turns into future stability.