At the end of the 2014-15 season, Derek Fisher talked about the strides the young New York Knicks made, and how that was a building point going forward.
So far this offseason, team president Phil Jackson and the rest of the Knicks brass have taken that foundation, and they’ve built upward, both figuratively and literally.
The Knicks have spent nearly $100 million in total salaries for free agents Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams and Kyle O’Quinn, along with adding Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant via the draft.
Fisher was happy with what the team has done, and the way it was able to address multiple roster needs with just a few additions.
“We like a lot of what we’ve done,” he said. “You see where the game is going how important it is to have guys who can do multiple things. We feel like we added a few guys who can do that.”
When it comes to draft picks Porzingis and Grant, Fisher said he was excited about the youth and the versatility they bring, but as rookies he feels they need time to develop into players who can be depended on every night.
Perhaps Fisher was most upbeat about the Lopez signing. He emphasized the team’s desire for size up front, and how much he values defending and rebounding.
“We feel that Robin in the middle does that for us,” Fisher said. “He is one of the best centers in the game in terms of anchoring the middle of the floor.”
Lopez signed a four-year deal with the Knicks, worth $54-million. The big man, a twin to Brook Lopez, the center for New York’s crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets, averaged 9.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.42 blocks in 59 games for the Portland Trail Blazers last year.
In the backcourt, the Knicks added a much-needed veteran presence in Afflalo. Like Lopez, Derek likes what Afflalo can bring to the table defensively, and he also likes what he’ll bring to the locker room and the practice court.
“Arron Afflalo is a pro, one of the hardest working guys in the league,” Coach Fish said. “Also, a physical guy that can guard multiple players.”
Afflalo was signed to a two-year, $16 million deal and outside of his defensive abilities, many believe he can come in and be a decent second scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony, having averaged 13.3 points over his eight-year career.
Fisher talked a lot about how important it is to have players who can do multiple things on the floor, which why value was put on Williams’ game. Fisher also thinks more stability will be good for the former No. 2 pick after enduring a coaching carousel in Sacramento.
“He’s played for three coaches in the last three days, it seems, up in Sacramento, and we hope some stability here will be good for him. We like his versatility and his athleticism. We think he’ll be able to do a lot of things for us,” Fisher said.
Williams was signed to a two-year, $10-million contract while averaging 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 22.4 minutes for Minnesota and Sacramento since he was drafted second overall in 2011.
The Knicks parted ways with a key frontcourt contributor in Jason Smith over the offseason, but Derek believes that O’Quinn could fill that role immediately. O’Quinn was signed to a four-year, $16 million contract while averaging 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 51 games last year with The Magic.
“We like what Kyle O’Quinn does in terms of his ability to handle the basketball, shoot it, and play from the elbow down, really good passer,” D-Fish said.
With a talented and versatile group of free agents joining a group that grew together through a roller coaster season, Coach Fisher feels the Knicks are poised for a turnaround.
“We obviously expect to be better,” D-Fish said. “I feel like we’ve added good players. We’re not just going to win 17 games. I can say that and feel pretty confident.”
Even though the Knicks have made substantial additions to their current team, Fisher still doesn’t think the team is done adding. Coach Fish said the Knicks are looking for more defense and rebounding, shooters and speed at the guard position.
Derek explained it’s just about getting better right now and finding ways to do the things that successful teams do, then the Knicks will start to be able to define what the finished product will look like.
“We like some of the possibilities we have as we finish out the roster,” he said. “The great thing about it is it will be our choice who comes to our team. We like the way it’s going so far.”