By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Knicks basketball chief Phil Jackson said on Tuesday he wants to reshape the club into a more fluid, ball-sharing team and that Carmelo Anthony is part of the future plans.
"There's no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, and maybe the best individual isolation players in the game," Jackson said during a news conference at Madison Square Garden where he was introduced as the team's president.
"I have no problem committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans."
Jackson was raised on the virtues of flowing, team basketball from his playing days as a defensive-minded forward on Knicks teams that won two National Basketball Association titles under coach Red Holzman in the early 1970s.
As a coach, Jackson benefitted from the formidable one-two punch of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with the Bulls, and in Los Angeles he built a championship run on the tandem of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
Those teams also featured valuable role players and used what came to be called the triangle offense, which put a premium on movement without the ball and passing.
"We know that we need another solid contributor who can score and help Carmelo go along," said Jackson.
Jackson made clear that roles could change, even for Anthony, who is averaging 28 points a game for a Knicks team this season that is 27-40 and currently outside the playoffs.
"There's a number of things I can see Carmelo doing as he moves forward. As great a player as he is, there is still another level he can go to."
But the future is uncertain as Anthony, a seven-time All-Star and last year's scoring champion, has said he would take advantage of an opportunity to test the free agent market after this season.
Anthony, longing to win a first NBA crown, could make about $30 million more by signing a long-term deal to remain with the Knicks under salary cap rules, and may be further enticed to stay by Jackson's winning resume.
"As far as knowing what it takes to win, Phil is the best to ever do it," Anthony told reporters after practice on Monday.
"I haven't won anything, and he's won a lot. I can learn a lot from him and his system, things that he wants to incorporate here. I'm hoping and praying this all works."
Jackson said he and Knicks General Manager Steve Mills would be scouring NBA rosters for players to fit into their system, while structuring the payroll to allow the team to court a fertile free agent crop in 2015 that could include LeBron James.
"Steve and I will work on how to manage the roster so we can have an impact in that area," he said about free agent targets.
Meanwhile, Jackson said he was confident Anthony could adjust his game to a new offensive scheme.
"Carmelo has had a scoring load to carry this year, obviously, and he's remarkable on that," Jackson said, before noting how Anthony blended his talents to help the U.S. team at the 2012 London Olympics.
"He showed in the last Olympics, coming off the bench and playing a role on a magnificent team that won a gold medal that he can play a role if he has to play a role.
"Carmelo will be fine. I don't see any problem with that."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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- Carmelo Anthony
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