Tasked with rebuilding the New York Knicks, president Phil Jackson has his back against the wall with expectations staring him in the face and not much in the way of movable pieces at the NBA trade deadline.
To his credit, Jackson has made impressive progress in digging the organization out of a hole as it is, not to mention keeping Carmelo Anthony in town and ignoring the boos to hit what so far seems like a home run with Kristaps Porzingis.
For those expecting a major splash from the Knicks, though, it might be better to turn attention toward next summer, not Thursday's deadline.
Those in the know around the league seem to agree. Based on quotes from members of various front offices, as captured by Fred Kerber of the New York Post, some in the Association don't expect the Knicks to make a splash:
“I have heard zero with the Knicks. And really, what can they do anyway? Their [tradeable] talent level isn’t that good,” one rival general manager said.
“I would think anything they do would probably be more cosmetic than anything,” said another exec. “They just don’t have the assets.”
It's not hard to see the logic. New York's two most tradeable assets, the aforementioned stars, won't go anywhere. Point guard Jose Calderon, who is 34 years old and averages just 7.5 points and 4.1 assists per game, might be the most attractive piece the team has to offer.
The situation is as dire as it sounds. Few teams will have an interest in 30-year-old Arron Afflalo, who posts 14.2 points per night on 34.1 minutes. Project Derrick Williams, though young at 24 years old, hasn't progressed. Center Robin Lopez is only seeing the floor for 25.5 minutes per night.
In fact, perhaps the biggest rumblings surrounding the Knicks right now are what they might have missed out on. With conventional wisdom suggesting a point guard is all that is missing from a playoff equation, the front office figured to have an interest in Brandon Jennings, formerly of the Detroit Pistons.
The word "formerly" is key here, because, as Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net noted, Jennings will now suit up for the Orlando Magic. Taking it one step further, the report stated Jennings wanted to play for New York: "Meanwhile, sources close to Jennings recently told Amico Hoops he was hopeful of being traded to the Knicks. Instead, it’s off to the Magic, where he will be expected to produce immediately under hard-nosed coach Scott Skiles."
Not exactly the headlines folks wanted to see, right? Jennings isn't necessarily the pass-first guard the Knicks would like to nail down to guide the offense, nor is he the surest thing since returning from injury, but it would have been an upgrade nonetheless.
If it's any consolation, the rumblings of how things might work out for the Knicks this summer have already begun.
One name to keep in mind? Try point guard Rajon Rondo, currently of the Sacramento Kings. Rondo continues to fit in quite well with Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins out west, averaging a double-double at 11.9 points and assists this year.
While a nice renaissance of sorts, Rondo sounds as if he might already have one eye set on the Big Apple, according to Kerber's colleague, Marc Berman: "According to an NBA source, the Kings point guard will still 'keep an open mind' regarding the Knicks this July when he becomes a free agent, despite Fisher’s cutting remarks."
Again, this deadline simply isn't the focus. The Knicks wouldn't mind if it was, as Jackson could dump some salary. But even expiring contracts don't matter much these days with so much television money on the way to boost the Association.
None of this is to say the Knicks aren't trying. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, the front office is at least trying to boast what Calderon could bring to a contender off the bench or a rebuilder as a role model.
Even Anthony, though, has been pretty blunt about the deadline, as captured by ESPN New York:
This may not mean anything, but Carmelo Anthony doubts that the Knicks will make a trade before the deadline -- https://t.co/26KqEaiyiT— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 18, 2016
Much can change once teams get serious about negotiations and desperation begins to settle in as the deadline nears. In those waning hours, if not minutes, maybe the Knicks prove Anthony wrong by slapping together a minor deal to better position themselves for this summer.
But that's what it is all about and really has been since before the season. The summer of Kevin Durant, Rondo and so much more looks pretty good for a team led by Jackson with a nice batch of projected cap space and an Anthony-Porzingis foundation that finally makes the Knicks look like more than just a pretty destination and big market.
Those wanting a big splash have waited quite a long time. Waiting a little longer, though, might prove ideal. Regardless, one can feel safe in knowing Jackson will help steer the franchise in the right direction.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.