What follows is the New York Knicks' offseason dream sequence—my dream, unfortunately, not necessarily that of Jeff Hornacek or the Knicks' executives. Here's hoping the subliminal messages piped into their homes while they're sleeping will work...
Jeff Hornacek lays himself down to sleep in his charming new house on City Island after a lovely housewarming party thrown by the Knicks, who've dubbed him their new head coach (unofficially, per Howard Beck).
Phil Jackson gave the best housewarming gift of all. "Jeff," he said, "I know I still owe you for the '97 and '98 NBA Championships, so to pay you back, I'm gonna let you run that uptempo offense you like so much. Heck, this team should have been running faster for two years already. You need some new free agents to make it work? Say the word."
Michael Jordan came to the party, too, even though nobody had invited him. "Horny," he said, "since those things in '97 and '98 were partly my fault, I'll throw in a present, too. You tell Kristaps Porzingis: The next time he nails a buzzer-beater for a win against the Charlotte Hornets, I'll will make sure the refs say he got it off in time."
Porzingis couldn't make it to the party, because he was in Europe watching the dominant play of his pal Guillermo "Willy" Hernangomez—a Knicks 2015 draft-and-stash. However, when the pair of them FaceTimed the party, Hornacek delivered MJ's message to KP. He carefully avoided discussing rumors that Hernangomez would join the Knicks squad in 2016-17, per Spanish outlet Encestando (h/t Brian Lewis of the New York Post), because those talks are officially unlawful for several weeks.
Later that night, however, as Hornacek fluffs his pillow, he can't help but think of Willy Hernangomez and the rest of the team he'll be coaching. Maybe he can turn the rookie into the second- or third-string big man the Knicks really need to crash the glass when Robin Lopez and Porzingis take breaks. Kevin Seraphin didn't get the job done on the boards last season, and he's now a free agent. It's time to let him walk.
It's also time to let the malcontented Arron Afflalo go in free agency. Hornacek can certainly understand what it's like to feel mistreated. After all, the Phoenix Suns recently fired him from his head coaching gig for problems that were not his fault. Yet he also knows how toxic a little bad mojo can be to a whole squad (there's no need to risk having another towel thrown at him).
Langston Galloway, however, he'll call back. Hornacek smiles, thinking that in Gallo he recognizes some of his own old scrappiness. Despite a quiet season, Horny knows Galloway has hit some circus shots and buzzer-beaters before and will hit plenty more once he has proper guidance from a creative shooter like himself.
Galloway's not enough, though. A young but proven guard is needed—a reliable scorer and relentless defender who can hurt you in transition, push the pace and won't eat up the whole budget. Kent Bazemore would fit the bill perfectly, Hornacek knows. There's an excellent chance the Atlanta Hawks will blow their team up this offseason, and it's quite possible young Bazemore, who had a sparkling season in Atlanta, will take the opportunity to move elsewhere.
Why not the starting lineup of the Knickerbockers?
But what about the other half of the backcourt (the question all New York Knicks fans have been asking Hornacek about since he first stepped foot in the Big Apple)? He glances over at the bottles of antacids and sleeping aids on his bedside table.
If the Hawks do indeed blow up their team, they might be willing to consider more reasonable deals for Jeff Teague than they were this winter. A driving guard like Teague would be perfect, but the chances are still slim, considering the Knicks' cupboards are rather bare of trade assets.
Mike Conley is the hot ticket, but likely out of the price range. Deron Williams may be older than his years. The Knicks already made their ruling on Brandon Jennings months ago. Jeremy Lin would probably be the best decision, but he could feel that he was mistreated by the Knicks (as might Shane Larkin). As for Raymond Felton...the Knicks were mistreated by him.
Horny gazes out the window of his new bedroom and wishes upon a star that Knicks point guards Tony Wroten and Jerian Grant are so astonishing at the Orlando Summer League that they tie for MVP. Otherwise, the Knicks must make a run at Lin, who is far and away the best option for running an uptempo offense. He's fearless at going to the hole and blazing in transition.
Another option would be to run Galloway at the point more often and add yet another swingman to the mix. It's not a bad idea, in any case. And Hornacek has just the man in mind: Garrett Temple.
The Washington Wizards will probably try to coax Temple back, since he was one of the few bright spots of their disappointing season. If he can be tempted to leave, Temple's speed and ability to light it up on the fast break would be a great asset, particularly if Derrick Williams decides to opt out of the last year of his contract...
But that's silly, Hornacek chuckles. D-Will was at the party tonight, giving Jeff's wife Stacy some sage advice on home security. Of course, he probably will opt out of that final $5.1 million just so he can renegotiate his contract, re-sign for about three more seasons and double his salary. But no biggie—Williams, the one-man fast break, is going to stay in New York.
Hornacek breathes a deep sigh of relief at that thought. He can imagine Grant, Wroten, Bazemore and Galloway and maybe Lin or Teague feeding Carmelo, Porzingis, Lopez and Hernangomez in the post, just the way he and John Stockton used to feed Karl Malone in Utah. He can see those speedy guards, Derrick Williams, Garrett Temple and a slim, trim Melo all wowing the Garden crowd with heroic circus shots in transition.
He briefly worries that Carmelo's next Puerto Rico team retreat will be players-only. He comforts himself by remembering Melo distinctly saying on WNBC-TV that he was looking forward to playing in Hornacek's uptempo style. Then he starts counting sheep.