Earl Monroe was a monster during his playing days in the NBA. He knows what it takes to win. He also knows that Phil Jackson knows what it takes as well. Monroe believes the roster Jackson has constructed is heading in the right direction.
Despite missing the playoffs last season, Earl Monroe believes the New York Knicks are going to be a top four team in the Eastern Conference next season. With Monroe expecting bounce back years from players like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani he expects the team to dramatically rebound.
Knicks legend Earl Monroe sees some pearls on this Phil Jackson-inspired, revamped Knicks roster. The man known as “Earl The Pearl’’ even believes Jackson’s Knicks easily could finish in the top four in the wide-open Eastern Conference after failing to make the playoffs last season with a 37-45 record.
Monroe, the flashiest member on the Knicks’ last title team in 1973, with Jackson as teammate, said he believes on paper only Indiana and Chicago boast a distinctly better roster. Sorry, LeBron.
“If these guys can get off to good start and stabilize what their roles are, I don’t see why they can’t be as good as the rest of the guys in the East,’’ Monroe told The Post Tuesday. “I see them [in the top four] easily.’’
Monroe said he feels new center Samuel Dalembert is no downgrade from departed Tyson Chandler. He likes the backcourt with newcomer Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni as cerebral point guards along with athletic shooting guards in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert.
Monroe said he believes Carmelo Anthony still is getting better and predicts the enigmatic pair of swingman J.R. Smith and big man Andrea Bargnani can be salvaged by the triangle offense Jackson and coach Derek Fisher will employ.
Monroe also had high praise for Jackson, his old teammate.
“Whatever he does, he’s an extension of us — the old Knicks,’’ Monroe said. “I’m proud of what he’s done for us.’’
Clearly Monroe is taking ownership of what his former teammate is doing. He's not only proud of Jackson's legacy but feels it reflects well upon him and the members of their championship teams.
To a certain extent, he's right. That being said, Jackson has had a lot more success on the sidelines than on the court itself. His former teammates didn't have much to do with it.
That being said, there's a certain amount of pride that Monroe and the rest of Jackson's former teammates must feel now that Jackson has taken control over the Knicks' franchise.
When you move beyond the nostalgia, Monroe has a point. There's little doubt that the Knicks will be a better team then they were a year ago. The entire team underachieved last season, with the exception of Carmelo Anthony.
The reality is that the team can really only improve upon their performance from last season. It's clear that Jose Calderon is a huge improvement over Raymond Felton and although Samuel Dalembert isn't considered as high profile a player as Tyson Chandler, his stats suggest the Knicks won't take much of a step back with that swap.
Additionally, the Knicks will be running the triangle offense now which should, at a minimum, improve the offensive production over what Mike Woodson was running last season. It's also possible that Jackson is not done making changes to the roster. He just recently added Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy into the fold and there are additional rumors of potential moves the Knicks could make.
Even if the roster stays as is, it already looks to be in better shape than last season's team. That's why Monroe's opinion isn't far off from the truth. Even if it's largely based on his relationship with Jackson.
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