Stu Jackson: ‘Knicks Will Be Much-Improved Team’

The curious case of Kevin Love continues. The free-agent power forward has said he plans to return to Cleveland but still intends to visit with the Los Angeles Lakers to discuss his potential landing spot next season.

Is Love going through this process simply because it’s fun, or is it because he might actually leave Cleveland?

“It’s interesting,” former NBA general manager and coach and current NBA-TV analyst Stu Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I’m really not sure, particularly in light of the fact that Cleveland has already said they’re going to give him his five years at $100 million – and I have to believe the Cavaliers in fact got that message to him in an effort to try to discourage him from going and taking other visits. Because those other visits that he takes, he’s still only going to get four years from those teams. But perhaps his plan is that he wants to go to another market like L.A. where he would roll the dice, sign a two-year deal, then get the TV money after that two-year deal and certainly make up that money that he’s foregoing in the $100-million, five-year contract that he would get in Cleveland. So he could do that.”

But would that necessarily be Love’s best move? Jackson isn’t convinced.

“I don’t know why he’s taking his visits, but if we look at the history of Kevin Love, it’s difficult to tell really what he’s thinking,” Jackson said. “If I were the young man, and given the fact that he has been injured throughout his career – I realize this last injury was a little bit of a freak injury with the shoulder – but I don’t know. Do you want to run the risk of not taking the long-term, five-year deal now given your injury history? It’s a question he can only answer.”

While the Cavs came within two games of the NBA Finals even without Love, the New York Knicks were the second-worst team in basketball this past season, finishing 17-65.

Jackson, however, doesn’t expect a repeat performance of that in 2015-16.

“They’re going to look better,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question they’re going to be a better basketball team, and part of the reason is because of this free-agent season. They have the ability to go out and sign a player for a max contract or certainly sign a coupe payers at pretty good money in an effort to improve their ball club and get two additional starters. They’ve drafted two rookies that I have to figure at least they’re going to be in the rotation. You add to that a couple free agents and they’re going to be an improved ball club. Are they going to compete for a championship? No, they’re not. Are they going to compete for a playoff spot? Well, you hope so, if things fall right if they sort of fill out their roster. But I do think they’re going to be a much-improved club.”

Jackson, who coached the Knicks to the conference semifinals in 1990, was asked for his thoughts on Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony apparently wasn’t enamored with the pick, as it will take time for Porzingis to develop, but Jackson thought it was a great selection.

“I may be damming myself here, but I absolutely would have (done the same thing),” Jackson said. “Kristaps Porzingis, he has tremendous upside. And fellas, listen, in those top 10 picks in the draft, that’s all you’re drafting for. The draft lottery turned upside down on its head and all the teams at the top are drafting for upside. There’s no player in the top 10 that potentially has more upside than Porzingis. This guy is 7-2, can shoot the basketball from the perimeter, is a very fluid athlete, can run, can catch, arguably can protect the rim, and he seems to have the personality of a player that really loves the game.

“In other words, he found the game of basketball; the game of basketball didn’t find him like it does with so many tall players,” Jackson continued. “I think he genuinely loves the game. And a player like that who has a work ethic is going to likely fulfill that upside. So I absolutely would have done the same thing. He’s disadvantaged by the fact that you don’t see him throughout the year, but imagine this guy in the NCAA Tournament. You don’t think he’d be one of the best players in the NCAA Tournament like Justise Winslow or Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell? Of course he would be.”

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