Hall of Famer Phil Jackson thinks the New York Knicks can ‘surprise some people [and] win this year’


Finally, the Knicks are again legitimate contenders.

Calling New York “clumsy” last summer, Hall of Famer Phil Jackson now believes the Knicks can “challenge” for the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.

Jackson, who captured a record 11 NBA crowns on the sideline and owns the highest winning percentage of any coach (.704) in the history of the association, was at MSG on Friday night to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1972-73 championship squad.

“I think they’ve come a long way in the last two and half weeks. … They’re starting to make a run,” said Jackson, 67, who was selected by the Knicks out of the University of North Dakota in the second round of the 1967 NBA Draft. “I think they’re going to challenge. There’s a hope in this town that maybe they can surprise some people [and] win this year.”

The Knicks (50-26), with Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Raymond Felton, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby, should finally be a healthy unit for the first time this season when the playoffs commence on April 20.

Although a posse of geriatrics rivaling the Golden Girls in high tops, Chandler, Stoudemire, Camby and Martin provide the Knicks with invaluable muscle that can pressurize the relatively diminutive Miami Heat and create numerous mismatches in the paint.

Respecting Miami’s trio of superstars, it is difficult to envision the Knicks preventing the Heat (59-16) from going back-to-back.

Nevertheless, as victors of 12 straight contests, the New York Knicks have an opportunity to “surprise some people [and] win this year.”

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