NEW YORK (AP) — Phil Jackson offered a mea culpa for the New York Knicks’ awful first half of the season but said he’s doing what’s best for the franchise’s future.
Days after trading away two of the team’s best players and getting little in return, Jackson asked fans not to blame coach Derek Fisher because what’s shaping up as the worst season in franchise history is his responsibility.
The Knicks fell to an NBA-worst 5-35 with their 110-82 loss to Charlotte to extend the longest single-season skid in team history to 15 games.
“In anticipating that we were going to be better, that we were giving hope to our fans that maybe there was a possible playoff opportunity here, that goes on me,” Jackson said.
“That we have to now take responsibility and move forward and make things happen, that also goes on me and now I have to do the job that I was brought in to do.”
Jackson had said before his first full season as the team’s president of basketball operations that he thought the Knicks were capable of contending for a playoff spot, but now says that “they obviously weren’t.”
But Jackson, part of two championship teams with the Knicks as a player and a title-winning coach with the Lakers and Bulls, insisted he’s making moves that could turn around a franchise that hasn’t won since that second title in 1973.
“We’re going through this period of time and for some of the people that have been fans of this team have told me many times that there’s been this impression that maybe the team should blow it up and should start over again and it’s never happened,” Jackson said. “It’s always been going after the next big star.
“We kept searching for the big star to change our fortunes which has never happened in the last 45 years or so, so reality is that this is probably the best way to go about the business and to begin and to restart and do it the right way and put it together in a way that really makes sense.”
Jackson traded guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland this week in a three-team deal that could leave the Knicks with more than $25 million in salary cap space next summer. Jackson said he hopes to bring in five to six new players next season.
He acknowledged making the wrong decisions on the team he put together this season, though he was hamstrung for financial reasons. He may not be done making moves, saying the Knicks could be active at next month’s trade deadline.
“I just think that no one should be surprised in what we do from here on out,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who won an NBA-record 11 championships as a coach, praised Fisher for remaining optimistic and keeping the team’s future goals in mind.
“I think in a lot of ways that’s what leadership is,” Fisher said. “It’s not to gloat and smile and be happy when things are going well and take all the credit, but to still be consistent and persistent in who you are when things aren’t going well.”
Jackson also spoke highly of Carmelo Anthony, who hopes to return soon from a sore left knee.
But the All-Star forward might be one of the few Knicks who is still around next season. Jackson said this season’s group didn’t learn the team’s triangle offense as quickly as he hoped, necessitating some of the moves he’s made and the next search for talent.
Jackson said that he’s lost some sleep trying to figure out ways to improve the Knicks, but believes it will happen. He said Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, who gave Jackson his first chance to be a team executive in March, has remained supportive.
“We hope we’re on the right track, even though this isn’t the track we anticipated,” Jackson said.
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