WASHINGTON - Derek Fisher isn't counting down the days until the NBA draft or the start of free agency, but he can't hide his enthusiasm for what could await the Knicks this summer.

"I'm just excited about the possibilities we have," Fisher said. "We're in control of kind of our own destiny. I'm excited about the thought of that.

"But there are no guarantees [just] because we have money, [just] because it looks like we're going to have a top pick. Injuries and things like that happen every season. You have to keep that in perspective."

Fisher doesn't want to disrespect the players currently on the team, so he's trying to stay in the moment. But considering the current state of affairs, he can't be blamed for looking ahead.

The Knicks fell behind by 22 in the first quarter Friday night and dropped their ninth straight game, losing to the Wizards, 101-87.

Ricky Ledo led the Knicks (14-62) with 21 points. Marcin Gortat scored 19 for Washington (43-33) and John Wall had a career-high 18 assists. Neither played in the fourth quarter.

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What could happen this summer has been the ongoing topic for most of this dismal season, and even more so this week.

Team president Phil Jackson has made the rounds with season-ticket holders with an email and video and then a "town hall" event Thursday, when he and general manager Steve Mills discussed the plan.

Among the things Jackson said is that this season might prove to be "a godsend" for its impact on the rebuilding efforts. The Knicks are in position to have a top-four pick and more than $25 million to spend in free agency.

"Despite our struggles, I'm still excited about what we can do, what we're capable of accomplishing," Fisher said. "Our struggles this year won't dampen that spirit."

Mills and Jackson said the Knicks won't necessarily chase the best players. Mills said the Knicks will look for players who fit their system. Fisher, however, said fitting the system doesn't matter as much as having good players.

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"I think really good players fit well anywhere, and that's why they're really good," he said. "I think we'll be fine there. We won't have to overanalyze whether the shape of what we do fits a guy. If he can play, we'll find a way to make sure he gets a chance to play."

Notes & quotes: Tim Hardaway Jr. returned after missing the previous nine games with a sprained right wrist and was rusty, shooting 0-for-7 and scoring two points in 18 minutes . . . Rookie Cleanthony Early left in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle. The Knicks said X-rays were negative . . . Andrea Bargnani shot 1-for-9 and scored two points.