Phil Jackson was in his usual center-court seat about 10 rows up from the floor Sunday night, watching the Knicks play their last home game of the season. His first two full seasons as Knicks president have resulted in more anguish than victories.
On Fan Appreciation Night, the Knicks lost to the Raptors, 93-89, and dropped to 32-49. They’re 49-114 overall under Jackson with one game left Tuesday night in Indiana.
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To construct the kind of roster that snaps the Knicks’ streak of three straight years without making the playoffs, Jackson has his work cut out for him this summer. But interim coach Kurt Rambis doesn’t necessarily count their first season with the Knicks (2014-15) and believes they can “turn it around really quick” with the right moves.
“We’re looking at it from a standpoint of new management, new coaching staff, so last year was a year that I calculate as Year Zero,” he said. “Just trying to clean things up and move forward. This is our first year of really trying to move forward and seeing what we have and the direction that we want to go and adding pieces. I think we’ve done a nice job with the process and we’re making progress.”
Carmelo Anthony had 21 points but didn’t play in the fourth quarter as Rambis went with mostly young or infrequently used players. Rookie Jerian Grant had a career-high 19 points. Kristaps Porzingis (shoulder) missed his sixth straight game, and Rambis doesn’t expect him to face Indiana.
Anthony, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, said he wasn’t thinking that this could be his last home game as a Knick.
“Not right now,” he said. “I can’t think about that. My mindset is just figuring out how we’re going to better this situation, how we’re going to continue to grow as a team, grow as an organization and not get used to going home this early in April.”
Jackson’s first big decision will be deciding whether Rambis will guide the team next season. There have been reports that he wants to keep his longtime friend. The Knicks are 9-18 since Rambis replaced Derek Fisher.
Rambis sounds like someone who is confident he will be a part of the Knicks next season — if not as the head coach, then in some other capacity. “We’re not anywhere near where we need to be, and we realize that,” he said. “We know that we’re going to have to continue to get better, so all of us have to continue to get better to allow that process to happen so that it gets to the point where everybody’s satisfied: the management, the players, the coaching staff and the fans.”
Jackson thought the Knicks would be a playoff team last season, but after going a franchise- worst 17-65, they had nowhere to go but up. He didn’t make any bold predictions before this season, but the Knicks appeared to be making progress when they were 22-22. Then they faded fast, and now they need to beat Indiana to avoid another 50-loss season. They finished 18-23 at home.
The Knicks own the seventh-worst record in the league and don’t have a first-round draft pick. Jackson will have to get creative through trades and try to convince impact players to sign with the Knicks.
“If we get the right pieces and continue to grow as a team and everything, we see this turning around real quick,” Rambis said. “The potential is there to turn it around really quick . . .
While, it’s a process, I’m not thinking 10 years from now. We’re all assuming it’s going to happen a lot sooner rather than later.”