LOS ANGELES - Phil Jackson's team has lost the most games in the NBA this season, but the Knicks' president hasn't lost his sense of humor.
"My partner said, 'You're sitting on all this information, come on out and destroy a basketball team that you love,' '' Jackson said. "That's what I've done.''
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All kidding aside, Jackson's first year as an NBA executive has been an utter failure. After the morning shootaround at UCLA, he called it "a project gone awry." But he said he already has fast-forwarded to next season with the moves he's made and the direction he plans to take.
Jackson wants to see some progress before the season is over, though, and he watched the Knicks end a five-game losing streak with a 101-94 win over his old team, the Lakers, at Staples Center Thursday night. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 points, Andrea Bargnani added 16 and Alexey Shved had 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
The Knicks, who are a league-worst 13-51, likely will have a top-five draft pick and more than $30 million to spend in free agency, and Jackson wants the turnaround to be quick. He said it's hard to project how a 19- or 20-year-old rookie will develop, so signing veterans who can help immediately is the plan.
"What we're trying to do is we're trying to look at what advancement can be gained in the short term, how quickly we can recover and get back in the hunt and chasing what we consider the right way to go, and that's get a championship,'' Jackson said. "We know what the first-round pick is going to mean for us. But we also know that we're going to build our team on free agents.''
Like a third of the league is going to be free agents next year. That's where our priority stands. Although I think you get movers or franchise players from a draft.''
It sounds as if the Knicks could trade whomever they select, especially if they can get a marquee player for him. But Jackson said he will be patient with their pick. "You have to,'' he said. "We're rebuilding this team, and when you do that, you have to do it that way."
"We hope we can establish something here that'll go forward for the next 10 years.''
The Knicks have four players with fully guaranteed contracts for next season: Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Hardaway and Cleanthony Early. Langston Galloway has a partial guarantee. Jackson said the Knicks will bring back some players who aren't under contract for 2015-16.
"We're going to ask them to come back,'' he said. "They're going to fill out a good part of our roster. We can't bring in eight guys and expect them to play together. That's not part of our plan. So there are going to be guys who are going to be really good team members that are participating on this team right now. That part of it is important for us. But it also says something about how we're going to play.''
Jackson still is bent on establishing a system and a style of play that players will enjoy because he thinks money won't be a determining factor for free agents. The new television contract that will kick in next summer is expected to raise the salary cap more than $20 million to about $90 million.
"It's not about who's going to have the most money anymore,'' Jackson said. "That's not what it's going to be about because that playing field is pretty much evened out, especially with this amount of money coming into this league. It's going to be who's attractive enough to get people they want to play in their style of ball the way they're doing it.
"There are only a few teams that you can see in this league that say, 'OK, this is our definitive way we play.' We want to be one of those teams so we can have an eyesight on who can play in our system and who wants to play.''
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