Phil Jackson knew he was going to have to tear down the Knicks and build them back up, but he didn't think the process would start before the midpoint of his first full season as team president.
Jackson signed Carmelo Anthony to a five-year, $124-million deal last summer, after all. He wouldn't have done that if he were in full rebuild mode. But the Knicks have won only one game since Nov. 22, forcing Jackson to rethink and adjust his plan.
He traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert last Monday for a second-round pick and two trade exceptions and waived Samuel Dalembert. Jackson promised more changes, saying "no one should be surprised" by what the Knicks do by the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
With the Knicks 5-35 and riding a franchise-worst 15-game losing streak, nothing would be surprising other than parting with Anthony, and that's not happening. Every other Knick has to know his days in New York could be numbered.
"It wasn't part of a short-term plan; it was a long-term plan," Jackson said during his "mea culpa" news conference Saturday. "I think that's something we knew we were going to do.
"We were going to talk about changing the culture of this ballclub. We thought we were going to have to look forward and anticipate bringing in new players and changing some of the face of our team. We had, I think, six new ballplayers this year on this team, so there's a big change. We didn't want to go through as many changes next year, but it looks like we're going to have to anyway."
Jackson actually brought in seven new players before the season. He said he would like to bring in five or six new players next season, which means some of these Knicks will return. But it's hard to foresee any being a part of the long-term future.
Only Anthony, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early have guaranteed deals for next season. Shane Larkin, Cole Aldrich, Jason Smith, Travis Wear, Quincy Acy and Langston Galloway are getting heavy minutes now and playing for contracts.
Although Jackson and coach Derek Fisher endorsed the struggling Calderon on Saturday, moving him would open up more money. He is owed $15.1 million over the next two seasons.
Hardaway has regressed after a promising rookie season. Trading him might land the Knicks something they desperately need -- a first-round pick.
The Knicks have theirs this year. They don't have one next year, and they can't trade their own first-round pick until 2018. First-round picks are valuable in trades and could help Jackson's rebuilding efforts.
"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 over the last 45 years or so. The reality is this is probably the best way to go about the business."
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