The Knicks and Phil Jackson have picked up their options on the final two years of his contract, according to a report by ESPN.com. Knicks owner James Dolan said in February that he would honor Jackson’s five-year deal, and it appears he’s keeping his word even though the Knicks missed the playoffs in each of Jackson’s three seasons as president.
The Knicks wouldn’t comment on or confirm the report.
Jackson and the Knicks each had an option to part ways after the third full season of his contract. Jackson had the clause put in when it appeared there would be a work stoppage this summer, but the NBA and its players’ union reached a deal on a new collective-bargaining agreement.
Jackson is scheduled to speak to the media Friday afternoon. The last time he was interviewed by the New York media in September, he said he wasn’t thinking about opting out.
“I’ve just been going straight ahead,” he said then. “That really hasn’t been an item for me to think about. I had a clause put in the contract that in case there was a lockout that it might be a way to step away from the team or a job that doesn’t have any work action going on for a period of time.”
Jackson, 71, still has a lot to prove as an executive. The Knicks have lost at least 50 games all three seasons under him and have gone 80-166 in that span. They ended 2016-17 with a 31-51 mark after beating the 76ers in their finale Wednesday night.
Since taking the reins in March 2014, Jackson has overhauled the roster multiple times. He brought in a total of 33 players, and only Carmelo Anthony is left from the team that Jackson inherited. Anthony could be moved this summer.
Jackson also has appointed three head coaches — Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and Jeff Hornacek — and insisted they run the triangle offense. That system helped Jackson win an NBA-record 11 championships as coach of the Bulls and Lakers. Many in the NBA consider the system outdated, but the Knicks went all-in on the triangle after the All-Star break and Hornacek said they will run it from the start of training camp.
Jackson’s best moves have been drafting Kristaps Porzingis and acquiring the draft rights to Willy Hernangomez. The Knicks are expected to build around them going forward, which could push Anthony out. He has a no-trade clause, but he has said winning is the most important thing to him.
Jackson will have a high lottery pick, two second-round choices and roughly $20 million to use in free agency as he tries to rebuild the Knicks into a playoff team next season. He thought the Knicks could be one after trading for Derrick Rose and signing Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings last offseason.
“We see this as a team that has the potential of really being a good basketball club,” Jackson said in September. “The only thing that can compete with them being successful or not being successful is the injury factor.”
Injuries were a factor later in the season, but even when the Knicks were relatively healthy, they never meshed or committed to defense. By the end of the season, Lee was the only one of the new acquisitions playing for the Knicks. Rose had season-ending knee surgery. Jennings was waived and signed with Washington. Noah had a list of issues that made his signing look even worse than it did when Jackson gave the oft-injured center a four-year, $72-million free-agent contract.
Noah underwent knee surgery in February and was suspended 20 games in March for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug policy. He will be banned the first 12 games of next season. On Wednesday, the Knicks announced that he needs surgery to repair a rotator cuff issue in his right shoulder. Noah hasn’t decided whether to have the operation, but the rehab is five months.