A humbled Phil Jackson took the blame for the Knicks' woeful season, effusively praised Derek Fisher and said that although he's worried about the impact this season could have on the signing of free agents, he doesn't think players will be deterred from joining the Knicks this summer.
Speaking for the first time since dealing J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert on Monday for cap space, two trade exceptions and a second-round pick, Jackson said the right thing to do is "restart'' and that the rebuilding effort doesn't necessarily mean going after the biggest star available.
The Knicks' president also acknowledged that Carmelo Anthony's left knee would "get better'' with surgery but added that he wants to try to play Thursday in London and in next month's All-Star Game at the Garden.
Before the season, Jackson, a first-time executive, said the Knicks could be a playoff team. He said he has "lost some sleep'' because he never anticipated they would be a franchise-worst 5-35 and added that he will be active leading up to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
"This is a mea culpa,'' Jackson said Saturday before the Knicks fell behind by 45 points and were routed by the Hornets, 110-82, for their 15th straight loss. "I take responsibility for it. And the fans, I want them to leave Derek alone in this regard. He's doing the best job possible. It's not his fault.
"Obviously, I didn't do the right thing in picking the group of guys that were here. A lot of it was etched in stone, we had guys with guaranteed contracts, but in anticipating that we were going to be better, that we were giving hope to our fans that maybe there's a possible playoff opportunity here -- that goes on me. We now have to take responsibility and move forward and make things happen. That also goes on me. Now I have to do the job that I was brought here to do.''
Jackson said he has the full support of Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan, who is letting him "go forward the way I see fit.''
"The reality is this is probably the best way to go about the business,'' Jackson said. "And to begin and to restart and to do it the right way and put it together in a way that really makes sense instead of bringing dominant people in to try and fit into this jigsaw puzzle makes it pretty difficult. We hope we're on the right track even though this isn't the track we anticipated.''
Jackson will try to make changes by the trade deadline that help in the short and long term. The Knicks have seven players with expiring contracts. Jose Calderon, second-year guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and the two trade exceptions could draw interest.
But Jackson's first deal -- sending Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and two second-round picks -- hasn't worked out the way he expected.
"I just think that no one should be surprised at what we do from here on out,'' Jackson said. "We know that movement is going to happen and we might want to participate in it. We want to bring in five or six new players next year. We'd like to bring in players that we can build on and build with in this year, especially, not just have them all in one group. So we're going to be active, open and selective.''
The Knicks still are expected to pursue All-Star-caliber players in free agency -- particularly when Kevin Durant becomes available in 2016.
Jackson said there's some concern about getting the players the Knicks want. But he still expects his team to be successful, and having a healthy and hungry Anthony will be a good selling point.
"We're all worried about the fact that money is not going to just be able to buy you necessary talent,'' Jackson said. "You're going to have to have places where people want to come and play. But I do think that New York situation holds a high regard in players and agents that have contacted us. We have no lack of agents that have contacted us for their players.
"We still think that we have a really good chance to develop a team. Simply because we're having a very difficult year doesn't mean that that's gone awry. Having Carmelo as a lead for us, a person who is interested in the advancement of our team and a guy who has been literally hampered this year by his physical setbacks, really helps us.''
The Dolan family owns
controlling interests in the
Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision.
Cablevision owns Newsday.