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Phil Jackson: Knicks' struggles part of 'growth process'

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson looks on

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson looks on as his team plays against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

In his first meeting with the media since the start of the regular season, Knicks president Phil Jackson defended his triangle offense, complimented his coaches and said what the Knicks are going through is all a part of the "growth process.''

Jackson spoke for 20 minutes before the Knicks (2-6) lost their fifth game in a row, 91-85 to the Hawks, Monday night at the Garden. He seemed particularly annoyed that NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently joked at a charity event that it "clearly'' looked as though the Knicks are "still learning'' the triangle.

"I wasn't so humored by the commissioner actually jumping in on top of that, too. He doesn't need to get in on that,'' Jackson said. "There's enough focus on the triangle. It's not anything. It's a system. It's simple basketball. Just play the game. So we're over the triangle. Let's get to business and play the right way.''

Jackson said he told the team before the season that it was going to be a rough start and that they "couldn't be disappointed'' if things didn't go well right away.

"They're still quite a ways away from their execution abilities as a team,'' he said. "This is going to happen. It's all a part of the process. I think we think that by Thanksgiving or December is the time when if you haven't gotten it by now, we'll have to think about if you're a learner or not a learner.''

Translation: He's giving the players about three more weeks to start figuring things out.

One player who seems to have had some difficulty figuring out the triangle is Carmelo Anthony, although he had a strong game Monday night with 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. In the previous four games, he shot 8-for-23, 5-for-21, 5-for-20 and 8-for-20. On Monday night he was 11-for-25.

Jackson said he spoke to Anthony Monday and said he has urged him to impact the game in other ways beyond scoring, such as by passing more quickly or trying for offensive rebounds.

"I think the frustration's going to be there at times,'' Jackson said, "especially when the tide turns in the third quarter and he wants to step up what he's known for and what his genius is, which is scoring. Sometimes it's frustrating to not be able to do that. But he seemed very upbeat today when I talked to him.''

Jackson won six rings with the Bulls and five with the Lakers using the triangle. This is his first season as a team executive, and he admitted to walking a fine line so as not to interfere with Derek Fisher and his assistants. Jackson hand-picked Fisher, his point guard on the Lakers, to teach the Knicks the triangle.

"I've tried to stay away and allow this team to have a dynamic that doesn't [involve me],'' Jackson said. "I think it's a fine balance I'm trying to walk . . . so they understand the authority that Derek and the coaching staff is going to have.''

Jackson thinks Fisher and his staff have "done a great job,'' especially considering the injury situation at point guard. Still, it's clear Jackson hasn't been reluctant to be hands-on. Before the game, he told his players they need to be a little tougher and not let the Hawks "slap the ball out of [their] hands'' the way they did Saturday night in Atlanta, a 103-96 loss in which the Knicks led 61-48 at halftime.

Overall, Jackson remains optimistic that things soon will start coming together. "I think for our fan base and our people that are patient . . . you're going to see progress and I think you're going to enjoy it,'' he said. "I think you're going to see the kind of basketball that was demonstrated in the first half of that game on Saturday.''

New York Sports