CHICAGO — Phil Jackson believes NBA players union executive director Michele Roberts was “working it” when she said the Knicks president be fined for saying Carmelo Anthony should leave the Knicks.
Jackson was so unfazed by Roberts’ claim that he reiterated his belief on Friday that Anthony would be better off playing for another team because he thinks the Knicks are a long way from becoming a championship contender.
“I think I expressed what I felt. I can’t express it any better,” Jackson said at the NBA Draft Combine. “I thought it was well said even if a lot of you didn’t feel that way. We’d like him to have success; the opportunity is narrowing. We’d just like for him to have success somewhere. We’re not going to be there. Hopefully we’ll maybe be a playoff team next year. It would be tough to consider us possible champions.”
Anthony, as Jackson mentioned, has a no-trade clause so he has the right to veto any deals.
Jackson, who made his first appearance at the NBA combine as Knicks president, said general manager Steve Mills has been in contact with Anthony since the end of the season. Jackson said he texted Anthony out of concern for what is going on in his private life. Anthony’s marriage reportedly is on shaky ground.
“Some personal things came out in the paper that was difficult,” Jackson said. “Wanted him to know we’re supportive of him.’’
But he made it clear in his end-of-season news conference last month that he would try to trade Anthony. Jackson said then the Knicks haven’t “been able to win with” Anthony and that he “would be better off somewhere else.” Roberts wanted the league to sanction Jackson for trying “to shame” Anthony into waiving his no-trade clause.
“She’s working it,” Jackson said.
But Jackson said he phoned NBA commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the situation and others concerning the Knicks and he made it seem that the league is not upset.
“I’ve known Adam for some time so we talk about business, about various things, about what’s important for our franchise,” Jackson said. “We have a number of issues that I think are important. The press is one of them. You guys want to knock us around a little bit and make it seem like we don’t know what we’re doing. But they’re comfortable.
“We’re on a path.”
The Knicks have missed the playoffs for four straight years, including the three full seasons Jackson has been president. So he has come under fire and scrutiny for some of his decisions and comments, including when he is brutally honest the few times he speaks with the media.
“To have a positive base to work from is really important,” Jackson said. “Our fan core is positive and we like to give them hope because they’ve been disappointed. Well, they weren’t disappointed 20 years ago when they went to the finals. They were surprised in ‘99. So it’s been a long time for hope for our fans. We want them to have hope. They’ve been bridesmaids but never a bride.”
Jackson was hired to change that. But the Knicks are 80-166 since he became president.
They were 31-51 this past season and are seeded seventh in next week’s draft lottery. Jackson said the Knicks would be looking at “wings and guards” in this draft since they have several centers and power forwards.
Jackson interviewed two players who are definitely on the Knicks’ radar: Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, the projected No. 1 pick, and Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who could go in the top five. The Knicks would have to get lucky in the lottery to be in position to grab either of them.
“We want to get the first pick,” Jackson said. “We’re rooting for those little balls.”
The one subject Jackson wouldn’t address was Kristaps Porzingis blowing off his exit meeting with team officials. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek spoke about it Thursday and said “there’s no doubt in my mind” Porzingis would be on the team next season.
Jackson steered clear of all questions about Porzingis.
“Rather than to bat this thing over the net back and forth between parties we’ll just leave it alone,” Jackson said. “Jeff said something [Thursday] and kind of expressed our feelings on it.”
When asked if Porzingis would face a fine for skipping the meeting Jackson said, “I won’t talk about it. That’ll come out when it does.”