GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Phil Jackson spoke about the excitement and anticipation for the upcoming season, and even said “a championship” would constitute a successful year for the Knicks.
Jackson said capturing a title isn’t a realistic expectation for this team, though. He wouldn’t even mention the word playoffs. But the Knicks president believes if his reconstructed team can stay healthy, ending a three-year playoff drought shouldn’t be a problem.
“We see this as a team that has the potential of really being a good basketball club,” Jackson said during a preseason news conference Friday. “The only thing that can compete with them being successful or not being successful is the injury factor.”
Training camp opens Tuesday, and the injury histories of newcomers Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings seem to be a bigger concern to Jackson than Rose’s personal life interfering with how much he’s around the team.
Jackson addressed Rose’s civil rape case in his opening remarks. He said he hoped it wouldn’t affect Rose’s ability to practice or play.
“One thing I’d like to address is about Derrick Rose and the process he’s going through,” Jackson said. “We anticipate it will not affect his season hopefully, training camp or games. But we’re going to let the due process of the justice system work its way through here in the next week and a half or so.”
Jackson wouldn’t comment on whether the Knicks investigated the Rose situation before acquiring him from Chicago. The trial is set to start Oct. 4, the day of the Knicks’ first preseason game. Jackson said he wasn’t worried about Rose missing that game.
“We’re just going to let the process work itself out,” Jackson said. “We’re not concerned with it. We understand this is a serious subject we’re talking about. But this has to be done outside of our control. It’s something we can’t control. Derrick has expressed that he’s not concerned with it. He’s quite aware of it. It’s not keeping him up at night.”
Getting Rose was the start of a summer overhaul that led to nine new players joining the Knicks. Also new is head coach Jeff Hornacek, who will run Jackson’s triangle offense, but will try to play up-tempo and use more pick-and-rolls.
On paper, the Knicks have a solid starting five with returning players Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis joined by Rose, a former MVP, Noah, a one-time Defensive Player of the Year, and shooting guard Courtney Lee. Jennings has set his sights on being in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.
But Rose, Noah and Jennings missed a combined 190 games over the past two seasons. Jackson, who is 49-115 in his two full seasons as Knicks president, knows there was risk but he believes there will be rewards, too.
“In our situation, it is definitely worth the risk,” Jackson said. “We have had two seasons that have not been successful and we needed to move forward and win.
“Realistically, we know we’re going to be competitive because we have some very competitive players.”
Rose, who has had multiple knee surgeries since 2011, worked out all summer and has played pickup games with Knicks players. Jackson said he was told that it was the most Rose has been able to work out consistently in several years. Hornacek said that there hasn’t been talk of any minutes restrictions for Rose or any player to this point.
“First of all, I don’t think we’re going to have injuries,” Hornacek said. “Some of these injuries are flukes. Guys have worked hard. If an injury happens, it happens. But we feel that guys are going to push each other. I don’t think there is going to be any minutes restriction.
“Ideally we’d like all the guys to play less minutes and keep them fresh all year long. Hopefully, we get good enough quickly enough that we can be maybe beating some teams and then cruise in the fourth quarter and then get their rest that way.”