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Phil Jackson: Knicks won't be championship contenders overnight

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson address the

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson address the media at the Knicks training facility in Greenburgh on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Credit: Errol Anderson

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Knicks fans might have to endure yet another season without playoff basketball in order for the franchise to right itself fully.

This was one of the takeaways from a wide-ranging, 45-minute news conference that Knicks president Phil Jackson held at the team's practice facility Tuesday, six days after the Knicks concluded their worst season ever. Jackson was both optimistic and cautious about the future after his first full season at the helm of the organization.

"We're thinking about just putting one foot in front of the other right now,'' he said. "We don't expect to go to a championship next year. That would be like talking crazy. But we really do think that progressively we're going to get better.''

That's a long way from making the playoffs, which last year Jackson predicted would happen this past season.

Instead of going to the postseason, the Knicks have headed into a major rebuild. With a 17-65 record, second worst in the NBA, they have a 19.9-percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the June draft and a 55.8-percent chance of selecting in the top three. Jackson said he would be open to trading the pick if it wasn't in the top four.

Ideally, he would like to get a high draft pick and build from there, just as the Knicks did when they took Patrick Ewing No. 1 overall in 1985.

"The reality is we want to grow a star through this system that'll be here for 15 years and a career,'' Jackson said. " . . . We think there are a couple of players in this draft that might be able to do that.

"So we're certainly not going to walk away from a situation like that, even if we might have to sit on our hands for a year in the growth process and watch Carmelo [Anthony] come back off of injury and then regenerate in another year after this and provide more support as we go forward.

"But we think that the first few draft picks are capable NBA players. They may not be 40-minute players [next season] -- they may be 20-minute players -- but I think they're going to help a team.''

Besides a top-five draft choice, the Knicks will have about $30 million to spend on free agents over the summer. The market, however, could be a strange one because the salary cap is expected to go up dramatically in 2016. Jackson said his team will have to do some "judicious shopping'' in a market that will include Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe and DeAndre Jordan.

When asked about his free-agent philosophy, Jackson said, "We're not going to the Dollar Store. But we may not be at one of the [more luxurious] ones.''

Jackson, 69, also looked back at his first full season, after signing a five-year, $60-million contract last spring. He said the team had done the right thing in midseason by trading most of their big names in order to prepare for the future.

"It was like there's going to have to be something we have to do here that's dramatic and we have to do this thing in a large step,'' Jackson said. "This is a process we had to take. And rightly so. It's the right way to do it.''

Still, Jackson said the basketball that resulted wasn't pretty to watch, with the team losing game after game. "It was difficult for me to go to games.''

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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