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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

NBA Insider: New CBA could mean new deal for Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson of the New York Knicks watches

Phil Jackson of the New York Knicks watches his team play against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The NBA and the players’ union reached a tentative agreement on a new collective-bargaining agreement last week, which means Phil Jackson has a decision to make this summer.

If a lockout took place, the Knicks’ president was expected to opt out of his contract. Jackson said that’s why he put the clause in his contract 2 ½ years ago.

But because the league and the union did the right thing and reached a deal — with the NBA’s $24-billion television deal, it would have been a really bad look if they hadn’t — Jackson might choose to stay in New York.

Only Jackson really knows his plans, but he has said on the rare occasions that he does interviews that he plans to honor his five-year contract. According to Bleacher Report, citing league sources, Jackson might even want to sign a new deal. Let him finish this one out first.

Writers assigned to cover the Knicks plan to ask Jackson about this, as well as a number of other topics, after he made headlines with some of his recent comments. That’s assuming Jackson ever talks to the New York media again.

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Zen Master. LeBron James, Jay Z and Carmelo Anthony, to name a few high-profile people, have taken umbrage with things that Jackson has said. They’ve voiced their displeasure and taken some shots at Jackson.

His mouth has taken away from some of the good the Knicks — and, by extension, Jackson — have done this season. He put this team together, drafted Kristaps Porzingis and hired Jeff Hornacek. For the first time under Jackson’s watch, the Knicks have a shot at making the playoffs.

Signing Joakim Noah for four years and $72 million doesn’t look smart right now, and didn’t the night it happened. But it says here that Noah will help the Knicks at some point, maybe even in the playoffs, when defense matters most.

If the Knicks make the playoffs, Jackson could take one of two paths: He could fly back to his California beach home and say he left the Knicks in better shape than he found them. Or Jackson could honor his contract and see if he can turn the Knicks into a team that is expected to make the playoffs and go far in the postseason every year.

When Jackson became president, he promised “to take the team forward toward winning a championship.” His work is far from done.

Give it a rest

There won’t be a clause in the new CBA that will eliminate teams resting players or penalize them if they do. But the plan is for a shorter preseason and fewer back-to-backs, which in theory should lessen the need for teams to rest guys.

It’s been ongoing, but it came to the forefront last Wednesday when the Cavaliers played in Memphis and left LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love back in Cleveland.

Fans in Memphis understandably were upset — especially those who drove hours and spent all that money to see James in his only Memphis appearance of the season. The Grizzlies were in Cleveland the night before and rested Marc Gasol, but no one said boo. It’s because it was James.

Franchises have every right to do that as they try to keep players fresh for the playoffs. But it diminishes the regular season’s importance, weakens the competition and affects the fans.

The real way to address this situation is to shorten the NBA season in conjunction with fewer back-to-backs. But that likely won’t happen.

Iron Men

James has never played a full 82-game season in his 14-year career. Hall of Fame guard John Stockton played 82 games 16 times, including the last four of his career. Karl Malone did it 10 times and Michael Jordan nine.

Forty-one players have appeared in more than 82 games in a season, thanks to an in-season trade. Walt Bellamy holds the NBA record; he played in 88 games in 1968-69 for the Knicks and Pistons.

The mighty O’Quinn

During the past two weeks, Knicks backup big man Kyle O’Quinn probably has played the best ball of his five-year career. The Queens product averaged 11.6 points and 9.7 rebounds in the last seven games heading into the weekend. He had two games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, matching how many he had in his career before this season.

Thibodeau wins in Chicago return

Tom Thibodeau was the best coach the Bulls had since Phil Jackson, and he deserved better than to be fired after a 50-32 campaign in 2015. Effort and defense were his trademarks, and in his Chicago return, Thibodeau’s young Timberwolves showed both. They fittingly clawed back from 21 down to beat the Bulls.

“We needed a win,” Thibodeau said. “Getting it was great.”

Thibodeau didn’t make the game about him, but his players did.

“I told Thibs in the fourth quarter, I said, ‘I’m going to bring this home for you,’ ” Karl-Anthony Towns said, “I’m just glad I was able to come through on my word.”

Give and go

In the Knicks’ win over the Lakers in Los Angeles last week, Kristaps Porzingis became the first NBA player with at least 26 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocked shots and three three-pointers in a game . . . Lakers coach Luke Walton, who played under Jackson, still does mindfulness exercises. The first-year coach said he hasn’t started doing it with his team because he’s not comfortable, but he will “one day, absolutely.” Jackson has the Knicks doing it now . . . The Spurs will retire Tim Duncan’s No. 21 jersey Sunday. Longtime teammate Manu Ginobili on if he thinks the stoic Duncan will get emotional: “Yes, for sure. It depends on what you expect to see from an emotional Tim.” . . . Duncan was at Spurs practice last week and played one-on-one with Pau Gasol, who followed that up with one of his best games of the season Wednesday against Boston. “Tim is the Jedi master of everything,” Spurs guard Danny Green said . . . After Russell Westbrook’s triple-double streak ended at seven, teammate Steven Adams said, “Useless. Only seven?”

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