Jackson: Knicks can make playoffs

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Friday, September 26, 2014

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Knicks president Phil Jackson believes that his team will make the playoffs this season in the revamped Eastern Conference.

The Knicks won just 37 games last year and missed the postseason for the first time in four seasons.

"We believe that we're going to be a playoff team and then we don't know how far we'll be able to go," Jackson said Friday. "We're hoping for the best."

Jackson shook up the Knicks' roster in his first offseason as team president.

In addition to re-signing Carmelo Anthony, Jackson fired coach Mike Woodson and hired rookie coach Derek Fisher.

He also traded starters Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to Dallas for a package that included veteran point guard Jose Calderon and center Samuel Dalembert.

"We have really good depth on this team. I think we feel like we're backed up in every position with some depth, and I think that's really good," Jackson said. "Derek can feature what he wants to feature on the different units during preseason and find out who works well together."

Jackson says he is asked daily by Knicks fans about the team's prospects for the coming season. Jackson was a player on the Knicks' last championship team in 1972-73. He understands that there is a sense of urgency to snap the 40-season title drought.

"[They] want to know how long do we have to wait? We hope it's expedient; we have it right next door," Jackson said in reference to the New York Rangers' appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. "It's a step-by-step process. Usually teams come into the playoffs, learn from being in the playoffs and gradually assume capabilities of carrying out the championship. ... This team has not got a personality -- over 35 percent of the team has changed.

"So we still have to kind of come together in a bonding way that creates trust, teamwork, identity, some things like that. So we're about going through this process and enjoying the process and the journey that we go through."

Fisher said Friday that he had not yet decided on a starting lineup.

"The only person that I know for sure is going to probably start is [Anthony]," Fisher said. "Putting the starting lineup together is not just about individual guys; it's about five guys that that work well together as a unit."

Fisher also stressed that he would not be a "puppet" for Jackson, who won a record 11 NBA titles as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers.

"Phil is running this department. I work for him and for this organization. At the same time, I'm confident in the job that I can do to help us go out on the court and be successful," Fisher said. "I'll ask questions. I'm here to learn. I'm open-minded. ... But I've always trusted my instincts and my belief in who I am as a person and who I am as a man, and I think I'll be able to do some similar things as a coach."

In addition to the Jackson/Fisher dynamic, there will be interest in the relationship between Jackson and Knicks owner James Dolan.

General manager Steve Mills said Friday that Dolan has kept his distance from the day-to-day operations of the Knicks.

"I think has been true to his word when we had conversations about Phil joining earlier; he was going to remove himself from the [day-to-day basketball operations] of the Knicks and be there if he needed him," Mills said. "... He's been true to his word in allowing Phil and I to work together and develop a good rapport and allow Phil to set the culture and the tone for this organization."

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