GREENBURGH, New York — Phil Jackson oversaw the worst season in Knicks history, though he knows the franchise's future won't be determined by what happened during one miserable winter.
"But I think the real issue is coming up this summer and how we do from the end of June to the end of July in moving this team forward in quick order," Jackson said Tuesday. "That's going to be our challenge."
His end-of-season meeting with reporters was full of hope but little regret after the Knicks finished 17-65 in his first full season as president of basketball operations. He was limited last summer, when the Knicks didn't have a first-round draft pick or money to spend in free agency.
Now they have both, with nearly a 20 percent chance the pick turns out to be No. 1 overall, along with more than $25 million in salary cap space. Jackson can build a team with that, along with a returning Carmelo Anthony, and will go into free agency the same way he came into New York: selling the triangle offense.
"There's all that style of play that has certain role guys that could come here and understand that they're going to get an opportunity to play in a game that enhances their skills," he said. "That part of it is one of the selling points about what we do. There are very few teams in the league that are like that because there are so many generic ways of playing in this league that are similar. We have a unique style and that attracts certain people."
He would have to convince them to overlook the poor record of the Knicks, or other teams that have run the triangle since Jackson won the last of his NBA-record 11 championships as a coach.
But before free agency, he has to get it right in the draft.
Jackson said he would consider all options with the pick, which could fall anywhere from Nos. 1-5 after the May 19 lottery sets the order. But if it puts the Knicks high enough, he seems more interested in keeping it.
"Do you move a pick 1, 2, 3 or 4? Um, that's questionable. Do you move a pick 5 if that's the end result and use it as a chip? Maybe," Jackson said. "So there's a lot of options out there. The reality is we want to grow a star through this system that'll be here for 15 years and a career.
"We love the fact that 30 years ago Patrick Ewing, the Knicks, who I think were third in the lottery system at that time, came out first and he was a player with this organization for over 15 years. And that moved the franchise in a way which everybody recognizes. We think there are a couple of players in this draft that might be able to do that."
Jackson indicated that he'd like a Ewing-type, stressing the need for a defensive-minded big man who can protect the paint. Offensively, he wants the Knicks to play as they he did when he was part of their championship squads in the early 1970s.
"The ball moved. There was a certain sense of team play. All those things are part of my background and part of what I see the game being like," Jackson said. "That's the direction we want to go as a basketball team, and I think that that vision is going to come out. I think it's going to start showing its way as we go forward here, and that's the small joys you get in this position when you build a team."
He thought the Knicks could compete for a playoff spot last season. He won't make that prediction now and isn't interested in low-level playoff spots, anyway. He wants to see progression toward winning.
"No, 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."
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