Phil Jackson believed the Knicks would be a playoff team before the season began, and when looking at the standings in the East right now and seeing the eighth place team sitting at six games under .500, the optimistic outlook wasn’t as ridiculous as some made it seem.
But New York hasn’t come close to reaching that very low bar this season, and with a record of five wins and 35 losses, is officially the league’s worst team.
Jackson spoke with the media before a Saturday afternoon contest against the Hornets — one in which the Knicks trailed by as many as 45 points — and took full responsibility for the way this season has played out.
The Knicks president spoke with a humbleness we haven’t seen since he started winning championships in Chicago in the 1990s, in what he called “a mea culpa.” …
“I take responsibility for it, and the fans, I want them to leave Derek [Fisher] alone in this regard,” Jackson said. “It’s not his fault.”
“Obviously I didn’t do the right thing in picking the group of guys that were here,” Jackson added.
Jackson is right in that none of this is on first-year coach Derek Fisher, but the fans in New York know that, and there haven’t really been any calls for his head.
To be fair, injuries have played a part in the way this season has unfolded. Carmelo Anthony has missed significant time, and may at some point be forced to shut it down for the remainder of the schedule. No matter how the rest of the roster did or did not come together, the pieces in place weren’t strong enough collectively to survive an extended absence from the team’s best player.
The Knicks will have more than $30 million in salary cap space to try to add talent in free agency this summer, and could land the number one overall pick in the draft if their slide continues as expected, and the ping pong balls bounce just right.
But now more than ever, it really is on Jackson to turn things around.