Phil Jackson was in his usual center court seat about 10 rows up from the floor, watching the Knicks play their last home game of the season. Jackson’s first two full seasons as Knicks president have resulted in more anguish than victories.
The Knicks lost their home finale, 93-89, to the Raptors Sunday night at Madison Square Garden and dropped to 32-49. They’re 49-114 overall under Jackson with one game left in this season — Tuesday night in Indiana.
Jackson will have his work cut out for him again this summer to construct the kind of roster that snaps the Knicks’ streak of three straight years without making the playoffs.
But interim coach Kurt Rambis doesn’t necessarily count their first season with the Knicks, and believes they can “turn it around really quick” with the right moves.
“We’re looking at it from a standpoint of new management, new coaching staff so last year was a year that I calculate as Year Zero,” Rambis said. “Just trying to clean things up and move forward.
“This is our first year of really trying to move forward and seeing what we have and the direction that we want to go and adding pieces. I think we’ve done a nice job with the process and we’re making progress.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points, but didn’t play in the fourth quarter as Rambis went mostly young or infrequently used guys. Rookie Jerian Grant had a career-high 19 points. Kristaps Porzingis missed his sixth straight game with a right shoulder strain.
Jackson’s first big decision this offseason will be deciding whether Rambis will guide the team next season.
There have been reports that Jackson wants to keep his longtime friend. The Knicks are 9-18 since Rambis replaced Derek Fisher on Feb. 8. But Rambis sounds like someone who is confident he will be a part of the Knicks next season. If it’s not as a head coach, it will be some capacity it seems.
“We’re not anywhere near where we need to be and we realize that,” Rambis said. “We know that we’re going to have to continue to get better so all of us have to continue to get better to allow that process to happen so that it gets to the point where everybody’s satisfied: the management, the players, the coaching staff and the fans.”
After going a franchise-worst 17-65 last season, the Knicks had nowhere to go but up. Ironically, Jackson thought they would be a playoff team last season. He didn’t make any bold predictions before this season, but the Knicks appeared to be making progress when they were 22-22.
The Knicks faded fast. They need to beat Indiana to avoid another 50-loss season. The Knicks own the seventh-worst record in the league and don’t have a first-round draft pick.
Jackson will have to get creative through trades and try to convince impact players to sign with the Knicks. Anthony would like to see things change. He’ll be 32 when next season starts and wants to win now.
“If we get the right pieces and continue to grow as a team and everything, we see this turning around real quick,” Rambis said. “The potential is there to turn it around really quick. I understand that he’s eager to get into the playoffs and we all are. We all know that we have to do things better and we have to get better in order to make that happen.
“While, it’s a process I’m not thinking 10 years from now. We’re all assuming it’s going to happen a lot sooner rather than later.”