Derek Fisher was showering another Phil Jackson disciple with support when unsolicited he said it wasn't the system that led to the Denver Nuggets dismissing Brian Shaw as coach Tuesday. "I don't think running the triangle was the problem for him," Fisher said before the Kings blew out the Knicks, 124-86, at the Garden.
Fisher is determined to show he can succeed running the triangle, and instilling his selfless, team-first beliefs in the Knicks and hopes there won't be too many more games like Tuesday night.
With Jackson back from a scouting trip and in his usual seat, the Knicks trailed by 44 points, were booed loudly throughout and suffered their most lopsided loss this season in the makeup of the Jan. 26 game postponed by a blizzard.
Alexy Shved led the Knicks with 15 points. Rudy Gay, who had 25 points, was one of six Kings in double figures.
"The most disappointing part is not necessarily losing the game," Fisher said. "It's the way collectively as a group we couldn't find a way to compete in a better fashion."
Shaw, who played for and coached under Jackson with the Lakers, has similar philosophies and it didn't work out for him. Shaw didn't last two seasons in Denver.
Jackson and Fisher are simpatico, but the Knicks coach -- who is in the first season of a five-year deal -- wouldn't say he's comfortable that he will get a real chance to turn around the team.
"Comfortable? The word does not exist in professional sports," Fisher said. "There is no such thing as comfortable. My dad taught me that a long, long, long time ago -- that comfort and complacency will get you passed by pretty quickly.
"I will never be comfortable. But that doesn't mean I am going to lose sleep at night worrying about whether Phil is going to call me at the wrong time of night."
This will be an important summer for Jackson to show he can build a competitive team. The Knicks president likely will be armed with a top-five pick and at least $30 million for free agency. Then next season, the onus will be on Fisher to prove he can coach.
Jackson believed he assembled a playoff team this year. The Knicks are an NBA-worst 12-47, and haven't done anything to silence the critics of the triangle -- despite Kings coach George Karl saying they are "getting cute at it."
This, of course, was before the game. The Knicks need upgrades at every position, and want to surround Carmelo Anthony with versatile players, shooters and defensive-minded guys. But Fisher, sounding like Jackson, said they have to be smart to build something sustainable. "I'm just hopeful that we can continue to make the right decisions along the way, no matter how long it takes, that we don't sacrifice and become shortsighted and we really do turn this thing around the way it deserves to be," Fisher said.
Anthony also will be under the microscope next season. Karl, who coached Anthony for parts of seven seasons in Denver, believes his former player can succeed in the Knicks' system if he sacrifices more.
"Carmelo is a very bright basketball IQ guy," Karl said.
"The triangle is going to be different for him. I think it can enhance some of his skills and I think he's going to have to sacrifice some of his commitment to playing the way maybe he's played in the past. But I've never seen that resentment there.
A league source confirms that the NBA has fined the Knicks for Jackson's comments on Ohio State freshman, D'Angelo Russell, whom he scouted last week.