NEW YORK -- Phil Jackson delivered a message to New York Knicks fans on Saturday afternoon: Blame me for the team's disastrous season.
"This is a mea culpa. I take responsibility for it," Jackson said.
Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he thought the Knicks would be a playoff team this season. Instead, things have gone horribly wrong for Jackson and the Knicks.
"Obviously I didn't do the right thing in picking the group of guys that were here," Jackson said. "A lot of it was etched in stone, we had guys with guaranteed contracts. But in anticipating that we were going to better, that we were giving hope to our fans that maybe there's a possible playoff opportunity here, you know, that goes on me. We now have to take responsibility and move forward and make things happen, that also goes on me. Now I have to do the job that I was brought here to do."
So instead of trying to chase a playoff berth, Jackson changed course on Monday and executed a trade that essentially pulled the plug on the season. He sent Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland in a three-team trade that netted the Knicks two trade exceptions and a 2019 second-round pick.
"There was something going on there that didn't click toward making winning necessary or a possibility for us," Jackson said.
He added that he didn't want fans to blame first-year head coach Derek Fisher for the Knicks' struggles.
"The fans, I want them to leave Derek alone in this regard. He's doing the best job possible. It's not his fault," Jackson said.
The president will now try to rebuild the Knicks through free agency and the draft. The Knicks expect to have a top pick in June's draft and may have upwards of $25 million to spend in free agency.
Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he is concerned that the team's record will make it an unattractive destination for free agents.
"We're all worried about the fact that money is not going to just be able to buy you necessary talent. You're going to have to have places where people want to come and play," said Jackson, who signed a five-year contract worth a reported $60 million last March to serve as team president. "But I do think that New York situation holds a high regard in players and agents that have contacted us. We have no lack of agents that have contacted us for their players. We still think that we have a really good chance to develop a team."
Jackson also said that "no one should be surprised" if the Knicks continue to reshape the roster through trades prior to the February trade deadline.
He pointed out that he's trying to take a different approach than past Knicks regimes. Throughout much of its history, the organization has chased a big star in an attempt to rebuild on the fly.
Jackson, instead, has chosen to strip the roster down and start over, building around star forward Carmelo Anthony.
Lastly, he mentioned that surgery is a possibility for Anthony, who has missed eight straight games with soreness in his left knee.
"I think for Melo the last resort is surgery, as it should be for anybody," Jackson said. "Surgery is basically to repair and to correct. He's got a situation that could exacerbate, could get difficult, could be better with the surgery, but he wants to really try it again and see where he's going to be at. The next period of time we'll assess that and we'll sit down and talk to him about it. I know the All-Star Game [at Madison Square Garden] is important for him down the road in February. I know this trip to London [for the Knicks game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 15] will be important for him to play. He sees possibilities of helping the team get back and be better."