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Phil Jackson on Fish, deals and playoffs

Some New York Knicks fans have wondered whether Derek Fisher is the right coach for the club in the wake of its 5-35 start.

Knicks president Phil Jackson said Saturday that blaming Fisher for the Knicks’ struggles is misguided.

“I’m very proud of the way Derek has held himself together during this,” Jackson said. “It’s not easy to go through what he’s gone through. ... He hasn’t lost his temper, and that, I think, is very much a part of who he is. The resolve and the character is stable. The fact that he is optimistic is really important. And I think that he sees the future goals.”

Fisher, who is on a five-year contract, just like Jackson, said he appreciated the president’s support.

“I think it’s important that these guys on this team understand that I’m here with them,” Fisher said of his players. “We’re going through this together, and I’m not going to step back and say that it’s on them. It’s on all of us.”

PHIL TALKS J.R./IMAN TRADE: For the first time since making the move, Jackson discussed his decision to deal J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland in a three-team deal that brought a 2019 second-round pick and two trade exceptions.

“I felt like we really didn’t adjust as quickly as we’d hoped to. I think a lot of the focus was contributed to the amount of negativity around the so-called triangle offense, which is much bigger than it seems,” Jackson said, possibly in reference to J.R. Smith’s recent comments about the offense. “People like to put a lot more emphasis on it than is necessary. It’s just an offensive system, and as a result, I thought it really stilted our guys’ acceptability to being the learners I wanted them to be.”

Jackson defended the return he got on the trade and said the two trade exceptions ($6 million and $2.5 million) will be valuable down the road.

“People don’t understand the trade exception. It’s hocus pocus for the cap stuff, but there’s value in it,” Jackson said. “And it means that there’s options that we have out there. That was my first impulse. We’re not getting back a player of substance with these trades, but looking at the financial end of it and our record, and where we were at this particular time and what our future is, it was the right thing to do. And it made sense after sitting on it for two or three days and looking at the options.”

WHY PHIL THOUGHT PLAYOFFS: Jackson has been ridiculed by some for saying he thought the Knicks would be a playoff team this season. He explained his reasoning Saturday.

“It was just three short weeks ago, or maybe even less, that Detroit had the same record we had, and now they’re fighting for a playoff spot," he said. "In the East, we looked at teams that were under .500 that could compete. It wasn’t a really big challenge, a challenge I thought this team was capable of. They obviously weren’t. ... I was concerned about a loser’s mentality that might be forming with this team, and it certainly is embedded right now.”

Going forward, Jackson pointed out 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 down the roster and start over by building around star forward Carmelo Anthony.

“The reality is this is probably the best way to go about the business,” Jackson said. “And to begin and to restart and to do it the right way and put it together in a way that really makes sense instead of bringing dominant people in to try and fit into this jigsaw puzzle makes it pretty difficult. We hope we’re on the right track, even though this isn’t the track we anticipated.”

He also says he has the support of owner James Dolan.

“Jim Dolan has been very supportive in this process. And from that standpoint, it gives me the ability to relax and be patient and understand that I have the support to go forward the way I see fit."