Despite slow start, Phil Jackson sees progress, possibilities for Anthony, struggling Knicks



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NEW YORK — Phil Jackson said Monday he is optimistic and Carmelo Anthony is upbeat, even as the New York Knicks struggle through the start of the season.

The only thing the Knicks' team president seems bothered by is people focusing too much on the team's triangle offense — including Commissioner Adam Silver.

The Knicks had lost four straight and were 2-5 as Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since training camp. They were tied for last in the league with just 92 points per game, but Jackson wasn't necessarily focused on the results.

"I see growth in this team and I'm optimistic that, it's not always the final score, it's sometimes how you play," Jackson said before the Knicks hosted Atlanta. "I think we're playing the game much better and getting some activity that we like to see."

Under first-year coach Derek Fisher, the Knicks are running the triangle offense that Jackson used when he led the Bulls and Lakers to 11 championships, most by any coach in NBA history. There has been non-stop talk about the offense and analysis of it, and even a show that director Spike Lee did on MSG Network.

Silver weighed in last week at a community service event when he was asked about the Knicks and said it was clear they were still learning the triangle.

"It was fun to have Spike do the little piece and a humorous part to it, but I wasn't so humored by the commissioner actually jumping in on top of that, too," Jackson said. "He doesn't need to get in on that. There's enough focus on the triangle. It's not anything. It's a system. It's simple basketball. Just play the game. So we're over the triangle. Let's get to business and play it the right way."

That's been difficult, particularly for Anthony, who shot 8 for 23, 5 for 21, 5 for 20 and 8 for 20 during the Knicks' skid. Jackson said he spoke to the All-Star forward Monday and he has urged him to impact the game in other ways beyond his scoring, such as by passing the ball more quickly or trying for offensive rebounds.

"I think that the frustration's going to be there at times, especially when the tide turns in the third quarter and he wants to step up and help the ballclub at that time with what he's known for and what his genius is, which is scoring, that sometimes it's frustrating to not be able to get there and do that. But he seemed very upbeat today when I talked to him," Jackson said.

Jackson, in his first full season in charge, said he had told the coaching staff to be prepared for a difficult start to the season because there would be limited practice time. It's gotten even harder with injuries to Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani, projected starters who haven't played yet because of injuries.

Jackson said he has mostly kept his distance and left the coaching to the coaches, though often sends ideas or suggestions to Fisher, who played for him in Los Angeles.

And Jackson was encouraged by what he saw in the first half of the Knicks' loss in Atlanta on Saturday. New York scored 61 points in the first half before fading to 35 after the break.

"I think for our fan base and our people that are patient for the team to immediately show this progress, you're going to see progress and I think you're going to enjoy it," Jackson said. "I think you're going to see the kind of basketball that was demonstrated in the first half of that game on Saturday."

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