Basketball: Jackson denies plans to ditch Knicks for ex-team Lakers

Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia driving past Dorian Finney-Smith of the Dallas Mavericks. Porzingis hit a double-double to help New York defeat Dallas 93-77.
Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia driving past Dorian Finney-Smith of the Dallas Mavericks. Porzingis hit a double-double to help New York defeat Dallas 93-77.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

NEW YORK • New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, who has coached a record 11 National Basketball Association (NBA) championship teams, says he has no plans to rejoin the Los Angeles Lakers, despite an opt-out clause in his contract.

Jackson told ESPN in an interview unveiled on Monday that keeping open options to return to Los Angeles was "never important" to him and he likes the moves the Lakers have made under new coach Luke Walton.

"They are moving forward in the right direction," he said.

"Luke has them engaged, Brian (Shaw) is an associate head coach. They have a core group of guys that will get it done.

"It was never important to me to go back and be a part of that, especially not now. I have this job."

Jackson coached the Lakers to five NBA crowns, after guiding the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s.

Lakers executive vice-president of basketball operations Jim Buss said if his team do not do well in the play-offs this season, he would step down, sparking much speculation that Jackson would dump the Knicks for an LA return.

The Lakers are 6-5 and have not gone past the second round since winning the 2010 NBA crown under Jackson's guidance.

But Jackson, in his third full season as Knicks team president, says he had an opt-out clause in his contract only over concern there might be an NBA owner-player dispute that may shut down the season in 2017 for months, a prospect now seen as highly unlikely.

"If that was going to happen in December and everybody chose to walk away, there was no way I was going to sit in New York for three, four months when I didn't have a job, because (players) aren't even allowed to show up to work," Jackson told ESPN.

"So, in that case, I would go back to LA. I have not entertained (opting out). I'm looking for this Knicks team to get back into a situation where they are competitive.

"Do I have to win a championship before I feel I've done the job I've been asked to do, which is to bring this group back to that competitive level? No, I don't.

"We're starting to make progress. I like a lot of the things we are doing here. But we've got more to do."

The Knicks went 17-65 in the 2014-15 campaign and 32-50 last season. They have won only one play-off series since reaching the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.

On Monday, they beat Dallas Mavericks 93-77 to go 3-6 for the season. Kristaps Porzingis recorded his first double-double of the season with 24 points and 11 rebounds .

Carmelo Anthony also finished with 24 points as the Knicks snapped a five-game losing streak to the Mavericks.

New boy Derrick Rose had three points and five assists in 271/2 minutes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Jackson denies plans to ditch Knicks for ex-team Lakers'. Print Edition | Subscribe