Knicks kick off Jackson era with seventh straight win
NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, left, tries to move around Indiana Pacers' Paul George during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in New York. AP PhotoCarmelo Anthony scored 34 points and Amare Stoudemire tallied 21 as the resurgent New York Knicks opened the Phil Jackson era with their seventh-straight win on Wednesday.
Jackson got his first look at the Knicks in just his second day on the job and they didn't disappoint their new president as they beat the first-place Indiana Pacers 92-86.
The 68-year-old Jackson received a standing ovation at Madison Square Garden during the pre-game introductions and it just got better from there for the crowd of 19,812. New York took the lead halfway through the opening quarter and they never lost it after that.
"With a guy like that around it creates a winning atmosphere that's pretty golden and we've got to capitalize on that," Stoudemire said.
Centre Tyson Chandler helped their late season National Basketball Association playoff push with a game-high 14 rebounds in the win.
The Knicks are now just four games back of Atlanta for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot with 14 contests to go. The Knicks were knocked out of the playoffs last year by Indiana.
Jackson was introduced as president on Tuesday and pledged to help turn the struggling franchise around.
He visited the team's practice facility Wednesday to talk with coach Mike Woodson and met with the players in the locker room before the game. He watched the game from a seat in the centre court area.
"Bringing Phil back is huge for this franchise," Woodson said of Jackson who won two titles with the Knicks as a player and 11 as a head coach with Los Angeles and Chicago. "I got to give a lot of credit to those guys in the locker room too, because again, we are battling.
"We've dug a hole and we are trying to dig our way out of the hole." The hiring was expected after reports surfaced last week that Knicks owner Jim Dolan was aggressively trying to sign Jackson to a contract.
Jackson, who signed a five-year deal, wouldn't commit to a timeline on how long it would take to reverse the Knicks' fortunes. New York hasn't won an NBA title since 1973 and last made the league finals in 1999.
Anthony's future status with the Knicks is uncertain after he said before Jackson's hiring that he might test the free agent market after the season.
But Jackson said Tuesday he hopes Anthony remains with the Knicks and Dolan reiterated that on Wednesday.
"The most important thing to Carmelo is winning championships," Dolan said. "Our job is to convince him to stay. So bringing in Phil certainly helps."
Dolan called the hiring of the Jackson "almost accidental" on Wednesday.
He said they talked informally for two hours at a December party of a mutual friend, music mogul Irving Azoff.
"The timing was almost accidental. I didn't plan it," Dolan said.
"I had a chance to meet him at a party in Los Angeles.
"We ended up getting together for a couple of hours. I really learned a lot in those two hours. It snowballed from there.
"His knowledge of basketball, the way he explained the game to me ... I never had anybody teach me that way."
Lance Stephenson tallied 21 points and nine rebounds and Roy Hibbert finished with 20 points for the Pacers, who had their four-game win streak halted.
Indiana star Paul George was held to 17 points on four-of-17 shooting from the field. The Pacers also went five-of-23 from beyond the arc.
"This is one of my top five worst shooting nights," said George. "I've got to do a better job of making sure I'm ready to go and finish plays for us."