- Ian Begley, ESPN New York Writer
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NEW YORK -- Phil Jackson's hunched over in his seat at Madison Square Garden, looking at a box score while the New York Knicks stumble through another meaningless game. The home team is down by 40 points to the Sacramento Kings, well on its way to an embarrassing loss.
The Madison Square Garden crowd has been mostly forgiving of the Knicks this season, but the fans can't stomach what they're seeing on this snowy night in early March.
The boos are coming down from all corners of the arena, and they are loud. Jackson's sitting about 15 rows from the court, in prime position to see all that's wrong with his team and to hear the vitriol from the crowd.
It's impossible to know what the Knicks president is thinking at the time, but it's safe to say that this isn't how he expected his first year on the job to unfold.
Next Wednesday will mark Jackson's one-year anniversary as Knicks president.
On the day he was introduced, at an elaborate news conference inside the recently renovated Garden, Jackson talked of elevating the Knicks to a title contender.
"There's no better place to win than New York City," Jackson said.
Jackson now knows what it's like to lose in this city, too. His Knicks are a lock to set the franchise record for fewest wins in an 82-game season (23).
Many fans see this season as a necessary step in Jackson's rebuilding process.
But Jackson himself didn't see it that way. He said in September that he believed the Knicks could qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Thanks in part to Jackson's moves, the Knicks will fall well short of that goal.
Below, we take a look at Jackson's biggest transactions in his first year as president, the returns on those deals, and what lies ahead for the Zen Master:
Hiring Derek Fisher: Jackson couldn't convince Steve Kerr, his first choice to coach the Knicks, to join him. So he turned to Fisher, giving the recently retired 16-year veteran a five-year, $25 million contract.
Fisher played a role in the Knicks' struggles early on. He wasn't able to find a regular rotation and his defensive strategy didn't work out as planned. There are recent signs that the rookie coach is finding his footing, but the real test for Fisher will be in his second season, when he'll presumably have a roster that can compete in the East.
Trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton: At the time, it seemed like Jackson had found a way to move two malcontents to the Dallas Mavericks for a package headlined by Jose Calderon, a point guard who could run Jackson's triangle offense. Jackson said he made the trade, in part, to improve team chemistry.
Calderon, though, has performed well below expectations. His scoring, assists per game and field goal percentage are all below his career averages. He's also missed more than 20 games due to injuries.
Two others players obtained in the deal (Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington) have been waived. Another, Shane Larkin, will probably not be re-signed this summer. Second-round pick Cleanthony Early hasn't met the team's expectations and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, another second-round pick, remains with the Knicks' D-League affiliate. The Knicks received two second-round picks in the trade.
In Dallas, Chandler has been a key part of the Mavericks' success. Felton hasn't been a factor.
Some say this trade was all about getting rid of Felton. But if Jackson wanted to do that, he could have just waived him. Instead, he took back Calderon, who is owed $15 million over the next two seasons.
No matter how you look at it, Phil's first big personnel move was a flop.
Re-signing Carmelo Anthony: After saying publicly that he wanted Anthony to take a big pay cut, Jackson blinked during negotiations and gave Carmelo a five-year, $124 million contract. That's $5 million less than the maximum Anthony could have earned.
Anthony missed several games due to knee soreness in the first 3½ months of the season and had surgery in late February to repair a damaged tendon in his left knee. The surgery is expected to sideline him for four to six months.
Jackson, of course, has no control over a player's health. But this isn't the way he wanted his marriage with Anthony to start.
Trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert: In a move that essentially waved the white flag on the season, Jackson sent Shumpert and Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team trade that netted the Knicks two second-round draft picks and two trade exceptions.
Shumpert and Smith are both thriving in Cleveland, leaving observers to wonder why Jackson couldn't get back more for the shooting guards.
Still, this move cleared Smith's $6.4 million option for 2015-16 from the Knicks' books, which is an important piece of bookkeeping for the their free-agent pursuits this summer.
What's next? Jackson will have at least $25 million to spend in free agency. The Knicks also will have a top pick in the 2015 NBA draft. So this, in essence, is a make-or-break summer for the Zen Master.
Signing the wrong player could set the Knicks back significantly.
Jackson has publicly expressed a disdain for signing max players, so the Knicks are expected to be in the market for second-tier stars such as unrestricted free agents Greg Monroe and Paul Millsap. Wesley Matthews is also an option, but he is expected to be sidelined well into next season due to an Achilles injury.
The Knicks may also target restricted free agents such as Reggie Jackson, Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler. Chicago has said that it plans to match any offers for Butler; Detroit's stance on Jackson is less clear, as is Golden State's with Green.
Goran Dragic (Miami) and bigger names such as LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland), Marc Gasol (Memphis) and Kevin Love (Cleveland) will be available, but the general expectation is that all four players will remain with their respective teams. Rajon Rondo's situation in Dallas is less clear.
So the hope for the Knicks is that Jackson signs the right player(s) to complement Anthony and makes the right decision with his draft pick. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Jackson and the Knicks are weighing the option of trading the pick.
No matter what happens in the draft and no matter whom the Knicks sign in free agency, this much is clear: Jackson has four years to turn things around in New York.
Year 1 on the job has certainly been one to forget.
NEW YORK -- Phil Jackson's hunched over in his seat at Madison Square Garden, looking at a box score while the New York Knicks stumble through another meaningless game.