It’s been a(nother) bad couple of weeks for the New York Knicks.
The seeds were sown by an article published on fanragsports.com last week, in which Phil Jackson’s buddy Charley Rosen claimed that Carmelo Anthony had “outlived his usefulness in New York”.
The article also claimed that as a result of the no-trade clause in his “humongous” contract, Melo would “only accept being dealt to the Cavaliers or the Clippers”.
Anthony’s retort, coupled with the Knicks recent poor form, sparked a debate that then led to a much-needed conversation between Jackson and Melo on Tuesday.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, during the meeting “Anthony reaffirmed to Jackson his desire to remain with the Knicks”.
While that desire may not be great for the team right now, it does ultimately mean that (for the time being at least) there will be no happy divorce in New York. And that’s something Jackson just has to live with, as he’s the one who offered Melo his current deal (no-trade clause and all) back in 2014.
For once Anthony’s not the bad guy here, as he simply wants to play for his hometown team.
He did, after all, force his way out of Denver back in 2011, in a multi-player deal that also involved Chauncey Billups, Danillo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, to play for his beloved Knicks.
Back then, the Nuggets were the better team. But New York offered the kind of big-market environment Anthony craved, and he hoped that his presence there would transform the fortunes of a franchise that hadn’t (and still hasn’t) achieved much since the late 90s.
At first it appeared to be working, as Melo took the Knicks to the postseason in 2011, where they were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round. The following year (the year of ‘Linsanity’), the Knicks, ravaged by injuries, secured the seventh seed in the East, but were defeated in five games by the Miami Heat. Then, in 2012-13, the Knicks won their first playoff series since 2000, beating the Boston Celtics in the first round, before getting eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Semis.
And that’s all she wrote, as the Knicks have failed to make the postseason since.
So close, yet so far…
For the past couple of seasons they’ve been rebuilding though, and this season Jackson finally put together a team that many assumed would compete in the East.
While by no means a championship contender, a group comprising Anthony, Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, and fledgling big-man Kristaps Porzingis should be capable of holding its own, especially in the Eastern Conference.
In reality though the team has a record that currently stands at 18-24, and lost to the 10-25 Philadelphia 76ers on a buzzer beater last week.
Once again the Knicks are in a state and there’s no obvious solution in sight, other than trading Melo of course. But even if Jackson succeeds in convincing him to move on, he still has Noah’s abomination of a deal ($72,590,000 million guaranteed over the next four years) on the books and is likely going to have to wait until the offseason to get rid of Rose, who’s currently in search of a max contract to replace the expiring one New York acquired in the summer.
In terms of long-term pieces, Jackson would obviously be looking to retool the roster around Porzingis, while most likely holding on to Kyle O’Quinn and Lance Thomas from the current crop, as well as some of the cap-friendly deals like Willy Hernangomez’s, for instance.
Still, the likelihood of sending Melo to one of his chosen destinations and getting the kind of assets (namely young talent and decent picks) back in the deal seems slim.
Is there anybody out there?
Toronto, for instance, could certainly use his help if they are to challenge Cleveland in the East. But in order to make such a move work, the Raptors – a team already over the cap by approximately $12 million – would need to make room for the fifth largest salary in the NBA, while coughing up enough in the way of assets to tempt Phil Jackson.
On top of that, Melo would have to be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
A deal with a team like the L.A. Lakers, who are currently under the cap, seems more appealing from a Knicks perspective, largely because of the assets they’d most likely get in return. That said, Melo would have about as much chance of winning in the purple and gold half of L.A. as he currently does in New York, rendering the prospect null and void from his perspective.
This is why it seems far more likely that Jackson will grumble over Melo’s decision for a week or two, before deciding to embrace the fact that he’s in New York for the foreseeable once again.
Melo is, after all, an All-Star calibre scorer (currently averaging 22.2 points per game), who’s about the only player in the NBA who actually wants to play in New York right now!
That may be unfair, but, assuming a trade is entirely out of the question, Jackson’s only other alternative is to freeze Melo out, making things so difficult for him that he eventually waves the white flag and submits a trade request himself.
Whether or not Jackson’s capable of poisoning the minds of one of the NBA’s most dedicated fan bases before the trade deadline remains to be seen. But, either way, he currently faces one of the toughest challenges of his career.
Perhaps that’s no more than he deserves though. He has, after all, failed to capitalise on Melo’s presence in the Big Apple, and may now have to pay the ultimate price: watching a fading star run out the clock, while earning a sum large enough to jeopardise the immediate future of an entire franchise.
That said, it worked wonders for his old pal Kobe Bryant…