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NBA AM: Carmelo Sees ‘Writing on the Wall’

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Carmelo Anthony Hints That The End Is Near

The New York Knicks have five games remaining on their season—a season marred with dysfunction and back channel sniping. Knicks president Phil Jackson clearly wants to take the team in a very different direction this summer. However, there are some hurdles to clear to make that happen. The biggest being his future with the team.

Jackson joined the Knicks in 2014, signing a whopper of a contract that pays him more than $12 million per season to skipper the Knicks. Three seasons and 163 losses later, the Knicks are no closer to being competitive than they were when Jackson agreed to his five-year deal.

Many question how much longer Knicks owner James Dolan will let the Jackson experiment play out. He has repeatedly said that he’ll honor the contract and the deal he made with Jackson to remain hands off, but there are some in the NBA who wonder if Jackson has angled to get himself fired to keep the balance of his deal.

If Jackson is indeed back next year, which at this point seems more likely than not, can he convince Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony to accept a trade to clear the way for the rebuild Jackson seems to be eyeing?

Anthony was asked recently about his future, which he continues to be vague in describing, but hinting that he knows what’s coming.

“I see the writing on the wall, the writing… yeah, I see it on the wall,” Anthony said to Steve Popper of the Record. “You don’t know what writing is on the wall, though, but I see what writing is on the wall.”

The writing, of course, is that the Knicks are moving on and that playing and developing younger players is moving front and center and it likely means less of a role for Anthony, despite his no-trade clause in his contract.

The Knicks, like most teams, will hold exit interviews with their players next week as the season concludes, something Anthony is looking forward to, mainly because Anthony hasn’t spoken to Knicks leadership in a meaningful way for months.

“Pretty sure the chips will be on the table,” Anthony said of the expected meeting. “The chips will be on the table in that meeting. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect, but I got a good feeling. Yeah, the chips will be on the table.”

The Knicks tried to construct trade scenarios around the February trade deadline and found very little that they would agree to do. Most of the deals considered had the Knicks moving another for parts and pieces—nothing meaningful. The prevailing belief is they’d like to move Anthony before the 2017 NBA Draft, but to do that the Knicks will need Anthony to consent to a deal or at least get on board with finding a deal he’d agree to.

The challenge for the Knicks is Anthony was not happy with how the Knicks went about finding a trade. One source near the process said had Jackson approached Anthony directly and explained the change in focus, Anthony might have been more receptive in January and February. However, that’s not how it played out. Anthony was never talked to about the situation, rather he heard about it from the media and friends and family. Anthony is notoriously stubborn, and the disrespect shown in the process only hardened Anthony’s resolve to control his future, which derailed any chance for a trade in February. To get a deal done in June will require Anthony to buy-in to the change, which is something he seems more at peace with.

“I’m going to play basketball,” Anthony said of his possible final games as a Knick. “It’s the game that I always played and had fun and enjoyed. Although it hasn’t been as fun as I wanted it to be and trying to find the joy in playing the game again. These last couple of games is something that I’ll go out there and play when I’m out there I’ll play hard and see what happens and enjoy it again.”

The prevailing thought in NBA circles is that Anthony would agree to an off-season trade to the LA Clippers. While the Clips won’t have anything meaningful to offer the Knicks in return, they would move his contract and clear the way for the rebuild.

[RELATED: COULD THE TRAIL BLAZERS MAKE SENSE AS ANTHONY’S NEXT DESTINATION?]

The other part of an off-season deal is the Knicks could find a third or even fourth team to take on players they may not want long-term, something the Knicks explored in February. The increases in the salary cap and the number of teams poised to have cap space to absorb a contract may make it easier for the Knicks to find a better deal.

The Knicks also have the option of letting Anthony and his agent find a suitable trade for Anthony, something that’s more practical in the off-season than in-season. Approaching Anthony in such a way and allowing him to be involved in finding his next home, may make getting his consent a lot easier.

While some fans feel like the Knicks should force the issue, given Anthony’s contract and stature in the NBA, getting him bought-in matters if the Knicks hope to extract anything of value for the 10-time All-Star.

Despite what’s clearly the Knicks desire to move on, Anthony still controls his own fate. He can still veto a trade, so how the Knicks play the next month will go a long way towards bringing closure to the situation. If things play out as they should, this might really be the last go for Carmelo Anthony in a Knicks jersey.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.