The Dangerous Game
If you are unclear about the situation playing out in New York (as it pertains to forward Carmelo Anthony and team president Phil Jackson), let’s make it abundantly clear: Jackson wants Anthony gone, and he is not keeping that fact to himself.
To put the relationship into some context, back in 2014, when Anthony was an unrestricted free agent, he explored his options and gave serious consideration to leaving New York and signing with the Chicago Bulls or the Houston Rockets. The Los Angeles Lakers were in the mix, but sources close to Anthony at the time said they were not as high on the list as Chicago, the perceived frontrunner. The Rockets were equally appealing. Jackson and the Knicks pressed hard to keep Anthony in New York, ultimately offering Anthony a full max contract, a no-trade clause and a hefty trade bonus to convince him to stay.
At the time, Anthony’s view was he could always demand a trade if it got bad, but he wanted to give Jackson and the Knicks a chance to work because in his heart of hearts, he wanted to be the guy that turned the Knicks around.
Fast forward a couple of years and the Knicks, in many ways, are worse off than they were in 2014. They are going nowhere fast. Jackson has been passive-aggressively prodding Anthony publicly and making sure that the trade talks the team is trying to construct are out in the open in hopes of pressuring Anthony into relenting and agreeing to a trade.
The problem for Jackson and the Knicks is that Anthony is notoriously stubborn. He has a considerable ego, and the way the Knicks have gone about this is having a very different effect. Their hope was to make Anthony publicly uncomfortable and what it’s done is harden Anthony’s resolve. He has since told numerous people that he has no plans of letting Jackson run him out of town. In fact, more and more people close to the situation believe Jackson could see this backfire and ultimately cost him his job, with some suggesting that may also be part of the public plan.
As of today, none of the teams linked to the Knicks feel like they have any traction on a deal, according to sources near each team, mainly because any deal would have to be approved by Anthony himself and the Knicks have yet to bring a deal to him to approve.
The Knicks continue to be active looking for a change and there is a growing sense the Knicks may look to blow up the roster and trade veterans on the roster and shift focus to the young guys.
One veteran NBA executive said recently that moving off Anthony’s teammates might be more effective in getting Anthony to agree to a deal than anything they are trying to accomplish publicly, as Anthony has routinely said he’s committed to his teammates more so than the front office.
The same executive, who is not involved in talks with the Knicks, wondered aloud why the Knicks would make all of this so public as it is clearly devaluing the return the Knicks could hope to get for Anthony, even if he approved a trade.
There is little doubt that Jackson and the Knicks are trying to force an action, their hope is getting Anthony to agree to an exit, however that may not be how it ultimately plays out.
The NBA trade deadline is February 23, so there is still a lot of time for Jackson to get what he seems to want, however, if Anthony stays the course on what he’s been saying, he could be forcing a game of chicken to see who blinks first and it’s not Jackson, it’s Knicks owner James Dolan.
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