Either Phil Jackson forgot that Carmelo Anthony holds all the cards, or he simply doesn’t care.
And judging by the way Phil goes after his players, both young and old alike, bet on the latter.
In trying to build a very public case against Carmelo – with the help of one or two of his media sycophants – Jackson ultimately painted himself into a corner. The Knicks can dream up any trade proposal they’d like, but no deal is official until Anthony agrees to it.
The other option is a buyout, a scenario that has been debated and addressed ad nausea, which would allow Carmelo to become a free agent and presumably join LeBron James in Cleveland. It makes plenty of sense; Anthony, after missing out on the playoffs for four straight seasons, would be an important player on a championship contender. He’s also best pals with LeBron, who has this history of making everyone around him better.
But things are complicated. Carmelo and his actress wife, La La, are estranged, and with Anthony having a close relationship with his only son, he is reluctant to move out of New York. According to a person familiar with Anthony’s thinking, Carmelo is no longer enamored with playing in Los Angeles if it means having to be away from his son for an extended period of time.
Anthony, according to the same source, was toying with the idea of orchestrating a move to either Philadelphia or Washington, which would keep him close to New York. However, Anthony’s mindset now is to stay in New York and play for the Knicks… even though Jackson doesn’t want him.
Last week, Jackson confirmed Anthony’s position in an interview with MSG Network when the Knicks president said: “We’ve expressed the fact that we haven’t been successful and it might be time for (Carmelo) to find an opportunity to go somewhere else. He’s come back and said he’d just as soon stay.
“There’ll be conversations after the draft and after the free agency as teams start reorganizing their rosters. So there will be other conversations in the process.”
Anthony is owed $54 million over the next two seasons, and his contract with the Knicks includes a trade kicker that would add an additional $8 million if he were dealt. So there is a huge financial incentive for Anthony to agree to a trade.
As for a buyout, Jackson may have poisoned the waters by criticizing Anthony throughout last season. Anthony kept it professional and refused to get into a public hissing match with his boss. The way to have the last word is to force Jackson’s hand; “You want to get rid of me, cut me and give me all my money.”
Why give Jackson a discount when he’s been dumping on you for months?
That leads to the ideal scenario for Anthony, which is sure to get the attention of Garden Chairman James Dolan. The Knicks are well within their right to simply release Anthony and eat the rest of his contract. Under the stretch provision, they wouldn’t take as big of a salary cap hit.
However, Dolan and Anthony have a history. It was Dolan who orchestrated the Anthony trade six years ago and it is Dolan who would be responsible for paying an All Star nearly $55 million to play somewhere else.
As much as Dolan likes to tell you he’s not involved with the Knicks, when it comes to Carmelo and $55 million, he’s involved.
Jackson’s dwindling list of defenders love to tell you that the mind games Jackson is playing with Carmelo and Kristaps Porzingis are the same mind games he played with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. It’s that Zen stuff we are bombarded with over and over.
Jackson was a coach when he was pushing his player’s buttons. But he’s in management now. It takes a different skill set to be successful. Disparaging your own players – your assets – is a foolish way to conduct business.
And now when the Knicks need to do business with Carmelo, he just might play hard ball. Phil should start caring a little more.