Coming off an embarrassing 121-107 loss at the hands of Western Conference cellar dweller Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, the New York Knicks remain in a state of disarray.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek called for his team to “play for some pride,” Kristaps Porzingis admitted there’s a lack of trust on the court and team president Phil Jackson remains committed to pushing Carmelo Anthony out the door. Jackson, in particular, escalated matters on Tuesday when he acknowledged Kevin Ding’s latest Bleacher Report column.
Ding’s piece criticized Anthony’s desire to win, especially compared to legends who previously played under Jackson like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. With his first tweet of 2017, Jackson mostly agreed with Ding, taking issue with one part of the story.
Bleacher’s Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don’t change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) February 7, 2017
Graham played for Jackson in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) in the mid-1980s. Academic issues at Georgetown forced Graham off the team, and he couldn’t harness his basketball skills under Jackson’s tutelage in the CBA. Per Alan Siegel of the Washingtonian, Graham’s eyes would “glaze over” anytime Jackson tried to speak with him.
Referencing Anthony in a vague tweet, and comparing him to a troubled ex-player who never wore an NBA uniform is Jackson’s latest dig at the Knicks star. In December, Jackson told CBS Sports that Anthony “holds the ball too long” and that it slows down the team’s offense; last month, longtime Jackson confidant Charley Rosen authored an editorial for FanRag Sports in which he wrote that Anthony “has outlived his usefulness in New York.”
Anthony, 32, has done his best to take the high road despite the constant jabs. Loyalty has also been a huge part of Anthony’s narrative; he chose to re-sign with the Knicks in 2014, taking a five-year, $124 million deal with a no-trade clause, one of only three NTC’s in the league (James, Dirk Nowitzki). Melo could’ve jumped ship to the Chicago Bulls, a team on the verge of a championship, but the bright lights and scrutiny of New York were too much to give up.
In a way, Anthony is just like Michael Corleone from The Godfather: Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in.
To his credit, Anthony has repeated on numerous occasions that he wants to remain in New York. However, he has sounded more open to waiving his NTC given the right opportunity and the Knicks wanting to go in a new direction.
“No, I’m not thinking about it,” Anthony said after Monday’s loss to the Lakers in reference to the trade rumors. Just hours earlier, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote that Anthony’s friend LeBron James was pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers to acquire Anthony — even if the price of said acquisition is Kevin Love. James dismissed the report and reporter as “trash.”
It’s important to note that under team president Jackson, the Knicks are 75 games under.500 (71-146 ); before Jackson, the Knicks were 127-103 with Anthony. Entering Wednesday’s matchup versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the Knicks sport a 22-31 record, somehow just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot but looking more like a cellar dweller with each passing game.
Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornacek chat after practice as Kristaps Porzingis shoots free throws: pic.twitter.com/sZ2Uioywu8
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 7, 2017
Jackson was in attendance for Knicks practice on Tuesday but did not speak to reporters, something he hasn’t done since September. With less than three weeks until the February 23 trade deadline, a big decision will have to be made on the future of the Knicks: Are they a better team with or without Anthony? Can the Knicks get equal or considerable value in return for Anthony?
The way Jackson references Anthony, he doesn’t seem to think Anthony is all that valuable to begin with.
[Featured Image by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]