Anthony’s leverage handcuffs the Knicks
For a time, Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson tried to play nice.
In the wake of a recent article by Jackson’s longtime confidant Charley Rosen, the nine-time allstar and the 11-time champion coach-turned president of the New York Knicks tried to break bread and put their differences behind them — or, at least, put a positive public face on them. It didn’t work. Over the past few days, what was already suspected has become exceedingly obvious: Jackson is done with Anthony and wants to move the superstar forward out of town between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
The irony is that as badly as Jackson wants to move on from Anthony, Jackson is also the reason Anthony remains a Knick. The Knicks president has made several poor decisions since taking over the franchise with which he won two championships as a player in the 1970s, but one crucial misstep will likely decide the biggest move he will make since he returned to New York: When Jackson resigned Anthony in July of 2014, he gave him a no-trade clause.
By giving Anthony that clause — at a time when the Knicks were offering him the most money of any team by far and it was clear he was going to return after recruiting visits with several other teams — Jackson handed over all leverage in future negotiations. He is now learning the hard way just how little power he has because of that choice.
Because Anthony has final say over his next destination, including remaining in New York if he so chooses, Jackson’s hands are tied. That’s why the two teams with which the Knicks have been linked thus far, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers, are likely the only ones that will have any realistic trade discussions between now and next month’s deadline.
The presence of LeBron James in Cleveland and Chris Paul in Los Angeles — two of Anthony’s three pals from the infamous “Banana Boat” picture a couple of summers ago (the other, Dwyane Wade, has his own headaches to deal with in Chicago) — means there is at least a chance that Anthony would consider joining either team.
Cleveland could offer the best prize in return: Kevin Love, an all-star power forward who would be an excellent long-term fit next to budding young star Kristaps Porzingis in New York. To get Love, though, New York would probably have to sweeten the pot; with Cleveland already well into the luxury tax, that might mean taking on some dead-weight salaries.
Wherever Anthony ends up, though, Jackson’s choice in 2014 means the situation will only be resolved as his star sees fit.