New York Knicks: Phil Jackson didn't start a war with Carmelo Anthony, he challenged him
Dec 7, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) controls the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James (23) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With so many New York Knicks fans up in arms about Phil Jackson‘s recent words about Carmelo Anthony, an important factor has been overlooked.

With one explosive comment, Phil Jackson may have just turned his star player off forever.

Jax, when on CBS Sports Network’s We Need To Talk, offered up an interesting tidbit about Carmelo Anthony:

“Carmelo a lot of times wants to hold the ball longer than — we have a rule: If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop. That is one of the things we work with. But he’s adjusted to [the triangle], he knows what he can do and he’s willing to see its success.”

Obviously, this wasn’t a compliment towards his most recognizable employee. Melo’s black hole offensive nature is something that has followed him through his 15-year NBA career. While averaging a career mark of 24.9 per contest while shooting at a .453 clip, Anthony has become, and understandably so, quite sensitive about the tag. 

Yet his boss still called him out publicly on it.

Coincidence? A mere happenstance that Jackson overlooked?

No chance.

Many in the media are now in full-fledged “Jax vs. Melo war” title-happy mode. Writers and editors alike are gathering propaganda in effort to further the off court war between the 13-time NBA Champion and the New York Knicks best player.

It began this season, at least, when Melo decided to back his buddy LeBron James through the entire “posse” situation. For those who rejoined planet Earth yesterday, Jackson referred to LBJ’s crew, Maverick Carter, most notably, as his “posse.” LBJ didn’t take too kindly to it and Melo, when asked by the media, also conveyed an LBJ-sided feeling.

Turning back to the situation at hand, Jackson, perhaps giddy over the prospect that his club is currently over .500, didn’t stop at “Melo holding the ball for too long.”

“Some of our best games we played were when Carmelo didn’t play and we didn’t win but we had great games,” Jackson said. “Oklahoma, I could maybe name four games that we probably should have won and short of the thing that Carmelo can help you, we didn’t have but we played better as a basketball club and in some strange ways…”

Now, we’re cooking. With these comments, Phil just raised the ante. He actually stated some of the Knicks best games have been played without his best player in the lineup.

Again, is this just Phil speaking his mind?

Again, no chance.

Jackson is clearly challenging his best player.

Remember, this is the Zen Master, the guy who breathed new life into the term master manipulator. From Chicago to Los Angeles, Jordan to Kobe, preseason to NBA Finals, Pippen to Shaq, Phil has always used to the media to his perceived advantage.

This is what he does.

Jackson currently looks at his 12-10 squad, coming off a blowout loss at the hands of James the Cleveland Cavaliers, and sees potential. He’s witnessing what’s going down on that Madison Square Garden court while trying to inject himself into the narrative. In his mind, whatever action he can take to motivate Melo further, he’ll attempt. And he won’t apologize or care if he’s the most hated man this side of David Ortiz in the five boroughs.

Upon hearing the news, Melo provided a businesslike answer.

“I don’t even know what was said,” said Anthony. “I don’t even want to talk about that. I want to stay away from that at this point. My focus is on my teammates and winning. Whatever Phil said, he said.”

Melo then took a passive-aggressive approach through social media.

UN-Phased (MyLifeSummedUpInOnePhoto) #StayMe7o

A post shared by Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) on


Quite frankly, both sides are simply window-dressing, skirting the real issue at hand. 

What Melo needs to understand is that Phil’s words are intentional in nature. Sure, will he spout off dinosaur-like tweets about the 3-pointer not holding as much value as currently perceived in today’s game? Yes. Will he, at times, show that the game has possibly passed him by, that this new-aged NBA is far different from the physical one he remembers from decades ago? Of course.

While understanding Jax’s massive ego won’t allow his basketball mind to stray too far from old-school basketball principles, don’t think for one moment that his words here were a mistake. Don’t you dare believe this was an accident.

We’ve seen this routine time and time again through his nearly three decade-long coach/president run as NBA boss. Phil Jackson is using the media to challenge Carmelo Anthony.

It’s now up to Melo to prove his boss wrong. The worst thing Melo could do is take it personally. If he does, things will only tumble downhill. This was a risk Jackson felt he needed to take.

Melo needs to play with an attitude and show him how it really is. Anything less than that won’t allow Melo’s Knicks to travel very far this spring.

Perhaps Phil just did the very best thing for his best player.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]