New York Knicks: Phil Jackson would have botched a Carmelo Anthony trade
Jan 16, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) attempts to block a shot by Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore (24) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks superstar forward Carmelo Anthony made it clear to Phil Jackson that he wants to stay. That’s probably for the best.

Phil Jackson’s first two transactions as President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks were small. He signed former Lakers Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. Brown appeared in just 19 games and Odom’s demons kept him from the court. Jackson’s third move was substantial.

Jackson’s third move was substantial.

He needed to pick a head coach after firing incumbent Mike Woodson, and the Zen Master chose another Laker, the recently retired Derek Fisher.

Jackson set a precedent with those decisions. He was going to surround himself with familiar faces and attempt to create some bootleg Lakers team. Former Jackson assistant Kurt Rambis was hired as Fisher’s associate head coach to help introduce an essential part of Jackson’s plan: the triangle offense.

Jackson fired Fisher after less than two seasons on the job amid rumors Jackson didn’t like how far the team was straying from the sacred triangle. Fisher’s 40-96 record probably also factored in.

Phil’s arrogance has prevented from learning from his laundry list of mistakes. It was a bad move for by Jackson to hand over the head coaching job to his former player with no head coaching experience. The pointless signings of Brown and Odom just made him look like a fool.

Two moves will define his career as an executive, though. The first is drafting

The first is drafting Kristaps Porzingis. Or, perhaps more accurately, having the Unicorn fall into his lap. Each depends on how cynical you are.

The second is including a no-trade clause in the four-year, $124 million contract he gave to Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is one of only three current NBA players with a NTC. The other two, LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki, have both won championships with their respective franchises and will never be traded.

Melo hasn’t been so lucky. He’s won just one playoff series since arriving in New York, and trade rumors follow him around like the plague. The most recent round of rumors started after Jackson’s ghostwriter Charley Rosen trashed Anthony in a column for FanRag Sports.

After expressing his understandable frustrations, Anthony met with Jackson Tuesday and reiterated his stance. He wants to stay in New York and win in New York. And that’s where we find ourselves. Like most topics concerning Melo, the reaction is split. It depends on who you ask. Some think that Anthony’s loyalty should be commended while others feel that it’s time for both sides just to move on. To Anthony’s credit, not many players can make the claim that they’ve held two separate franchises hostage.

Regardless of Anthony’s situation, Jackson’s track record speaks for itself. If Anthony were to be traded the current shot caller in New York isn’t the man for the job. A trade like that will impact the franchise for the next decade (Orlando is still reeling from the Dwight Howard trade in 2012), so the quality of the assets you acquire in return is paramount.

On the rare occasions when Phil has tried to mix it up on the trade market, he’s been on the losing side. He traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for a group of players and picks with the only significant asset being Shane Larkin. Larkin played in New York for just one season and feuded with Phil after his departure over the size of the point guard’s hands. You can’t make this stuff up.

Getting nothing for an All-Star center was bad enough, but the Cavs trade was even worse. The Knicks had an abysmal record of 5-31 when Jackson traded key rotation players J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in a blatant salary dump during the worst season in franchise history. New York picked up Lance Thomas from Oklahoma City in the three-team trade. The former benchwarmer may go down as Phil’s greatest trade success and no disrespect to Thomas, but that’s not a huge accomplishment.

After drafting Porzingis in 2015, Phil decided to get greedy. He traded away failed sharpshooter Tim Hardaway Jr. in another three-team trade for the rights to point guard Jerian Grant. Similar to Larkin, Grant was traded off the team after one mediocre season.

Jackson used the former Notre Dame star as part of a package to fetch the former MVP of the league, Derrick Rose. It was New York’s biggest trade since the acquisition of Anthony back in 2011. The Rose situation has been a rollercoaster of highlight reel plays, inefficient shooting, and unexcused absences.

With such a shocking display of failure, there’s no reason to think that the Hall of Fame coach can pull off a successful trade now. Especially with the market for Anthony being as small as it is. The 32-year-old is a lot of salary and baggage to take on. There won’t be many teams willing to accept that responsibility, and Anthony’s no-trade clause would make a dealing him even more difficult.

There aren’t any obvious options like Chicago during the Tom Thibodeau days or Cleveland during that brief period we thought Kevin Love and LeBron James wouldn’t work. Remember the Blake Griffin rumors? Those are laughable despite what Stephen A. Smith might believe.

Historically teams don’t receive close to equal value in trade returns for their franchise player. Not after long and drawn out hostilities between the player and the organization have become public. Opponents will have the Knicks over a barrel. Take the Vince Carter trade for example. Reports of Carter being unhappy and his agent demanding a trade contributed to the Nets being able to get him from the Raptors for two nobodies, Alonzo Mourning (who refused to report to Toronto and was bought out of his deal) and two picks that turned into nothing.

But Anthony wants to remain in New York and as long as Phil Jackson is calling the shots, that’s a good thing.

The idea of a Carmelo Anthony trade is more glamorous than one that could realistically happen — especially one that Jackson could pull off.

 

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