You guys aren’t going to believe this, but the New York Knicks hiring Scott Perry as their new general manager doesn’t seem to have changed Carmelo Anthony’s mind about the whole “I would like you to get me out of town now” thing.
The Knicks’ post-Phil Jackson braintrust of newly elevated president of basketball operations Steve Mills and new GM Perry decided last weekend to “pause” trade talks aimed at shipping the 33-year-old Anthony out. During a Monday news conference introducing Perry to New York media, Mills told reporters that the team would not entertain the possibility of buying out the remaining two years and $54 million on Anthony’s contact, and that, while Anthony last month finally proclaimed himself willing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate moves to join either the Cleveland Cavaliers (led by longtime pal LeBron James) or the Houston Rockets (now featuring longtime pal Chris Paul), no such deal should be expected if it doesn’t help forward the Knicks’ rebuilding goals.
“Our view is if there’s an opportunity that works for Carmelo and works for us, then we’ll look at some kind of trade,” Mills said Monday. “But we also feel that Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year, and we have to understand how we’re going to play and what the expectations [are] of how we’re going to play and we’re going to move forward. So it may be with Carmelo or it may be without Carmelo […] Carmelo’s a great, great basketball player, and if Carmelo is with us, we will continue to develop our young players. If he’s not here, we’ll continue to develop our young players.”
“It may be with Carmelo,” however, is apparently not going to fly with Carmelo.
“What [Mills and Perry have] wanted to do here in the last few days is to hit the reset button on these Carmelo trade talks,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on “SportsCenter” on Tuesday. “They felt that Phil Jackson had cost them all their leverage to get anything back in a deal they wanted. Carmelo Anthony has made it clear to them: ‘I want to go to Houston, I’m not interested in talking to you about being re-incorporated back into this New York roster.'”
It’s not surprising that Anthony wouldn’t be interested in mending fences. Yes, the executive who spent much of the past season publicly intimating that a separation would be best for all parties is now gone; once again, ‘Melo is the winner in an intra-Madison Square Garden squabble. The yearlong battle seems to have worn on Anthony, though, and despite coming out on top in his tug-of-war with Phil, he’s made the decision that he’s ready to move on.
If the Knicks aren’t going to engage him in buyout talks, then he’d just as soon they put together a deal that lands him on a contender where he can play with some friends and pursue the NBA championship that has eluded him throughout his 14-year professional career. That’s easier said than done, though.
Anthony’s willingness to waive the no-trade clause eliminates one big hurdle. But that still leaves constructing a deal that gets Anthony where he wants to go while also allowing the Knicks to achieve financial relief from offloading the rest of his contract and brings New York assets — future draft picks, promising young players on rookie deals — that help foster a rebuild around a young core of rising star Kristaps Porzingis, center Willy Hernangomez, 2017 first-round draft pick Frank Ntilikina and just-re-signed shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. After past trades, neither Cleveland nor Houston have many such assets.
Adding in a high price tag ratcheted up by the 15 percent trade kicker Jackson included in his contract — remember, an acquiring team has to send enough salary New York’s way to make the trade viable under league rules — creates more complications. If the Knicks aren’t interested in keeping such high-priced ballast — say, Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, who’s owed nearly $61.3 million over the next three seasons — on the roster as they try to rebuild, then they have to find other teams who might be interested in taking on salary to become part of the deal. That has reportedly proven challenging. And so, for now, things stay put.
As it turns out, though, despite Monday’s comments to the contrary, Mills and the Knicks reportedly “remain as committed as Carmelo Anthony to finalizing a deal that would send the All Star forward to the Houston Rockets,” according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
It appears that the idea of the Knicks trying to convince Anthony to stay in New York were overblown. Mills wants to rebuild and the thought of having a 33-year-old Anthony on the roster doesn’t make sense. Moreover, the Knicks got Anthony to agree to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal. Keeping him on the roster would not be ideal for either the Knicks or Anthony.
No, it wouldn’t be. Then again, little about this situation has ever seemed ideal for either party. Why change now?
“So what they’re trying to do … Steve Mills wouldn’t have ascended to this job in New York if he wasn’t politically savvy,” Wojnarowski said. “He doesn’t want to get into a public war here with Carmelo Anthony, who they spent over a year trying to run out of town. Houston now is prepared for the fact that these talks, these negotiations with the Knicks, could run through August, September, into possibly the start of training camp as New York tries to rebuild ‘Melo’s value and threaten people with the idea that they’ll bring him back to start the season.”
After all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, then, we haven’t actually moved very much from where we started. Carmelo Anthony’s ready to not be a Knick anymore. The Knicks are ready for that, too. Whether that winds up happening, and how quickly, will depend on another team (likely Houston) finding a way to construct a transaction attractive enough to make it worth New York’s while, or the situation becoming so untenable for New York that Knicks brass blinks and decides to take a lowball offer just to get it done.
The last 17 or so years of Knicks history suggests which outcome is more likely. Now, we find out whether New York’s new front office actually represents a break from the past, or if the just-installed regime winds up producing more of the same.
“We’ll be in constant communication with Carmelo and his camp, and we’ll come to some resolution that works well for both us,” Mills said Monday.
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