Carmelo Anthony has no idea what Phil Jackson's vision for the Knicks is

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Carmelo Anthony smiles and shrugs. Sometimes, that's all there is to do. (AP)
Carmelo Anthony smiles and shrugs. Sometimes, that’s all there is to do. (AP)

The NBA’s trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, and the New York Knicks, like many other teams, didn’t do squat. A rumored point-guard swap that would’ve sent Derrick Rose to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Ricky Rubio wound up falling short of the finish line, and despite the Knicks having a few fairly productive players on what would seem to be movable contracts — like reserve point guard Brandon Jennings, whose deal expires at the end of this season, or backup big man Kyle O’Quinn, who has just two years and $8.3 million remaining on his deal, or swingman Courtney Lee, a proven 3-and-D wing in a league perpetually looking for more of those — nothing came to fruition.

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Instead, the Knicks exited the trade deadline with the same roster they had heading into the All-Star break … and that roster got smoked, predictably, by LeBron James and the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers in Thursday’s return from the mid-February siesta.

The Knicks now sit at 23-35, five games back of the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with three teams (the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets) ahead of them in line for that last postseason berth. They rank 15th among 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency, and 26th in points allowed per possession; by FiveThirtyEight’s projections, they have a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Faced with the overwhelming likelihood that the team he runs will miss the postseason for the fourth straight season, Knicks team president Phil Jackson could have chosen to damn the torpedoes and flip future draft picks for here-and-now help to try to beat those odds. He could have chosen to sell off whatever present-day assets the Knicks have, in hopes of both making this year’s team worse down the stretch (thus improving New York’s odds of landing a top-of-the-draft pick in May’s lottery) and securing more future picks to try to stock up the roster with low-cost, high-ceiling talent that might develop into the new competitive iteration of the Knicks.

Jackson instead chose to stand pat, leaving many wondering what exactly the Knicks are doing … including a certain forward whom you might have heard some chatter about Jackson wanting to move before Thursday’s deadline. From Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Following a dispiriting 119-104 loss to the Cavaliers, Anthony was asked by The Post if he understood Jackson’s vision.

“No, to be honest with you, no,’’ Anthony said. “I think they [were] planning on the trade deadline and they were trying to make moves. That was one plan. Now they got to get back to the drawing board for another plan for the future of the team.”

Anthony acknowledged that it is “frustrating to be unsure of the approach that management, namely team president Phil Jackson, will take with the team at this point,” according to ESPN’s Ian Begley:

“Yeah, I mean, nobody likes to be in limbo,” Anthony said. “We all want to know kind of what’s going on, especially when it’s involving you. But that’s not the way it is in sports. I don’t think I’m the only one that’s going through that or feeling that way. I think there’s other players who feel the same way, that they want to be involved — not involved, but at least up to date with what’s going on. I feel like I’m kind of up to date, as far as when it comes to me, [with] what’s going on.”

Anthony’s not alone in his confusion over what the Knicks are trying to do, and how they intend to accomplish it. That’s not to say that anything’s changed, though — this has been the issue in New York ever since Jackson came to town.

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Shortly after taking the reins at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Jackson traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and a pair of second-round draft picks that turned into Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Cleanthony Early, to save money and get worse. One month later, he seemed to move in the opposite direction by giving Anthony a five-year, $124.1 million contract to be the focal point of their roster for the next half-decade. He also gave Anthony a no-trade clause, making his aging star all but untradeable in the event he did want to trigger a full-scale rebuild … which, as we saw this winter, only increased the acrimony between player and executive, and the ever-roiling drama surrounding the team.

After the worst season in franchise history — a campaign that saw him flip wings Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Lance Thomas, Lou Amundson and a future second-round pick, restocking LeBron James’ rotation in the name of cost savings — Jackson swung for the fences by drafting 7-foot-3 Latvian shooter Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in the draft, adding another first-round pick in point guard Jerian Grant, and snaring a high second-rounder from the Philadelphia 76ers in center Willy Hernangomez. To that group of young prospects, Jackson added steady vets like O’Quinn, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo, seemingly laying a path to a slow and steady rebuild under new head coach Derek Fisher.

But then Jackson fired Fisher midseason, and the Knicks limped to the finish line under interim coach Kurt Rambis, and Jackson decided yet again to go in a different direction. He traded Lopez, Grant and Calderon for Rose (then in the midst of a rape trial and several years and knee injuries removed from his MVP work), paying the creaky Joakim Noah $72 million over four years to replace Lopez, and importing Lee and Jennings to help spark a playoff push that didn’t necessarily seem like all that great a goal, considering the higher likelihood of landing a long-term running buddy partner for emerging star Porzingis in the top half of the draft than in the middle or at the bottom of the first round.

For three years, now, the Knicks have been trying to walk two paths at once — to win with Carmelo now while setting up to win with Porzingis in the future — and, as a result, have struggled to make headway on either. Given an opportunity to facilitate forward motion on at least one of the paths on Thursday, Jackson instead elected not to move a muscle, keeping the Knicks running in place on the road to nowhere.

The good news is that, as they showed through the first two-thirds of the season, the Knicks can be one of the league’s half-dozen or so worst teams even with Anthony, Rose, Jennings, Lee, O’Quinn and the rest of the players they didn’t trade. All New York needs to do is keep losing to improve its draft pick, increase its chances of landing another top-flight talent, and get one step closer to maybe, against all odds, building something positive around Porzingis.

The bad news? Whatever hot prospect they land will have to come to work in the forever-ridiculous Garden and try to ply his trade for a team run by a man who either has a vision so difficult to see that his star player has no idea what it is … or who, maybe, has no vision at all.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!