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There are five games left in the New York Knicks’ 2016-17 season. Perhaps the biggest question facing the franchise at the moment: are there only five games remaining in Carmelo Anthony’s tenure in blue and orange?
After sitting out the Knicks’ last two games due to a sore back, Anthony’s expected to suit up for New York’s Tuesday night meeting with the Chicago Bulls, one of the teams that put on the full-court press to try to sign ‘Melo in free agency in the summer of 2014. Instead, Anthony chose to stay in New York, signing a five-year, $124 million contract that included a full no-trade clause that handed the veteran forward the power to veto any deal to any destination he might not fancy.
He did so, he insisted, because he believed he’d have a better chance of winning a championship with the Knicks than anywhere else, and because his wife and son love living in New York, and because he so enjoyed playing in Manhattan that he wanted to retire as a Knick. But that was then.
Another dispiriting and dismal season in Gotham didn’t motivate Anthony to waive his no-trade clause before February’s trade deadline. But after a fourth-straight playoff-free spring that comes on the heels of many months of barely veiled barbs tossed in Anthony’s direction by team president Phil Jackson, with the Knicks appearing to be in a rebuilding phase centered on second-year power forward Kristaps Porzingis, and with Anthony on the books for $26.2 million next season and holding a $27.9 million player option for the 2018-19 season, it seems likely that discussion about a divorce will resume in the summer.
Anthony sees it coming. Or … rather, he sees something coming, at least. From Steve Popper of the Record:
“I see the writing on the wall, the writing … yeah, I see it on the wall,” Anthony said. “You don’t know what writing is on the wall, though, but I see what writing is on the wall.”
Asked what the writing was, he smiled and said, “No, of course I’m not going to tell you that.”
Anthony might not be interested in telling us what the writing says, but he really wants to make sure we know he sees it. From last week, when Anthony told reporters he didn’t know what his role was expected to be for the remainder of another circling-the-drain season (outside of mentoring the Knicks’ younger players, which is, y’know, a role):
“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” said Melo, via ESPN.com. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”
OK, so ‘Melo sees what’s coming, even if he won’t tell us what it is. And he’s cool with it, even if he won’t tell us why. Maybe his moment of
Zen general calm comes from knowing that many in the world outside Madison Square Garden continue to wonder just what the hell Jackson and the Knicks are doing here. From Mike Vorkunov of the New York Times:
[Anthony] dropped a hint when asked about Scottie Pippen, the former N.B.A. star who won six titles playing for Jackson with the Chicago Bulls. In recent comments, Pippen put the Knicks’ current woes at the feet of his old coach and said that Jackson should be removed from his current job with the Knicks.
“Everybody has their opinion,” Anthony said of Pippen. “I’m just glad people speaking up, whether it’s good or bad, people are speaking up, having their own opinion, rather than me trying to convince, or not convince, people of the situation or what’s going on, and I could just play basketball. Everybody else sees what’s going on, so they’re going to have an opinion.”
… which, again, calls to mind a non-comment comment Anthony offered during All-Star Weekend after people like Draymond Green and Tracy McGrady offered their support for ‘Melo in the Phil affair:
“Honestly, for me, it’s good to see the support from my peers despite everything I have been having to deal with,” Anthony said Saturday. “When you have your peers who understand it — they’re the ones who are actually going through similar situations and can relate to those types of situations, because they’re in it. So to have my peers speak up and talk about that, it means a lot to me.”
Maybe the writing on the wall is, “I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’.”
Anthony said before February’s trade deadline that he’d “have to consider” waiving his no-trade clause if Jackson and the Knicks’ front office clearly communicated to him that “they want to go in a different direction, they want to start rebuilding for the future […] they want to scrap this whole thing.” Jackson reportedly did not do that in a brief pre-deadline meeting. Now, all eyes fall on the season-capping exit interview expected to happen next week between Anthony, who has made it very clear he has no idea what shape Jackson’s vision for the franchise will take moving forward, and Jackson, who seems to have a pretty definite shape in mind.
“Pretty sure the chips will be on the table,” Anthony said on Monday, according to Vorkunov. “The chips will be on the table in that meeting. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect, but I got a good feeling.”
That might be the first good feeling the Knicks have inspired in the last 3 1/2 months. We can only hope, for everyone’s sake, that the chips on the table, the writing on the wall, the proof in the pudding, the fly in the ointment or any other “thing in/on thing” idiom you prefer will soon be made visible to all. Anything to expedite the process of Anthony, Jackson, the Knicks and everyone else involved in this slouching-toward-infinity psychodrama moving the hell on.
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