After a brief spell of cherished mediocrity – New York was at .500 as late as Jan. 12 – the Knicks have gone sour. The team has lost 17 of 22, it has lost its last four games by a combined 64 points, and the squad’s demise has already cost former coach Derek Fisher his job.
At the trade deadline, rumors hit that New York was listening to offers centering on scoring forward Carmelo Anthony, who is having yet another darn good year, but at (nearly) age 32 isn’t likely to be a big part of the team’s hoped-for turnaround under president Phil Jackson. Anthony has a no-trade clause, though, and reportedly wasn’t willing to waive it in order to latch on with a championship or even playoff contender.
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Now that the trade deadline and even postseason buyout dust has settled, though, you can’t blame Anthony for feeling a tinge of regret as he looks to play out 2015-16’s regular season string under his fourth coach since 2012. From New York’s Friday practice, and the New York Daily News:
"Right now it's kind of a rough patch for me. I'm trying to figure out a way to get out of it."
"I don't think envy is kind of the right word," Anthony said Friday morning. "I do look at my peers and say, 'Damn, what am I doing wrong? I should be there.' There was one point in time where they were looking at me like that. Made (the playoffs) 10, 11 years straight.”
Anthony’s peers include fellow 2003 draftees Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and buddy Joe Johnson – all of whom (if healthy, get well soon big guy) will participate in the postseason as members of the Miami Heat. Friend and Class of 2003 Guy LeBron James might be working through some stuff right now, but his Cavaliers are the best team in the East. Mid-2003’ers David West and Boris Diaw are San Antonio Spurs, and potentially working on a 70-win team. Even Kirk Hinrich will make it to the playoffs as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Same with, potentially, Chris Kaman.
What is Carmelo “doing wrong?” Well, there was the whole thing about committing five years (and the $124 million that came with it) and a no-trade clause to a Knicks team coming off of a 37-win season. With a checkered draft and a salary history clouding the team’s future.
What little the Knicks had in draft assets and cap space was turned into the East’s best rookie in Kristaps Porzingis, and veteran helpers like Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo over the last offseason. Even with those additions, though, the team is floundering and 6.5 games out of the playoffs with 20 to play. New York won’t have its own draft pick this June, and even though the lure of New York City helped keep Anthony in town two years ago, the Knicks will be competing with half the NBA this summer with its newfound cap space.
When Anthony says he’s “trying to figure out a way to get out of it,” he isn’t talking about the Knicks. The guy wants to have his cake and eat it too in New York, you can’t really blame him for that, and it is disappointing that this roster can’t even approach a middling state in the still-dodgy Eastern Conference.
There are 15 weeks between now and the NBA draft, though, and four months between now and the league’s offseason. If Anthony is genuine about wanting to hit the bricks and join a playoff team, there is plenty of time for New York to suss out all options – know that there’s at least a chance Carmelo would waive his no-trade clause.
Or, the team can make some minor moves on draft day, sign a few more average win-now vets in July, prior to Anthony and Phil Jackson talking themselves into the idea that the team’s roster is (on paper, at least) good enough to make the postseason.
That seems, for a player that committed to a team with a lousy history since its owner (the boy behind yet another insipid Knicks “apology” over something nobody should have apologized for) took over in full force, to be the most likely outcome. Standing 13th in the Eastern standings on March 4 won’t look so bad on July 11 when everyone’s tied for first, yet again.
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