The Carmelo Anthony-New York Knicks trade circus roars on

Carmelo Anthony is a New York Knick. He may not be for long. And he may not want to be. But, as of late Friday night, he is. That much we can say with certainty.

But it’s about the only thing we can say with certainty with regards to Melo as rumors and reports continue to fly with regularity, trade talks progress then stall, and a front office in transition considers moving on from the player who has, in so many ways, defined the past seven years of New York Knicks basketball.

The latest twist is that the Knicks, who have been in serious discussions with the Rockets about a swap that could potentially involve four teams total, aren’t set on trading their 33-year-old star after all. Instead, they “want to pursue a conversation with” Anthony about staying, and have temporarily stepped away from the negotiating table.

Which, frankly, is incredible.

It has tried the patience of other parties at the table. Frank Isola of The New York Daily News sums up the situation as follows:

According to an executive of one the four teams involved in the proposed trade, all sides, including Anthony, are frustrated over reports that Knicks president Steve Mills is having second thoughts.

“That’s crazy,” a source told the News. “From what I understand Carmelo is under the belief that he’s going to the Rockets. That’s what the Knicks have been telling us; that they’re trading him. I can’t imagine that after all he went though last season with Phil (Jackson) he’s happy with this.”

So after an awkward year-long dance in which now-ousted president Phil Jackson tried to nudge Melo out of New York City, Melo spurned Jackson’s advances, and then finally gave in, the Knicks might be backing away themselves. A deal that was reportedly “at the two-yard line” is now “on the two-yard line … with 98 yards to go.” The circus has resumed.

The circus truly opened in April when Jackson publicly stated that he hoped to find a new home for Anthony. Jackson was reprimanded for the comments, but continued to search for Melo’s road out of town.

The issue, for a while, was that Anthony had no intentions of taking that road. He was in the driver’s seat with a no-trade clause in tow. He would leave only if he consented, and he reportedly wouldn’t.

But with the possibility of competing for a championship with the Cavaliers — and with his buddy LeBron James — or the Rockets — and his buddy Chris Paul — staring Melo in the face, he agreed to waive the no-trade clause if a deal that would send him to either Cleveland or Houston was in place.

According to Isola, Anthony was so set on leaving that he had approached the Knicks before June’s NBA draft about negotiating a buyout. He was rebuffed, but was ensured that trade options would be explored.

With Jackson gone and Steve Mills in charge, the Knicks seemed to be closing in on one of those options, a deal with the Rockets that would involve two other teams. The biggest hang-up would appear to be Ryan Anderson’s burdensome contract, which has three years and over $60 million remaining on it. Somebody will have to take it. The Knicks and Rockets must find a team willing to do so.

The identity of the other two teams involved in the negotiations hasn’t been reported, though the Pelicans could be one.

The most recent hang-up could be the Knicks’ hiring of Scott Perry as general manager. New team president (and former GM under Jackson) Mills still has final say on basketball matters, just as he did during the franchise’s GM search, but Perry brings fresh perspective. Is it possible that Perry has urged Mills to reconsider trading Melo? Or could this be a Mills ploy to give off the impression that Perry was consulted? Or something else?

It is logical to believe that the trade will be resuscitated and eventually completed. After all, the rebuilding Knicks have no use for Melo, nor for his hefty contract. The contending Rockets do. Balancing the deal is an extremely difficult task, as is convincing other potential trade partners to comply. But if the trade was so close only a few days ago, surely it ultimately gets done, right? Right?!

If it doesn’t, the Knicks circus will roar on. If it does, both sides will be happy, and all of us will have been entertained.