WASHINGTON – If Carmelo Anthony chose to lose his cool, to publicly rebuke those who’ve added stress to his hectic life – fans, media, management – the emotional outburst might be understandable, considering the perennial woes of his New York Knicks. The sixth anniversary of his arrival to the franchise is quickly approaching, but Knicks president Phil Jackson is determined to move him by the Feb. 23 trade deadline, The Vertical reported last week.
Through it all, Anthony has remained composed, even as he gets booed at home, even as he continues to have huge scoring performances that have done little to prevent the Knicks’ free fall. Anthony admitted recently that the losing and the reports have been “mentally draining,” but he’s avoided any public meltdowns. That doesn’t mean he’s kept it all bottled up.
“I have my nights,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I have my nights where I let it out. Every once in a while, you have that breakdown, where you’re by yourself. It’s no need for me to lash out with you guys or talk to you guys about it. I let it out in the house and when I see you guys, I’m cool.”
The only possible solace Anthony has found to being on the trading block, worn down by a losing season with a seemingly untenable relationship with Jackson, and daily inquiries about his uncertain future is that he’s not alone in his misery. The four-man ensemble affectionately known as the “Banana Boat Crew” has collectively experienced its worst and most unusual month, prompting Anthony to say, “Goodbye, January,” after the Knicks were stomped 117-101 Tuesday in Washington. Flipping the calendar to another month won’t necessarily end the frustration for a 2017 that LeBron James said has gotten off to a “sh—y” start. But the turnaround has to start somewhere – and not looking back on what happened would be the preferred option for the league’s most respected and distinguished foursome.
Chris Paul needed surgery after tearing a ligament in his left thumb, hurling the Los Angeles Clippers into about two months of despair. Dwyane Wade got benched and called out on Instagram by Rajon Rondo after questioning the passion and effort of his new Chicago Bulls teammates. James suffered his first losing month in a decade, complained about not having enough help and clapped back at Charles Barkley for criticizing him for complaining.
The annual All-Star reprieve has been interrupted, as well. James is the only member of the crew selected to participate in the festivities in New Orleans, ending a string of seven consecutive selections for the four. Anthony – the only member of the crew who wasn’t on that infamous boat ride during a Caribbean vacation two summers ago – has noticed the odd coincidence.
“Everybody is going through their own thing,” Anthony told The Vertical. “It seems like everybody is going through their own thing at the same time, the same period. Everybody is trying to figure it out, in different ways, in different fashions. Whether it’s injuries, or their own personal situations, whether it’s team situations, everybody is trying to figure it out.”
The bad run for some of his best friends in the league has been bizarre after what had been a relatively successful 2016 for Paul, Wade, James and Anthony. They teamed up to raise awareness for violence and police brutality in this country before an awards show. Paul had his postseason ruined by injury but helped avoid a lockout by negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement as the players union president. Wade left Miami after 13 years but returned for a heralded homecoming with the Bulls. James delivered that championship he promised to Northeast Ohio. And Anthony became the first male basketball player to win three Olympic gold medals.
Anthony couldn’t have made clearer his commitment to New York. He’s also in control of his own destiny, armed with a no-trade clause that gives him the ultimate power to stay until his contract expires in two years – regardless of any deal Jackson agrees upon to begin rebuilding around Kristaps Porzingis.
Why Anthony would choose to keep his basketball career stuck in turmoil could be explained through a recent Instagram post by his wife, La La. The night before a contentious meeting with Jackson regarding the nine-time All-Star’s standing with the organization, Anthony was sitting on the couch and talking hoops with his son, Kiyan.
Anthony said Tuesday that any decision could possibly disrupt the stability he’s been able to maintain for his family in a city where they all are content. “That’s more about what I care about, my family. I think more about my decision and what they’re going to have to go through if anything would happen.”
The appeal of playing in New York has been more about lifestyle than the actual basketball rewards of being part of an organization that is just 211-261 since he forced his way out of Denver on Feb. 21, 2011. Anthony is on his fourth basketball decision-maker, fifth head coach, has played with 80 different teammates and has only made the postseason three times with the Knicks. Those struggles have clouded how Anthony made the playoffs in each of his first 10 seasons in the NBA, including a trip to the 2009 conference finals with the Denver Nuggets. With his career winding down, Anthony would like to experience that kind of success – and even more – again.
“I think the toughest part is wanting to win,” Anthony told The Vertical. “Having that feeling of being excited again, having fun and enjoying the game. Sometimes, now, when you win games, you got to get back up and do it the same way and the confidence might not be there within the team. We’re winning games, but it’s not consistent, and that’s what I miss.”
The Knicks have had conversations with Cleveland, the Clippers and Boston about a possible deal involving Anthony. All three would put Anthony in position to leave behind the losing, and two would give him the option of playing with a close friend. Anthony hasn’t been presented with a scenario that would force him to make a decision, but he can’t deny the lure of playing with friends with whom he has discussed forming an alliance. “Those considerations and thoughts will always be,” he said. “That’s something we all think about as athletes, try to play with one another. We talk about it from high school and college. These are conversations that we’ve had years before any of this ever came up.”
Anthony has tried to remain positive despite the Knicks losing 16 of 21 games. Three weeks ago, during the madness surrounding Derrick Rose’s unexcused absence, Anthony told The Vertical that he believed the Knicks had what it takes to get back in playoff contention. Optimism around the team has been diffused considerably now that the Knicks (21-29) are closer to being 14th in the East than to the eighth seed. But Anthony continues to hold out hope.
“That’s my mindset, and the way that I think. I always feel like I give myself a chance,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know the future, but I know about right now. And right now, I still have games to play and I’m part of this New York Knicks team.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Anthony tweeted out a photo from his visit this week to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture with the message: “Running away from things you find unpleasant causes suffering. But facing and challenging such situations will enrich your life.” He ended with his trademark hashtag “#StayMelo.”
Asked later about the message, Anthony said there was nothing more to interpret, “No sublims.”
The Knicks don’t have to trade Anthony to tank because they’ve proven to be bad with or without him. But even if the organizational problems extend well beyond his limitations, Anthony is accustomed to receiving the blame. “I know the situation: Good, bad or indifferent, it comes down to No. 7 and I accept that. I’m at peace with that. And that’s what helps me get through the day-to-days. It’s tough,” Anthony told The Vertical, “but I know what it is.”
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