Phil Jackson hasn’t modified his approach, much. Most men in his position tend not to.
Even after National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts chided Jackson earlier in the month for, as she and others put it, his attempt to “shame” Carmelo Anthony into accepting a trade away from the New York Knicks, Jackson re-iterated on Friday that it would be in the best interest for all sides if a dissolution of relationship was agreed upon.
The Knicks president, meeting with the media at the NBA’s draft combine in Chicago, did not back off the mid-April news conference. Anthony, holder of a no-trade clause and a remaining two years and over $54 million on his contract, “is a player that would be better somewhere else,” according to Jackson.
Many people agree with Phil Jackson. Including New York Knick president Phil Jackson:
“I think I expressed what I felt. I can’t express it any better,” Jackson said at the NBA Draft Combine.
“I thought it was well said even if a lot of you didn’t feel that way. We’d like him to have success; the opportunity is narrowing. We’d just like for him to have success somewhere. We’re not going to be there. Hopefully we’ll maybe be a playoff team next year. It would be tough to consider us possible champions.”
It would be. The Knicks won just 31 games in 2016-17, the third full season in which Jackson has had control over the team. The former Bulls and Lakers coach, hired in 2014 as Madison Square Garden’s latest well-heeled and very famous savior, signed Anthony to a five-year deal that summer before promptly regretting the decision.
Why wouldn’t he? Anthony turns 33 later in May, he’s made three All-Star teams under Jackson while contributing over 22 points and seven rebounds a contest, including marks of 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the Knicks in 2016-17. His presence hardly sways things, though, and New York has precious little young talent beyond 7-foot big man Kristaps Porzingis (at age 22) to pair alongside ‘Melo.
After a year off Jackson has his own first-round pick yet again in 2017, slated with the best odds for No. 7 prior to the NBA draft lottery, but Knick fans don’t want to hear about Jackson (and Knicks executive Clarence Gaines) and his history with drafting for their beloved team. Not when Porzingis, coming off of another potent-yet-hamstrung second season, left the Knicks facility without meeting with Jackson following the season.
“Rather than to bat this thing over the net back and forth between parties, we’ll just leave it alone.”
While that matter remains unresolved, it will certainly go undiscussed at Jackson’s insistence on record.
He isn’t done wondering aloud, though, why the NBA and the players’ union doesn’t want the $12 million a year boss of a basketball team working through the media to convince a player that he doesn’t want to remain with a team he’s clearly happy with. For whatever reason:
“I’ve reached out to him in a text but not personally,” Jackson said. “Some personal things came out in the paper that was difficult. Wanted him to know we’re supportive of him.’’
Asked if the separation can affect his decision to accept a trade, Jackson said: “You want me to talk about this? You don’t really?”
Pressed on his reaction to Roberts’ accurate portrayal of Jackson, the Knicks president oddly attempted to ease into an answer about the Finals-making, Jeff Van Gundy-led 1999 Knicks while relaying that he did call NBA commissioner Adam Silver in order to argue for his side, in the ongoing war of the wearisome with Anthony:
“To have a positive base to work from is really important, and our fan core is positive, and we like to give them hope because they’ve been disappointed.”
“They weren’t disappointed 20 years ago when they went to The Finals. They were surprised in ’99. So it’s been a long time for hope for our fans. We want them to have hope. They’ve been bridesmaids but never a bride.”
How any of that relates to Phil Jackson’s move to pressure Carmelo Anthony into tearing up a contract guarantee to work for another basketball club is well beyond my grasp, but then again I wasn’t at Summer Jam at Watkins Glen ‘73.
Jackson’s plea is not without merit, and hardly weightless in a basketball sense.
The Knicks president never should have signed Carmelo Anthony to play the sort of basketball he was absolutely expected to play from 2014 through 2017, and he’s doing his best to rid his club of a problem that, in the view of most, will also help Carmelo Anthony go a long way toward establishing the sort of basketball legacy that tends to turn the worm for observers like Phil Jackson.
Don’t ever forget that it’s not just about Knick wins with Phil – how could it be? This man still wants to lead you to basketball salvation.
For Carmelo Anthony, Phil will try it one hint at a time, during infrequent stops in front of the media. Every trickle of influence helps, in MSG’s eyes at least, and while the rhetoric was a little calmer this time around it’s apparent that the NBPA’s position on Phil Jackson’s role in easing Carmelo out of New York isn’t exactly taking too much of a toll on the Knick president.
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