Carmelo Anthony’s career appears to be at a crossroads.
The New York Knicks have missed the playoffs four straight years and are overdue for a rebuild.
However, in order to begin rebuilding, the Knicks would be wise to trade Anthony, whose large contract and ball-dominant style would be an awkward fit with a young, rebuilding team.
Anthony has been resistant to trades, despite the Knicks shopping him and team president Phil Jackson recently saying Anthony “would be better off somewhere else.” Anthony holds a no-trade clause that allows him to veto any trade in which he’s involved.
Now, with Anthony in a public duel with Jackson, and TMZ reporting Anthony has split with his wife LaLa Anthony, his future seems less clear than ever. Anthony could choose to dig in with the Knicks in hopes of turning the team around, or he could accept a trade, likely to a contender, and chase a championship ring over the final stages of his career.
If Anthony’s time with the Knicks is indeed over, it’s been one of the wildest rides in the NBA over the last six years. Here’s a look back at the up-and-down journey.
Carmelo Anthony joined the Knicks in February 2011 by essentially forcing the Denver Nuggets to trade him.
Anthony was an impending free agent and wanted to join the Knicks, who had just signed star power forward Amar’e Stoudemire months earlier. Anthony had money at stake by being traded as opposed to becoming a free agent and was threatening to accept a trade elsewhere if the Knicks did not make an offer. The Knicks, Nuggets, Wolves eventually agreed to a massive trade, thus ending the “Melo-drama.”
Anthony and Stoudemire did not click right away, and the Knicks went 14-14 after the trade, getting the sixth seed in the East.
The Knicks matched up with the Celtics in the first round and were promptly swept in four games, though not due to a lack of effort from Anthony. With Stoudemire injured for Game 2, Anthony delivered a playoff classic, scoring 42 points with 17 rebounds and six assists, albeit in a losing effort.
In the summer of 2011, the NBA had a lockout that lasted into November.
The NBA and players finally resolved it, leading the season to start on December 25. When the lockout ended, the Knicks signed Tyson Chandler, leading some to appoint the Knicks as the new “Big Three.”
The Knicks’ 2011-12 season got off to a rough start. Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler had no chemistry, and the team looked like a mess.
Through the first 21 games of the season, the Knicks went 8-13, looking dead in the water until the most unlikely player saved the season…
LINSANITY! With Anthony and Stoudemire both injured, the Knicks turned to third-string point guard Jeremy Lin one random game, looking for some energy, never guessing what would happen next.
Lin, of course, became a national phenomenon, saving not only his own career (he was days away from being cut) but the Knicks season. The team went 10-5 in February without their two biggest stars as Lin stole the show.
When Anthony returned to the court, he and Lin struggled to co-exist. Reports indicated Anthony was not a fan of the limelight Lin was taking from him.
The team struggled again, and Lin later got hurt.
Amid another rough patch, a power struggle emerged between Anthony and head coach Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni later resigned, and the team promoted Mike Woodson to head coach. The Knicks took off, with Anthony giving maximum effort playing power forward in a small-ball lineup. Anthony averaged 30 points, seven rebounds, and three assists per game as the Knicks went 9-4 to close the season.
In fact, Anthony had what some consider his signature moment with the Knicks during that stretch.
In an Easter showdown with the Chicago Bulls, Anthony poured in 43 points, hitting both the game-tying three-pointer to force overtime, then the game-winning three-pointer in OT.
However, the red-hot Knicks then ran into a superior Heat team in the playoffs and were dispatched in five games.
Anthony did have a strong Game 4, scoring 41 points with the go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds to give the Knicks their first postseason win since 2001.
That offseason set up more Anthony-Lin drama. With Lin a free agent, many assumed the Knicks would re-sign him at all costs.
Instead, Lin was offered a three-year, $25 million contract by the Rockets. When asked if the Knicks should match it, Anthony scoffed and called it “ridiculous.” Lin left the Knicks for the Rockets.
Without Lin, the Knicks moved forward with a plan that included trading for Raymond Felton and signing veterans like Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace.
The plan seemed to work. Still using Anthony as a small-ball power forward – an innovative move at the time – the Knicks lit the NBA on fire with a barrage of three-pointers. They would finish the season 54-28, second in the East.
Anthony’s 2012-13 season even earned him some MVP votes.
Anthony averaged 28.7 points per game on 45% shooting, 38% from three, with seven rebounds per game, putting together one of his finest overall seasons for a surprising Knicks team.
After beating the Celtics in the first round for their first postseason series win in 13 years, the Knicks ran into a stout Pacers team.
Anthony and the Knicks were locked up by the Pacers and couldn’t find an answer to their size and physicality. Famously, Roy Hibbert had a game-changing block on an Anthony dunk attempt in Game 6 that crushed the Knicks’ momentum. They were eliminated by Indiana.
That offseason, things unraveled for the Knicks. Kidd, Thomas, Camby, and Wallace all retired or left the team.
Furthermore, the Knicks made an ill-advised trade with the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani, giving up a first-round pick in the process. The Knicks believed Bargnani could stretch the floor and make the Pacers pay in a potential rematch. In reality, Bargnani was a poor three-point shooter the Raptors were eager to get rid of.
The Knicks struggled out of the gates and never recuperated.
- Getty Images
In the midst of a losing season, the Knicks made a huge hire, luring Phil Jackson out of retirement to be president of basketball operations with a reported five-year, $60 million contract.
After finishing 37-45, Jackson fired Mike Woodson and hired Derek Fisher, one of Jackson’s former players, despite having no coaching experience.
The Knicks struggled right away in the 2014-15 season, and soon turned to tanking.
They traded Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cavaliers for little in return, then shut Anthony down after just 40 games to get knee surgery. The team finished a franchise-worst 17-65 record.
After tanking, the Knicks made a franchise-changing call on draft night, picking a little-known, 7-foot-3, 20-year-old from Latvia named Kristaps Porzingis.
Jackson also made some subtle, solid moves in free agency, signing the likes of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, and Derrick Williams.
Anthony and Porzingis clicked right away, and the Knicks got off to a solid 22-22 start. However, they hit a rough patch in January, losing 13 of 15 games, tumbling out of the playoff race.
- Kevin C. Cox/Getty
Jackson fired Fisher, reportedly due to a lack of dedication on his triangle offense and for an ugly off-court incident. He promoted Kurt Rambis to head coach and the team finished just 32-50, missing the playoffs for the third straight year.
Without a draft pick, Jackson made a sudden shift in the summer of 2016. He hired Jeff Hornacek as head coach, traded for Derrick Rose, and committed $132 million to Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee.
Though fit and health were questions, the Knicks were also clearly more talented on paper. The expectation was they would compete for a playoff spot, with Anthony and Porzingis rounding out a talented starting five.
Early into the season, despite the team playing fairly well, Jackson and Anthony began butting heads.
Jackson first made an ill-advised comment about Anthony’s good friend LeBron James, referring to James and his “posse” in an interview with ESPN. Jackson later criticized Anthony in a CBS interview, saying he holds the ball too long. Anthony was reportedly annoyed by the comments.
As the Knicks season spiraled downhill, trade rumors around Anthony began to swirl.
The Knicks reportedly reached out to the Cavaliers, Clippers, and Celtics about trades for Anthony, but nothing went through. Anthony maintained he would like to stay in New York, but said he was never approached by the Knicks about a trade.
Meanwhile, Jackson kept poking the bear. In February, Jackson responded to an article by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding with an inscrutable tweet about knowing he can’t change a leopard’s spots.
Many interpreted the tweet as a shot at Anthony.
The Knicks finished the season a game worse than 2015-16 at 31-51, despite on the on-paper improvements.
Anthony, obviously was not traded. People wondered, however, if Anthony had played his final game for the Knicks.
Jackson only further fueled speculation during his season-ending press conference when he said Anthony “would be better off somewhere else.”
Anthony responded on Instagram with a caption that said “REALLY” and two crying-laughing emojis. The NBPA, of which Anthony is vice president, later responded criticizing admonishing Jackson for speaking openly about trading a player, which players under contract are forbidden to do.
Further fueling speculation about Anthony’s future in New York was a TMZ report on Monday that said Anthony and his wife LaLa have split.
Anthony has stated his family is a big reason for wanting to stay in New York, and LaLa, a TV personality, would benefit from being in New York. If the two are separated, would Anthony finally accept a trade to another team?
It’s unclear what Anthony intends to do.
He may decide to stay in New York and wait out Phil Jackson, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Or, Anthony may finally be ready to start a new chapter of his career. Either way, it should be an interesting offseason for the Knicks.
Now, check out the teams that passed over Isaiah Thomas in the 2011 NBA Draft…
- Maddie Meyer/Getty