Phil Jackson appeared to set the stage for a possible Carmelo Anthony trade during a press conference on Friday.
Jackson was asked about the possibility of exploring trades for Anthony after trade rumors swirled throughout the season.
Jackson said the team hasn’t won with Anthony and that Anthony “would be better off somewhere else.”
“We’ve not been able to win with [Anthony] on the court at this time,” Jackson said. “I think the direction with our team is that he’s a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”
Jackson also said that he told Anthony in his exit interview that Anthony shouldn’t want losing to define his career.
The comments seemed to be another move to push Anthony out the door. Anthony holds a no-trade clause, meaning he can approve or shoot down any potential trades. During the season, it was reported that Anthony would listen to trade offers, but perhaps only to big-market teams with a shot at contending. Though reports said the Knicks explored trading Anthony to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers, Anthony told reporters he was never approached with a trade.
According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, Anthony prefers to remain in New York, but wants a commitment from management to winning immediately. Begley reported that Anthony is “strongly leaning” toward waiving his no-trade clause this offseason if he’s presented with a trade.
Anthony, however, didn’t seem to approve of Jackson’s comments, posting a suggestive Instagram with the caption “REALLY” shortly after Jackson’s press conference.
For the Knicks, the situation only continues to get messier between Jackson and Anthony. During the press conference, Jackson also implied that Anthony led the “resistance” against implementing Jackson’s triangle offense during the season.
Jackson was also asked about his cryptic midseason tweet when he said he learned he cannot change a leopard’s spots when referring to Anthony’s game. Jackson said the comment was misconstrued, and said Anthony is an “elite” scorer and has had a Hall of Fame career, though he didn’t praise other parts of Anthony’s game or walk back earlier comments about Anthony holding the ball for too long.
While Jackson’s comments about the possibility of a trade were his most candid yet, he still seems to be tiptoeing around the situation. Jackson also said on Friday that he believes the Knicks can strike balance between signing veterans to help the team win now and developing younger players to set up a brighter future. Jackson appeared to try that same approach the last last two seasons, and the team finished 32-50 and 31-51.
Jackson and Anthony, if it hasn’t happened already, will need to sit down and iron out their future plans at some point. Though Jackson certainly sounded willing to move on from Anthony during his press conference, if the comments caught Anthony by surprise, then perhaps both sides need to be clearer about the plan going forward.