‘Dysfunction’ could alienate Kristaps Porzingis right off of Knicks
Carmelo Anthony is an All-Star again, and it could be his final game representing the Knicks.
The Knicks approach the All-Star break and Thursday’s trade deadline clearly interested in dealing Anthony, who has a no-trade clause, and ending a doomed partnership with team president Phil Jackson.
“It’s what would be in the mutual interest of both parties to move him and start to go in another direction looking toward the future,” SiriusXM analyst Tim Legler said. “From Carmelo’s standpoint, if he wants to play meaningful basketball games, it should be clear to him it’s going to be a while before that happens in New York, if ever.”
But Anthony has been hesitant to yield his right to stay in New York as pressure mounts from the tweet-happy Jackson and as the Knicks descend into the abyss once again. No matter what the return is for Anthony — Legler suggests a starting-caliber player and a first-round pick is reasonable — trading him has to turn into a fresh start for the franchise with Kristaps Porzingis as its face.
“It’s time they start cleaning up their act a little bit,” said Legler, who suggested the Knicks have to take whatever they can get for Anthony at this point. “Otherwise, they might lose him when it’s his turn to re-sign if he continues to look around and see this chaos that is going on from a personnel standpoint to stuff off the court.
“It just seems like a dysfunctional franchise in terms of how they communicate with each other from top to bottom. They have to start to show him that moving forward they can put a team around him and a healthy environment.”
Aside from drafting Porzingis in 2015, Jackson has failed miserably to build around Anthony through free agency and trades. Each splashy move (Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose) has brought different levels of disappointment and the same losing mentality.
Can he and the team do better with Porzingis as the centerpiece?
Kevin McHale knows the challenge well. The Hall of Famer took over a moribund Timberwolves franchise in 1995 and selected Kevin Garnett in the NBA draft. Around Garnett, the Timberwolves were a perennial playoff team for a decade, going as far as the 2004 Western Confer“You can be a guy who just gets crushed by the weight of the franchise, the media expectations and the way you are treated. That’s scary to guys. It’s one thing to be on a losing team, another to be in an unhealthy environment and I think that’s what guys worry about more than anything else.”ence Finals.
But McHale still laments the tricky roster decisions that come with building around a budding star.
“We brought in Stephon Marbury, thinking he and Kevin were good friends and that kind of blew up …,” said McHale, whose lengthy interview with Garnett will air on TNT on Monday night. “If you have a vibe when everyone is in unison, you can get through these tough times. Phil really believes in that, he coached that way. Now he has to find the players that will buy in. If you want to win a championship, your top player has to make everyone better.”
The Knicks are hopeful Porzingis is that player. Jackson has a few months before free agency to show that the Latvian big man is not the only good decision he is capable of making as a team president. If he cannot, the job of rebuilding around Porzingis becomes nearly impossible in the two years Jackson has left on his five-year, $60 million deal.
“It is fair to say that potential free agents are looking at this situation, and saying this is not a stable boat right now,” Legler said. “It’s not something you just get over and forget about it. … Even though Phil Jackson came to New York as a storied coach, his aura is not there right now because of what has gone on. … I think guys are a little bit afraid of what happens in New York if they come.