NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony had a half-season of clues about what Phil Jackson thought of him, and now it was his turn to evaluate his boss.
Anthony had trumpeted his trust in Jackson when he re-signed in 2014 and reaffirmed it months later, even as Jackson continued trading away key players from the best team Anthony ever played on in New York.
Reminded of that recently and asked if he still trusted Jackson, Anthony stopped well short.
“I trust the process,” he said, mimicking Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The process isn’t going well for Jackson in New York.
The Knicks are 23-34, 12th in the Eastern Conference and on pace to miss the playoffs for the third time in Jackson’s three full seasons as president of basketball operations. He’s made his relationship with Anthony worse and hasn’t made the Knicks better, and a guy who could do little wrong as a coach just can’t get it right as an executive.
Maybe Jackson can swing a trade to fix things before Thursday’s deadline.
Or maybe he’ll just never fix the Knicks.
If Jackson is planning anything, it remains a mystery. He hasn’t spoken to reporters covering the Knicks since his preseason press conference in September – backtracking from his vow to be accessible when he took the job – and isn’t expected to before the deadline. He has made only three postings on Twitter all season.
Yet he’s still made plenty of noise.
He angered LeBron James by referring to his friends and business partners as a “posse” in an ESPN story. And he upset some of the league’s other power players with his actions toward Anthony – which could prove damaging when trying to lure free agents. Jackson has either appeared to endorse or refused to distance himself from articles criticizing his best player and has largely cut off communication between them – after saying when he was hired that he planned to focus on “how players are treated” and “the kind of culture that’s built.”
Hall of Fame finalist Tracy McGrady told reporters this weekend he couldn’t remain quiet the way Anthony has.
“I’m not going to let you disrespect (me) in the public’s eye like that,” McGrady said. “You’re not going to be sending subliminal messages about me like that and I don’t respond to that. I don’t operate like that. I’m just not going to do it. And then you hide and don’t do any media? You leave everything for me to talk about? Nah, that’s not cool.”
Jackson retains the support of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, who said in a recent ESPN Radio interview that he would not fire Jackson during the two-plus years that remain on his contract. (Both sides have an option to terminate the deal after this season).
Dolan didn’t even express much disappointment in the results, even though the Knicks had their worst season ever in Jackson’s first season and are 72-149 since the start of 2014-15.
“He was the best guy we thought we could find to run the New York Knicks,” Dolan said.
Maybe if he’d been hiring Jackson to coach, as Jackson’s 11 championships are a record for coaches. But there were questions about how he would do as an executive with no experience, and the answers haven’t been good.
He fired Mike Woodson and replaced him with first-time coach Derek Fisher, who lasted just 1 1/2 years. Starters Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton were traded in one deal, and J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert went in another early the next season. They were all mainstays on the Knicks team that won 54 games and reached the second round of the playoffs not even two years before Jackson was hired in March 2014.
Now all that’s left is Anthony, and it certainly seems Jackson wants him gone, too. He would have to find a workable deal, hard enough given the 32-year-old Anthony’s salary and age, then get him to waive the no-trade clause he gave Anthony when he re-signed him.
If not, maybe Jackson himself would leave this summer – though Dolan said he had no indication that was the 71-year-old Jackson’s plan. But he insists he can’t coach for health reasons and doesn’t appear to enjoy scouting and dealing with agents, essential parts of his job.
He must be disheartened that the work he put into this team hasn’t paid off. Jackson hired Jeff Hornacek to open up the offense after two years of his favored triangle, traded for Derrick Rose, and signed free agents Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings. None has sparked a turnaround, and drafting Kristaps Porzingis remains Jackson’s only inarguable success.
Jackson played on the last championship Knicks team in 1973 and said when he was hired what it would mean to build another winner here.
“It would be a capstone on the remarkable career that I’ve had,” Jackson said.
There’s still time for that.
But these days, Anthony probably isn’t the only one who no longer trusts in Jackson.