Report: Phil Jackson’s mind games have Carmelo Anthony wanting to stay a Knick

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It was maybe Phil Jackson’s greatest gift as a coach. Every great coach — from Red Auerbach through Gregg Popovich — has the ability to get his players to buy into a system, to sacrifice for the good of the team. Jackson’s gift, through his ability to read people and play mind games, was to get the players to think it was their own idea. Everyone pours more into something they think is their own idea, rather than one handed down from on high.

However, it’s one thing to play mind games as a coach, in the room with the players every day where they can see you and respond to you. It’s another to do it from a distance as a team president.

Jackson’s recent efforts to get Carmelo Anthony to want to bolt New York and offer to waive his no-trade clause are making it more likely Anthony stays, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“[Jackson’s underestimating ‘Melo’s willingness to stay,” a source familiar with Anthony’s thinking told The Vertical…

Anthony has privately told teammates, too: He refuses to let Jackson run him out of the Knicks. The Knicks have contacted three teams – the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers – about possible Anthony trades. The Clippers and Cavaliers have interest, but only in cobbling together packages that include role players, league sources told The Vertical….

Jackson has resisted a transparent approach of simply meeting with Anthony and his representative and telling them that the organization prefers to trade him and wants to work to find an agreeable solution. That approach might have convinced Anthony to be more open to accepting a trade, league sources said, but Jackson’s insistence on public over private communication has severely damaged the relationship – likely beyond repair.

Because he has a no-trade clause, Anthony has the power. That’s a no-trade clause that Jackson gave him in the last contract negotiations, although how much of that was Jackson’s desire and how much of that came from owner James Dolan depends on who you ask.

Jackson’s public motivational tactics served him well as a coach, but in a different era and in a different role it’s not been the same in New York. Few expect Jackson to be able to find a deal by the Feb. 23 trade deadline, although this talk could be re-opened around the draft or next July. Jackson needs to have a direct conversation with Anthony and his representatives about what he wants to do.

The problem is, Anthony is 33, his game is heavy on isolation on one end and he’s not great defense on the other, his skills are starting to fade, and he is owed $50.6 million over the two seasons after this one (player option on the 2018-19 season) — plus don’t forget a 15 percent trade kicker if he is moved. No team in contention — most notably the Cavaliers, Clippers, or Celtics — are going to give up real value to take Anthony on. Look at it this way, if I were in the Cavs front office and Jackson calls about an Anthony for Kevin Love swap, I’m going to want at least a first-round pick and maybe Courtney Lee too in the deal. And even then I’m hesitant. Love is the better player right now and especially going forward. The Cavs aren’t about to make that deal straight up.

Jackson has put himself in this corner. Meanwhile on the court, the Knicks have fallen to 22-31, the 12 seed in the East and 2.5 games out of the last playoff slot.