Phil Jackson sent messages through the media, tried to keep players off-balance, and simply handled a lot of guys over the course of his Hall of Fame career the way he has handled Carmelo Anthony the past year. Jackson knows it’s time to move on from the ‘Melo era — Anthony understands that as well — so he used tactics that worked in the past, all but saying he wants Anthony to accept a trade.
But it plays differently when you’re a coach, around the players and in the room with them daily, than when you’re a team president speaking from an ivory tower. If anything, Jackson has generated more sympathy for Anthony.
As evidence of that, look what legendary Knicks point guard Mark Jackson said Tuesday, speaking on a conference call about the NBA Finals (where he will be a broadcaster).
“Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, not just basketball, but in sports. I can say that definitively. I can also look at the numbers and say as the guy running the New York Knicks, he’s done a poor job. When you look at the results, he’s been a failure thus far. Carmelo Anthony is an outstanding basketball player who has handled himself remarkably during these last couple years. Like Jeff said, at the end of the day, he negotiated a no-trade clause. I think you’re going about it the wrong way trying to force him out. He has all the power, and he’s taken full advantage of it.”
Not surprisingly, Mark Jackson is protecting a star player. But he’s not wrong, either.
Whether it was Jackson who okayed it or it was on orders from owner James Dolan, the fact is Anthony has a no-trade clause. Which means if you want to move him you have to work with him, hand-in-hand with his agent. Jackson is not going to bully Anthony into just waiving his no-trade clause so he can be shipped off to Orlando or wherever for prospects — Anthony will want to pick-and-choose where he goes, and it will be a contender (or a team he thinks he can make a contender). Those kinds of deals may be out there, but they will not be delicate to put together and take patience.
I’m not sure I can write Jackson off as a “failure” yet, he did draft Kristaps Porzingis, and that gives him the chance to build a foundation for this franchise to win for years going forward. However, his handling of players and insistence on the triangle offense — well, at times he insists, as he didn’t hire a coach for that system and they have tried to play other ways as well — keeps cutting off hope of progress at the knees. Maybe he rights the ship.
However, so far Mark Jackson is pretty spot on with his assessment.