By Grant Hill
It’s that time of year again at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, better known as Madison Square Garden. It happens around this time almost every year. The ceiling is caving in, the team is in disarray and people are running around pointing fingers, blaming everyone from the front office to the people working at the concession stands.
The past week for the New York Knicks has kicked open the door to a bevy of issues concerning both the team’s current and future plans. Between the handful of heartbreaking last minute losses, multiple social media mishaps from team members and a dreadful record of 3-12 to begin 2017, the biggest headline has involved star forward Carmelo Anthony.
In past years, rumors of the Knicks potentially moving on from Anthony have always managed to surface at some point or another, only to be shot down by the fact that Anthony’s contract includes a no-trade clause. However, this time around, it seems that both sides (Knicks management and Anthony himself) are beginning to take this idea seriously.
Recently, Anthony made comments to Al Iannazzone of Newsday about a potential break-up from New York: “I think it will be more on the front office. I have the power, but still I would talk to them,” said Anthony. “We would be in communication if they feel like they want to go in a different direction, they want to start rebuilding for the future. If they tell me they want to scrap this whole thing, yeah, I have to consider it.”
The key comment to take away from this statement is when Anthony says, “I have the power.” According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, league sources have confirmed that a number of the organization’s members believe it’s time that they end this relationship. However, there is very little that those members, including team president Phil Jackson, can do to actually make that happen. It all rest in the hands of Carmelo Anthony, which should scare both management and the fan base.
To begin with, when Phil Jackson resigned Carmelo Anthony in the summer of 2014, he included a no-trade clause within Anthony’s $124 million contract. This allows Anthony to veto any possible trades that he doesn’t want to be included in. Recently, members of the media have reported that Anthony has only a few destinations in mind, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers. If Anthony decides to waive his no-trade clause, Knicks management will have very little wiggle room to work with, seeing as Anthony likely only wants to play for a handful of other teams.
With Anthony holding the power to pick where he can be traded, this in turn effects the package the Knicks can receive back for him. For example: a small market, mediocre team could offer a great package for Anthony, including some good draft picks and maybe a solid player or two, but Anthony will more than likely shoot it down. He wants to go to a competitive, big market team. Another example: Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Clippers want to make deal with the Knicks for the star forward. The Clippers and Knicks front office talk, and they agree on a Blake Griffin-Carmelo Anthony swap (not likely, but just go with it). The Knicks come back to Anthony with this trade proposal that they believe will make him happy because it’s a team he wants to go to. But Anthony responded, “I want to go to LA and play with Blake Griffin, no deal.” What this means is that if the Knicks are able to trade Anthony, there is the possibility that they will receive very little in return.
Lastly, Anthony’s skill set has diminished from what it was in years past. Along with that, he has an outrageously large contract that includes a 15 percent kicker if he does decide to waive his no-trade clause. Once again, this gives the Knicks very little room to work with. Not many teams are going to want to take on a player with that kind of contract who is clearly past his prime.
Carmelo Anthony has found himself in a peculiar situation. He stands as one of the most powerful players in the NBA. Not because of his skills on the court, but because he has positioned himself to be able to set up his future exactly how he wants it to go.