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Mar 19, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks new president Phil Jackson sits in the stands during the first quarter of a game against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Are Phil Jackson And Carmelo Anthony On The Same Page?

If Phil Jackson truly wants Carmelo Anthony to remain with the New York Knicks, he’s certainly not bending over backwards to keep him.

The Triangle vs. Iso-Melo

Perhaps that’s because Jackson’s ideal vision for how an offense should run isn’t exactly in sync with the way Anthony (as good as he is) sometimes plays.

Jackson’s proven, time-tested triangle offense is predicated on ball and player movement and good floor spacing.

Anthony isn’t against that philosophy, but as Jackson pointed out long before he became the Knicks’ president in March, when Anthony doesn’t have confidence that his teammates can make a shot, the basketball will sometimes stay in Anthony’s hands until he places the burden of making that shot himself.

A player and coach disagreeing with on-court philosophy is one thing. Even Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, despite being a main factor in six of the NBA-record 11 titles won by Jackson as a head coach, sulked and refused to take the floor for the final seconds of a 1994 playoff win by the Chicago Bulls over Jackson’s current team, when Jackson chose forward Toni Kukoc over Pippen to take the potential winning shot — and that was after Jackson and Pippen had already won three league championships together.

Being at odds off the court, especially when the player in question is a the backbone of the franchise and has the option to leave his team high and dry via free agency, however, is different.

And that might be where Jackson and Anthony are now, or possibly headed.

Jackson’s Half-Hearted Pitch

Since Jackson returned to the city where he won his only two championships as a player (more than four decades ago), he has:

  • Asked Anthony to take less money to stay in New York, even though Jackson is being paid the hefty sum of $60 million over five years to creatively figure out a way to keep Anthony and improve the roster around him.
  • Assured Anthony that his first choice to become the Knicks’ next head coach, Steve Kerr, was on his way to New York, only to have to Anthony and everyone else see Kerr sign a deal to coach the Golden State Warriors.
  • Publicly stated that regardless of whether the Knicks retain Anthony or not, the Knicks “would be just fine” and that he’s “not losing sleep” over Anthony’s pending free agency.
  • Most recently, asked Anthony to delay his free agency at least a year, knowing full well that Anthony, who turned 30 last week, and who will be entering his 12th NBA season in the fall, said in April, “I’m not at a point in my career where I want to rebuild.”

None of the above instances necessarily suggest that Jackson is off to a bad start as the Knicks’ president, but they also don’t imply that Jackson is rolling out the welcome wagon for Anthony’s return.

Imagine if Miami Heat president Pat Riley said his team wouldn’t be hurt that much if LeBron James left Miami, or if Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti wasn’t concerned with having any restless nights if he knew Kevin Durant might leave his team.

Granted, as a player, Anthony isn’t par with James, and arguably not with Durant (although that comparison is a lot closer), but he’s still far and away the best talent New York can put on the floor at the moment.

Tell Us How You Really Feel, Phil

How Jackson truly feels about Anthony remaining a Knick seems to be a bit of a mystery that only Jackson himself knows for sure.

Thus far as the Knicks’ president, he’s given mixed signals when it comes to Anthony — the kind which imply that Jackson wants to keep Anthony, but only on a strict budget; and that if the cost gets too steep to rebuild around Anthony, Jackson might be just as happy to see Anthony go and start over, completely from scratch (even though finding another scorer of Anthony’s caliber would be a lot easier said than done).

As the Knicks’ president, Jackson has complimented Anthony, calling him “maybe the best individual isolation player in the game” while saying that Anthony is a part of the team’s future plans.

However, Jackson has also said that there is a lot that Anthony can do to improve his game.

To his credit, Anthony has acknowledged Jackson’s championship achievements, and still seeking his own NBA title for a first time, noted that he’s willing to adapt his style of play. He also said he’s open to the idea of accepting less money if it improves the Knicks’ chances of constructing a legitimate contender that might secure Anthony’s first ring.

Yet the fact that Anthony has been so cooperative with his words thus far makes it even more puzzling that Jackson can be so complimentary of Anthony on some occasions and at other times, sound so luke-warm on whether he thinks the Knicks really need Anthony’s services in order to build a winner.

Before Jackson gets to the task of filling out such a roster — with or without Anthony — he needs to decide on his fallback plan on who will coach it, with Kerr no longer a part of those plans.

That seems to be yet another point of contention between Jackson and Anthony, who said last month that he would embrace the idea of playing for ex-Knick star Mark Jackson, after Jackson was replaced out west, by Kerr.

The Knicks’ Jackson, though, doesn’t appear sold on that notion at all, despite the regular season (and to some degree) playoff success Golden State’s Jackson had.

He instead appears ready to go down the line of former triangle system candidates (with no prior coaching experience) which he has coached before, when they were players. Thus, Jackson is getting ready to talk to Derek Fisher about New York’s coaching vacancy this week.

How that goes and how Jackson continues to talk about Anthony as a team executive might discuss a second, third or fourth option rather than as a club’s marquee player, might be enough to push Anthony out the door and head for other destinations like Houston or Chicago.

But maybe without completely and openly admitting it, that’s all part of Jackson’s long-term plan anyway.

Tags: Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Phil Jackson

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