Basketball News

Jackson vs Carmelo: Interiors of the conflict that the rebuilding of the Knicks hastened

It is difficult to remember today. However, there was a time when Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson had a relatively normal relationship. Shortly after the New York Knicks hired Jackson as president, Anthony said he was willing to do everything Jackson asked of him to build a winning franchise in New York. Almost at the same time, Jackson described Anthony as a great player with another level to reach: “I hope that together, with the team we are going to create, I can get there.” Less than four years later, Anthony and Jackson found themselves stuck in one of the most dysfunctional marriages in NBA history. Strange public criticism, organizational politics, loss of confidence: everything played its part in the horrible end of Anthony and Jackson’s relationship in New York.

Now, with the Knicks showing an amazing record of 16-14 and eighth in the Eastern Conference, there are reasons for the resurgence of optimism in New York. After Anthony’s negotiation with the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the start of the training camp, Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as a leader of a young group. Until last Tuesday, he was ninth in scoring in the NBA and third in blocks per game. “Everyone seems to feel a little lighter,” said a source linked to the team. “The drama created by Phil with Carmelo really affected the team and its happiness,” said another source with direct knowledge of the dynamics between Phil and Carmelo. The “happiness factor” seems to be back, after the immense dark cloud that surrounded the team seems to have dissipated.
We talked with coaches, executives and agents close to the Knicks during the Anthony and Jackson period to get a look at what happened behind the scenes and understand how their link imploded during the last season they were together.

1. The desire to leave Anthony
Several members of the Knicks organization were convinced during the summer of 2015 that the team would be better off negotiating with Anthony to build the team around Kristaps Porzingis. A little more than 12 months later, the sentiment was almost unanimous among all the Knicks officials with the ability to make decisions. “Everyone agreed to try to get rid of Carmelo,” as described by a source with knowledge of the subject. “The feeling in the meetings was almost unanimous: They thought he was not a winning player, they thought they could change everything if they dispatched him.” Several of the executives who wanted Anthony’s departure were precisely the ones who supported him extensively during the beginning of his stay in the Big Apple.
Anthony was fully aware of this, and it was one of the things that bothered him most about the organization, according to people close to his environment. When the executives acted as if they were still on Anthony’s side during their in-person interactions with the player, it was clear that everything was a facade.

2. Without love for the triangle
Three weeks after the start of the season, executives, coaches and players of the Knicks gathered for a rally in full practice. Jackson was present along with members of the management and coaching staff. However, the players took the floor for the most part. What was the topic that received the most attention? The offensive triangular style. At least two veterans of the team told Jackson directly that the offense was not working (and never would) because this scheme did not put the players in a position that they could take advantage of and be successful. Jackson defended his offensive scheme and eventually left the meeting annoying, according to a source. Several players and coaching staff members had heard their opponents say they loved to score on the Knicks’ offense because they knew exactly where their players would be located. “They could predict it,” commented a rival to a friend.
The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, did not change things much. The Knicks again managed an offensive scheme with strong emphasis on the triangle during the season. Jackson regularly came to the court during practice to indicate certain points regarding the offense, interrupting and essentially disavowing coach Jeff Hornacek. It was one of the many things that bothered Anthony, according to people linked to the organization.
Anthony, through a representative, declined to comment for this article. A Jackson representative did not respond to our requests for comments.


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