The New York Knicks seem to be headed towards another lost season if things don’t change quickly. They can blame a lot of things and people, but Phil Jackson signing Carmelo Anthony to a four-year extension in 2014 is the biggest problem this team has; a problem they can’t solve until Anthony himself decides he wants to leave.
After a 118-112 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in January, the Knicks were 14-10, the most they’ve been above .500 this season. Since then, they’ve won just four games, losing 13. From being another step closer to becoming the contender Phil Jackson envisioned, the Knicks look like a broken group. Jeff Hornacek looks hopeless in regards to the Knicks ever playing good on defense. Rose kinda called his coach out, saying he needs to be tougher on his players when it comes to their defensive problems. That’s not a good sign.
Meanwhile, Anthony is letting the pressure from the press and the fans get to him. Trade rumors with Anthony’s name linked to them are nothing new, but his reaction to more questions about the subject (If they feel like my time in New York is over I guess that’s a conversation we should have) sounds a little bit like him possibly willing to waive his no-trade clause. Other rumors suggest Anthony will only allow a trade to the Clippers or the Cavaliers, but I don’t see a reason both teams make a move for him, or having the pieces the Knicks would want.
More than the defensive and chemistry problems, the Knicks issues stem from the fact that this team is still built around Anthony, a player who won’t change, who’ll never change. It might have been an unpopular move to start his tenure with, but letting Anthony walk would have made things a lot easier in the future. Signing Anthony to a four year extension hurt the team’s flexibility to acquire players in free agency, while keeping Anthony at the top of the player’s pyramid, when it’s clear he can’t be the #1 player on a championship team, nor is he someone who makes way for up & coming players, let alone help make them better.
The Knicks have some idea of a future with Kristaps Porzingis, and other offseason moves they made weren’t that bad. But it’s hard to keep an organization functioning properly when the face of the franchise is a declining offense-only player, who has never showed any willingness to sacrifice for the team, work too hard on defense or adapt his game in order to fit a style that could be better than what he himself forces on the team.
Maybe the Knicks turn this around and storm back into playoff contention. Right now it doesn’t look very likely, not in the coming week or two. And if the Knicks don’t make the playoffs this season, making it four in a row and their third since Jackson become the team’s puppet master for $10 million a season, we’ll start hearing more and more voices from the team calling Jackson out, and Anthony himself, who has become more of an obstacle than an aid to the goals this team has set for himself. A very good player, never a great one, should never have been put in such a position. The Knicks have made other mistakes over the last few years, consistent with how they’ve been run for most of the last 15, but attaching themselves to Anthony well beyond his prime years is a mistake they might still pay for in years to come.