Uncertainty Behind Carmelo Anthony’s Future

For the time being, Carmelo Anthony remains a Knick.

Carmelo Anthony’s departure from New York will occur as swiftly as his arrival, in that it won’t be swift at all. The New York Knicks have been exploring their options for three months, through two front office regimes, with one goal: getting a healthy return. Under the former regime, options of buying out Anthony were considered and his list of preferred trade destinations was twice as big as it is today. However, the turmoil that unraveled in Cleveland quickly cut the list in half putting the Houston Rockets in the driver seat.

The Past

Leading into the offseason, most were aware of Anthony’s situation in New York as Phil Jackson continued to alienate his star. And while it became known that Anthony wanted out of New York, there was uncertainty as to whether or not the organization would trade him, given his no-trade clause. The clause allows Anthony to veto any trade proposal, essentially limiting the sort of return the Knicks may be capable of getting. Thus, Jackson weighed his many options. But as Jackson contemplated what to do, it quickly became clear that he may not even be around to make such a decision. Tensions were building between Jackson and owner James Dolan. A team source informed the Hoops Inquirer that it seemed as if Jackson was trying to get himself fired, initiating his own departure from the organization. As the situation continued to develop, all decisions regarding Anthony came to a halt until June 28th.

On June 28th, the New York Knicks relieved Jackson of his duties, as the Hoops Inquirer had reported they would a week earlier. Within hours, we learned the Knicks, then being run by GM Steve Mills, had engaged the Houston Rockets in trade talks regarding Carmelo Anthony. Mills, unlike Jackson, was and remains persistent on putting an end to the Anthony Era and moving forward. The Rockets were the only team Anthony was willing to accept a trade to, so the Knicks had done their part.

The pressure was now on the Rockets to find a third team willing to help in such exchange, the single task that has complicated the logistics of this trade all off-season. It has been a particularly difficult task because someone has to swallow Ryan Anderson‘s contract (3-years, $60 million left) in order to make room for Anthony. The Knicks have refused to do so, leaving it on the third team involved—the same team that will gain the least from the deal—to have to deal with Anderson’s contract. After various attempts to find a willing third team, Houston found one.

Carmelo Anthony was almost a Rocket.

The Portland Trail Blazers were the third team involved in a deal that would have sent Carmelo Anthony to Houston. The deal was very close to being completed, having even been sent through the league office and some players were informed of their new destinations. The nearly agreed upon deal was first reported by Jesus Rodriguez on July 8th. Five days later, we reported on the details of the deal. The Houston Rockets would acquire Carmelo Anthony, the Portland Trail Blazers would acquire Ryan Anderson and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and the New York Knicks would acquire Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard and a second rounder.

All three sides were fairly content until the leadership changed in New York. The Knicks brought in Scott Perry shortly after, who would take over as GM (as Steve Mills ascended to President of Basketball Operations). The deal was quickly axed due to New York not receiving a first round pick, a condition Perry has been adamant about. Everything has been stale ever since.

The Present

Currently, the situation around Anthony in New York has come to a standstill. With the Portland deal off the table, some teams have expressed interest in helping to facilitate a deal that sends Anthony to Houston. The Detroit Pistons have been mentioned in a trade framework that would send Long Island native Tobias Harris to New York and reunite sharpshooting power forward Ryan Anderson with Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy. Talks around this potential deal have yet to gain significant traction, though a source indicated that Knicks president Steve Mills recently had dinner in New York with Harris.

A potential deal involving the Milwaukee Bucks, first reported by ESPN’s Ian Begley, has also failed to gain major traction. The proposed idea would send Jabari Parker to the Knicks and Trevor Ariza to the Bucks. However, the destination of Ryan Anderson and the recipients of first round picks have not allowed these talks to gain any sort of life. The hold up in all discussions of potential Anthony deals appears to be New York’s insistence on receiving a first round draft pick. So far, no team has seemed willing to part with a first rounder to facilitate a Melo-to-Houston move. Many teams refuse to help bolster yet another team in the already lopsided western conference.

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As things stand, it seems increasingly possible that Anthony remains a Knick for the coming season. Knicks team owner James Dolan is in favor of keeping the star forward on the team, as he sees Anthony as a significant draw for ticket sales and Anthony’s teammates seem to remain very welcoming and understanding.

Anthony’s family and camp, however, are particularly divided on the issue of the All-Star’s future. His wife, La La Anthony, and son would like to remain in New York, preferring to see Anthony play out the year with the Knicks and explore his options next summer. Other members of Anthony’s inner circle would rather see him push for a trade to Houston as soon as possible. A source told Hoops Inq. they think such a move is best for his resume in the long run.

This internal division complicates the issue for Anthony. His relationship with his wife has reportedly gone through a rough spell in recent months, and his desire to keep his family together could push him to stick it out in New York for at least the coming season.

Notably, Anthony has spent the offseason in communication with many of his current Knick teammates. He has worked out constantly with forward Lance Thomas and has spoken with star big man Kristaps Porzingis. Perhaps most interestingly, Anthony recently had a dinner with incoming rookie Frank Ntilikina, who the Knicks selected with the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft.

In addition to his Knicks teammates, Anthony has also consulted with fellow NBA superstar and close friend LeBron James. Anthony has at various points in this offseason been linked with James’s Cavaliers in trade rumors. It is unknown whether James and Anthony have discussed the possibility of uniting at some point, though sources indicate that there is next to no chance that Anthony ends up in a Cavaliers uniform this season.

The Future

The future remains uncertain. The Rockets are eager to trade for Anthony but the Knicks are in no rush to send him on his way unless they get a healthy return, including a first round pick. Yet, a trade seems to be the only option, it’s just a matter of when. A buyout is essentially off the table, especially with the team’s interest in stretching Joakim Noah‘s contract. With training camp around the corner, beginning on Sept. 25, a mounting pressure will build on the Knicks to get things done before things get awkward.

A team source has confirmed to the Hoops Inquirer that Anthony will attend training camp if no deal has been reached. The stalemate will be an interesting endeavor, testing the patience of both sides. One has to wonder how much both parties are willing to endure before the Knicks cave in to any sort of deal—whether it has a first round pick or not.


Editor’s note: This story had contributions from National NBA Writers Nick Martinez and Trey Rodriguez.

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Trey Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a senior editor and social media producer at the Hoops Inquirer. He covers national NBA news, WNBA news and streetball. Rodriguez covers St. John's University's men's basketball for SB Nation's Rumble in the Garden. He also covers high school basketball, baseball and softball for the Bronx Times, TimesLedger and Brooklyn Daily.

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