The Knicks as a franchise is at wit’s end trying to right the sinking ship, so it was natural they’d inquire about the trade value of one of only two worthy trade chips on their roster.
Carmelo Anthony has the no-trade clause in his bloated contract, but it’s hard to imagine that he’d have vetoed a move to Cleveland for Kevin Love and pass up the chance of playing with good buddy LeBron James and chase that elusive ring. Alas, the Cavaliers reportedly turned down the alleged offer, meaning the Anthony-Phil Jackson drama shall continue.
It’s not as if the Knicks (20-27) need any more distractions, as they try to dig themselves out of the hole they created. Their pre-Christmas feel-good story is so 2016, as the slide down the standings is close to having their season reach perilous status.
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Wednesday night’s terrible loss to a terrible Dallas Mavericks (16-29) squad could be rock bottom – as it’s capped a week in which they’ve lost three of its last four outings, seen Anthony’s frustrations rise, Jackson seemingly trying all he can to be subversive from within, and the team’s only other player of value, Kristaps Porzingis, dealing with an Achilles malady to go along with his current performance slump.
The Knicks are a mess – which is not a news flash – but it’s seemingly getting worse with every poor outing. The environment is becoming increasingly toxic, and that’s to be expected any time a franchise’s best and highest-paid player butts head with the upper management.
Should the Knicks find an actual suitor, though, it’s going to come at a great cost for the trade partner. Anthony is earning a whopping $24.6 million this season. And with two years left on his current deal, which is valued at $54 million and includes a 15-percent trade kicker, it’s a daunting task to move him, to say the least. The damning trade kicker increases the cost for any team trying to acquire him, which means it would boost his current salary into the $29 million range. That's a premium price for a fading star.
The proposed deal that would’ve involved Love made monetary sense because Cleveland’s power forward is earning $21.2 million this year and has three years remaining on his deal, valued at $72 million. Anthony, who is a small forward, would’ve had to fill that gap at power forward for the Cavs, but judging by his physical style of play and prior experience of playing the position in spot-duty, he would’ve fit in seamlessly.
Regrettably – for the Knicks, at least – the deal fell through. The Cavs publicly denounced the offer in the first place, but with multiple outlets reporting the discussions, it’s difficult to believe that any talks never took place.
As it stands now, head coach Jeff Hornacek is going to have to figure something out on the fly, because outside help is unlikely on the way. Anthony’s no-trade clause and the trade kicker are daunting obstacles. Perhaps the best way to squelch any more trade talks or public friction is to start winning some games – particularly winnable games like the one in Dallas. That was about as bad a loss all season for the Knicks, and that’s saying a lot.
Hornacek may be wise to broach the idea with Anthony about a position switch. It’ll ease the burden of having to chase down swifter and more athletic small forwards while still carrying an offense each night. It’ll also provide Anthony a great advantage on the offensive end because he could take bigger defenders on the perimeter and work his patented mid-range game. Besides, Hornacek has already flirted with the idea of playing Porzingis more at the center spot, and a Porzingis-Anthony combo would be a nightly mismatch against most teams.
Porzingis has stated he’s a power forward by nature, but has reportedly warmed to the idea of playing more minutes at center.
“I am a four [power forward]. I’ve been playing it my whole NBA career. Moving to the five [center], I’m comfortable with it [because] I feel like a lot of times I have an advantage over a [center] offensively,” he recently reasoned. “Sometimes, it’s tough for me defensively against a big [center], but I think as I get stronger I’ll be able to play the [center] more and have even more advantage playing from outside against a [center].”
Porzingis added whatever it takes to help team win and break this rut is top priority. And if the Knicks begin to gel and get back on track, it’ll also help eliminate the tension in the work environment that Jackson helped create and slowly dissipate the circus-like atmosphere.