The Knicks packed up their belongings at their Greenburgh, N.Y. facilities today sooner than expected, but not without rehashing what was arguably the worst season in franchise history considering preseason expectations.
Players sat with team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills — sans head coach Mike Woodson — and conducted their season-ending exit meetings.
And while most of the players who recounted their meetings talked of making sure this season isn’t ever replicated, there’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. The team’s best player and leading scorer, Anthony will likely opt out of his contract on July 1.
Anthony, who missed the season finale due to a torn right labrum, said he’s been agonizing over the missed playoff opportunity much more than his physical well-being as he’s been “losing sleep” ever since the team was eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday.
“For me, it’s embarrassing. I can’t even put it into words or describe the feeling. It was a failure [and] a chapter in my book I will never forget,” said Anthony when asked about missing the playoffs. “I want to come back, but I also want to win. I just can’t afford another losing season. ... I feel like we gave away this year [and] I’m not at the point in my career where I want to rebuild.”
Tyson Chandler already has a ring from the 2011 season with the Mavericks, but also knows how quickly championship teams can be disbanded. He realizes he may not be part of the Knicks’ plans once his contract runs out in 2015, so he needs to win next season.
“I definitely don’t want to waste any seasons,” Chandler said. “Your time is too short in this league, and I want to win a championship, win another one.”
Heading into their 2013 training camp, the Knicks thought they were a shoo-in to at least compete for a championship this season after their successful 54-win 2012-13 campaign.
But they appeared doomed from the start, as Chandler broke his leg in the fourth game and never regained the form that made him the league’s top defender two years ago. Amar’e Stoudemire was also on a minutes’ restriction to start the season, while J.R. Smith was still recovering from an ill-advised late-summer surgery after re-signing with the team. Smith also had to start the season serving a five-game suspension for marijuana use.
“The season never just felt right throughout the season,” said Chandler. “We had some bright spots, but never where we were on the level that we should have been.”
The center still wants “to be part of this program” next season, but he was honest in assessing that he may be one of the few trade chips this offseason and heading into next season since he’ll be a highly desirable expiring contract.
“Whatever it is next season, I still think that the future is bright here [and] need to build a winning culture,” Chandler said.
Anthony is hopeful to be a part of that culture next season, as he said he’s honestly “torn” between re-upping or leaving. Money won’t be an object for Anthony, he said, even though the Knicks can offer more than any other team — five years, $129 million.
“At this point in my career I’m not concerned about the money. If we can put ourselves in position to at least compete at a high level, then I’m willing to stay,” said Anthony, who got somewhat emotional when discussing his time with Woodson. “If [management] ask[s] me, I'd back him.”
Knicks notes ...
»Kenyon Martin said he will have a minor procedure on his ankle to remove bone spurs at same point during the offseason.
»The signing of Lamar Odom gives the Knicks a chance to see if the troubled, yet talented player has any juice left — or at the very least a decent trade chip if he shows he still has something left in the tank. Odom, 34, was a part of two championship teams under Phil Jackson in Los Angeles and is versatile enough to play almost any position on the floor. Should Woodson get the chance to coach Odom next season, he said there’ll be so many possibilities:
“I like Lamar. I think he’s a talent,” said Woodson. “He could’ve been good for us earlier in the season, I think, because he does a lot of things on the floor to help you win basketball games, that’s for sure.”
»During his introductory press conference, Jackson said he’s growing fond of the analytical side of player evaluation. If so, the Zen Master may have been given a diamond in the rough in journeyman forward Cole Aldrich. Of all the players in the league who played in 15 games or more this season, Aldrich led the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage. He had a career-high 16 total rebounds — nine defensive — last night in a win over the Raptors.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.