After a year of non-stop drama, there’s an air of optimism and hopefulness surrounding the Knicks that was noticeably absent during last season’s Phil Jackson vs. Carmelo Anthony standoff, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. While the Knicks have had played well, with a 16-14 record so far, their on-court success isn’t the only thing contributing to the positive mood within the organization, as one team source tells Begley.
“Everyone just seems a little lighter,” the source said. “The drama Phil created with Carmelo really affected the team and the joy factor.”
In an in-depth piece for ESPN, Begley revisits that Jackson-and-Anthony saga, highlighting some of the incidents and confrontations that ultimately led to both men leaving the franchise. Begley’s feature is worth checking out in full, especially for Knicks fans, but here are a few highlights:
- Some members of the organization knew back in summer 2015 that they wanted to trade Anthony, and by the following year, that sentiment was shared by virtually all of the Knicks‘ top decision-makers, says Begley. “The feeling in meetings was almost unanimous: They felt he just wasn’t a winning player,” one source said. “They thought they could turn everything around if they just moved him.” Anthony was aware of this stance, despite some of those execs insisting they were still on his side, which was a big reason why he soured on the organization.
- Jackson regularly interrupted Knicks practices and overrode Jeff Hornacek‘s instructions to ensure that the triangle offense was being implemented properly, despite two veteran players telling him directly that the system wasn’t working, per Begley.
- Jackson presided over mindfulness meditation training with the Knicks during his last year in New York, as he had done with his previous teams. However, some Knicks players didn’t take it seriously — during the final sessions, Anthony would sometimes pretend to be asleep when Jackson told the players to open their eyes, witnesses told Begley.
- During a March 12 loss to the Nets last season, Anthony and assistant Kurt Rambis blew up at each other during halftime. Anthony told Rambis that “this place is a f—ing joke,” and Rambis questioned Carmelo’s effort (in equally colorful language), according to Begley.
- After Kristaps Porzingis skipped his exit meeting in the spring, Jackson discussed possible trades involving the young big man. While those discussions were framed by some as Jackson teaching Porzingis a lesson, there were members of the front office in favor of moving the Latvian at the time, sources tell Begley.
- For a portion of the summer, Anthony strongly believed that he’d end up in Houston, expressing a belief that LeBron James would eventually join him and Chris Paul on the Rockets. Although the Rockets tried to make a deal, discussing one three-team iteration that would’ve involved Jabari Parker and the Bucks, it ultimately didn’t work out, resulting in the trade that sent Carmelo to the Thunder.