LOS ANGELES - Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson might finally have had that first conversation everyone has been anticipating.
At Tuesday's morning shootaround while most players were on the court, the Knicks' best player and their new president were in the visiting locker room at the same time. The fact that Jackson was in there wasn't known until after Anthony met with reporters.
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"I've seen him here and there -- not to where we sit down and talk," Anthony said before the Knicks played the Lakers Tuesday night at Staples Center. "We'll figure that out. I'm pretty sure we'll get together soon."
It was unclear whether Jackson, who lives in nearby Playa del Rey, would attend the game against his former team. He wasn't expected to join the Knicks on the remaining four games of this trip but will be in New York after they return next week. Jackson didn't speak to reporters.
After Jackson was introduced as Knicks president last week, he met the team as a group but hadn't spoken to Anthony alone. Their relationship is critical for the organization.
Jackson has been given full control of the basketball department by Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan. If Jackson thinks the Knicks will be fine without Anthony, who will be a free agent this summer, Dolan might not object based on their agreement.
But Jackson has said he sees Anthony as a part of the future. Anthony could play the same role Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant did in Jackson's triangle offense. Anthony has said he doesn't want to leave New York and that he would be willing to change how he plays if Jackson believes it will help him win a championship.
Jackson helped the Lakers win five titles from 2000-2010. Some, including Bryant, wanted the Lakers to stop him from going to the Knicks. Lakers legend Magic Johnson also pleaded to the organization on Twitter to find a spot for Jackson in their front office.
"It was a clean playing field," Anthony said. "Mr. Dolan did what he had to do to bring him in. I'm pretty sure those other guys had the same opportunity."
There has been speculation about Anthony and Bryant teaming up with the Lakers. All of these subplots added some additional drama to a nationally televised game between two teams that were a combined 35 games below .500.
"Six degrees of separation," Anthony said. "You got us coming to L.A. tonight, knowing Phil's history here, now him being back in New York. There's a lot going on. Our focus is on the game."
It was an important game for the Knicks. They're hoping to end this tumultuous season with a playoff berth and still have a shot with 12 games remaining.
Even after wasting a 17-point lead in Sunday's seemingly crippling home loss to Cleveland, the Knicks opened this trip just 21/2 games behind Atlanta, which has lost three in a row, for the East's last playoff spot. The other four games are at Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and Utah.
"This could make or break our season," Anthony said. "This is a big road trip for us, a fun road trip for us; it can be. We've got to go get these games."
Clearly, the Knicks can't afford any more slip-ups like against Cleveland. They also will have to win some games they probably weren't expected to capture a playoff berth.
After this trip, the Knicks' final seven games are against teams headed to the playoffs. Mike Woodson estimates 35 to 40 wins will get the eighth spot. The Knicks will need between six and 11 victories if Woodson's math is correct. The Hawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"We just got to win," Woodson said. "We can't afford to give games away like we did the other night."
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