Carmelo Anthony's first conversation with Phil Jackson is 'generic'
PHOENIX - Carmelo Anthony said the conversation was "generic," but it was the first time he got to speak to Phil Jackson alone since Jackson became the Knicks' president.
The Knicks had just arrived at the Staples Center on Tuesday for the morning shootaround, and Anthony and Jackson were together in the visitor's locker room while the rest of the team was on the court.
"He told me to get ready, go out there and play, try to finish the season off strong, that's it," Anthony said. "We didn't really talk about too much. Talked about him being in New York, him coming back out to L.A., the weather. Just generic. We really didn't talk about nothing."
Whatever was said couldn't have been too inspiring or motivational. Later that night, the Knicks gave up a franchise-record 51 points in the third quarter to the Lakers -- with Anthony on the floor the entire quarter. Jackson later called the Knicks' performance in the quarter "really awful."
Jackson didn't join the Knicks after they left Los Angeles. He is expected to be in New York next week when they return from their five-game trip. He and Anthony will sit down again, for a longer time, and have a more meaningful conversation about the future.
Anthony has said he will opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent. The Knicks can pay him the most money, and Jackson, knowing the importance of having great players, might want to make sure they keep Anthony.
While Jackson was leaving the Staples Center early in the fourth quarter, he said, "We're in a hunt for talent," and you have to believe he meant players to put around Anthony.
Anthony has been mostly brilliant, but the Knicks have stumbled through a 30-42 season. For the first time in his 11-year career, his team will have a losing record. But Anthony has never failed to get to the postseason, and he said if the Knicks make it, that would erase a lot of what's happened this season.
"Absolutely," he said. "Once you're in the playoffs, nobody really looks at the regular season. It's over with. Everybody starts zero-zero. Our goal is to get in."
The Knicks are only 11/2 games behind the Hawks -- who lost to the Trail Blazers Thursday night -- in the race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. The Knicks will try to earn their 10th win in 12 games Friday night against the Suns.
Anthony, who twisted his right ankle late in Wednesday's win in Sacramento, said he should "be ready" to play. He would have to be in severe pain to sit out the game, considering what's at stake for him and the Knicks.
Anthony's play and effort haven't been questioned this season. The seven-time All-Star, who is averaging 28.2 points and 8.2 rebounds and shooting 41.4 percent from three-point range, is on pace to have the third-best scoring season of his career, average a personal best in rebounds and finish with his second-highest three-point shooting percentage.
But many of his teammates have had subpar years, and the Knicks have given away too many games against teams with less talent.
Nine of their final 10 games are against teams with winning records. Many of them either are fighting for a playoff spot or their position in the postseason.
"This year has been a very challenging year mentally, emotionally for me," Anthony said. "But I still find ways to just remain positive throughout this situation and try to win basketball games. Throughout all of this, we still have a chance to get in the postseason. That's most important."