OKLAHOMA CITY — Carmelo Anthony is looking forward to playing the Knicks in Thursday’s regular-season opener so he can close that chapter of his life. But he admitted he was hurt at the way he was “stabbed in the back” and “pushed out.”
Anthony still wishes ex-Knicks president Phil Jackson would have been up front and communicated more with him. Anthony said he re-signed with the Knicks in 2014 because he believed Jackson, an 11-time champion as a coach, could help him get deep in the playoffs. But he ultimately lost trust in Jackson, who seemed to go out of his way to criticize Anthony on Twitter and the media.
“I was always, ‘I’m going to put my trust in Phil, I’m going to put my trust in Phil,’” Anthony said Wednesday. “That diminished after a while. I’m out here doing everything I can and I’m still getting stabbed in the back. I’m not trusting in that anymore.”
Anthony, who spent 6 ½ seasons with the Knicks, decided after the season he wanted to move on and would waive his no-trade clause for the right team. But it wasn’t easy to finally come to terms with leaving.
“I always envisioned myself coming back even when I was being pushed out,” Anthony said.
He was sent to Oklahoma City just before the start of training camp for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and the Chicago Bulls’ second-round pick.
After missing the playoffs the past four seasons, Anthony has a chance to compete for a championship, playing with NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and perennial All-Star Paul George. Anthony said he’s happy he had the no-trade clause put in his contract – that Jackson agreed to – otherwise he believes he would have traded him anywhere and for nothing.
“For sure,” Anthony said. “If that trade clause wasn’t [there], I’d have been God knows where because he was just ready to move on at that point.”
The 10-time All-Star couldn’t say what the final straw was for him, but it seemed to be an accumulation of things.
“The past two years was hard, it was a big burden on me, emotionally, mentally.” Anthony said.
A Jackson confidant wrote a column on the Knicks in January that said Anthony had “outlived his usefulness in New York.” Anthony believed it came right from Jackson. Things deteriorated from there. Anthony said he often wondered what he did wrong.
“This whole summer I always said that to myself, ‘Where did it go wrong, what did I do?’” Anthony said. “Honestly, I asked myself that. I can’t pinpoint where did it go wrong.
“I think we all know who. But I don’t know why? I don’t know why it went wrong.”
Anthony said he wished Jackson would have talked to him and not the media. He said they spoke twice last season. Once in Los Angeles, after Jackson called the Knicks’ lone All-Star a ball stopper in an interview with CBS Sports Network and during the “seven minute” exit interview.
“There wasn’t no conversations,” Anthony said. “It was hard, man. It was hard.”
Anthony said Jackson was honest during the April exit interview. It was after that meeting that Jackson said to reporters that he told Anthony he would be better off pursuing a championship somewhere else.
He thought he was going to be traded to Cleveland or Houston, but those deals fell through.
Anthony said things dragged on because new GM Scott Perry wanted to get something back for Anthony. He believes Kyrie Irving being traded to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ first round pick “put a dent” in his situation.
“Before that there was a couple deals that were supposed to be made. It was just a bunch of pieces, wasn’t a star for a star type of thing,” Anthony said. “That’s something I respect about Scott. Scott was very upfront, very honest, he’s like, ‘Look, I’m not giving you up for nothing. I’m just letting you know that. I respect you. I respect your game. I know what you bring to this game. I’m not giving you up for nothing.’”
Anthony has remained in contact with his old teammates. They were planning to have dinner together Wednesday night. But Anthony is expected to be all business Thursday night.
“Melo wants this, as he should,” George said. “Melo wants this game and we’re going to go out and get it for him.”
This is the first of two meetings this season. Anthony makes his Madison Square Garden return Dec. 16. But he’s happy to get the first one out of the way right away.
“This is an important game for me because it’s an opportunity for me to kind of go out there and kind of close that chapter,” he said. “I don’t think that chapter has been closed yet. I think tomorrow with me running out there on the court in a different uniform kind of closes that chapter.
“My first couple of years was exciting, was fun. We set out to do some great things. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. But I won’t let the last two or three years overshadow the amount of fun I had in New York and being in New York.”