Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and the rest...

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and the rest of the bench react to the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7, 2016. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Carmelo Anthony said he was “caught off guard” by Phil Jackson’s critical comments about him and wishes the Knicks’ president had spoken to him privately.

Anthony said the Knicks don’t need “any negativity” right now and that there is “a temporary black cloud” over the team brought on by Jackson’s comment that Anthony holds the ball too long. He said he doesn’t understand why Jackson made those remarks, especially with the Knicks winning of late.

“At the end of the day, we’re playing good basketball,” said Anthony, who scored 23 points and shot 8-for-13 in 18 first-half minuets against the Kings on Friday night. “That’s the only thing that really matters at this point. Any negativity that’s coming toward me or toward the team, I don’t think we need it at this point, especially when we’re trying to make a run.”

Jackson essentially called Anthony a ball-stopper in an interview with CBS Sports Network that aired Tuesday. Later that night, Anthony scored 35 points to lead the Knicks over the Heat. He also hit two game-winning shots in a four-game span during a 9-3 stretch for the Knicks.

Anthony said he hasn’t talked to Jackson recently and won’t pursue a conversation. Jackson is expected to meet the Knicks in Los Angeles, where they will play the Lakers on Sunday night.

“If he wants to talk about it, cool,” Anthony said. “If he don’t, cool. In my eyes, it’s over with.

“I just want to continue what we’re doing. I feel like we’re playing some good basketball now. To have a temporary black cloud over our heads after I don’t know when the comments were made or the gist of the conversation, I just know something was said.”

Jackson, who signed Anthony to a five-year, $124-million contract in 2014 that included a no-trade clause, told CBS Sports Network that Anthony has “a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop.”

Anthony was asked about it after Wednesday night’s loss to Cleveland. He didn’t want to comment because he didn’t know exactly what Jackson said. “I was caught off guard, not really knowing what was going on,” he said.

Then Anthony read the comments and posted items on Twitter and Instagram that he confirmed were directed at Jackson. One was a quote that ended with “let it GO.” The other was a picture of his idol, Muhammad Ali, with arrows in his body and holding one that was slung toward his face. “I’m a big quote guy,” he said. “I have a million quotes in my phone. Sometimes they just pop up at the right time.”

Asked if he feels as if someone slung arrows at him, Anthony said, “It’s always something.” He said he’s had to embrace that while playing in New York but didn’t think it would come from someone within the Knicks. “It’s not something I expect,” he said. “I didn’t talk to him, so I don’t know where he was coming from with those comments.

“My conversations with management is limited at this point. I’ve decided to focus on what I can focus on and let them focus on what they focus on.”

Anthony said Jackson has never spoken to him about holding on to the ball. “I just feel if it was something that he wanted to address or had a stance on something, the door has always been open both ways,” Anthony said. “He’s always sent me a text or talked to me. If it was any type of problem or anything going on, I always welcome his conversation with open arms and I’ve sat there and would listen.

“If it was something good we had to talk about, we talked about it. If it was something he felt we could do better, I could do better, we talked about that. It’s always been good conversations when we talked. I don’t really know what’s going on.”

Jackson could clear things up with him in Los Angeles, but Anthony said his only concern is the team. “My focus is us and what we’re doing,” he said. “I feel we’re at a point as a team we’re making strides, we’re playing good basketball. I just don’t know what was behind the comments or where the comments came from.”

Rose remains out. Derrick Rose missed his second straight game because of lower back stiffness but said he will try to play on Sunday night. He did some dribbling and shooting but is “still getting used to moving around” and doesn’t want to do anything to “trigger” the back spasms.

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