WASHINGTON — As a large and loud group of fans chanted “Let’s Go Knicks!” inside Atlanta’s Philips Arena on Sunday, Carmelo Anthony nodded his head and clapped his hands. He didn’t have the same reaction when he was asked after the four-overtime epic if a game like that would make him say he’s not waiving his no-trade clause.
“It’s hard for me to think about that at this point,” Anthony said. “It’s kind of tough to think about that.”
There could come a point in the near future when Anthony has to think about it, especially if Phil Jackson finds a trade that appeals to the Knicks’ president. The Clippers reportedly are the team most interested in Anthony, but the Knicks also have spoken to the Cavaliers and Celtics.
The trade deadline is Feb. 23, and the rumors and reports of the Knicks shopping Anthony will continue unless he says he’s staying. As coach Jeff Hornacek said of Anthony, “He has control . . . He has the final say.”
A popular opinion is that Anthony would waive his no-tradeclause only for a chance to play with Chris Paul or LeBron James, his good friends. But Anthony hasn’t said one way or the other, and he doesn’t seem fazed by the off-court speculation. Lately, he has been playing as if he doesn’t have a care in the world.
He scored a season-high 45 points before fouling out of the Knicks’ 142-139 quadruple-OT loss to the Hawks. It was the fourth time in six games that he has scored at least 30 points and fifth time since Jackson confidant Charley Rosen wrote that “Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York.”
Anthony said he’s able to look past the outside noise because he feels healthy and the court is his sanctuary. All of his attention goes into playing and trying to help the Knicks win.
“That’s when I have to focus in,” he said. “When you get off the court, you got to start dealing with all of that. When you’re in between those lines, it’s all about basketball, all about the game of basketball.”
The Knicks, who were given the day off Monday by Hornacek after Sunday’s marathon, have been playing better lately.
Although they’re 21-28 and have lost 15 of their last 20 games, six of their last 10 losses have been by three or fewer points and two were at the buzzer. The Knicks, who will face the Wizards on Tuesday night, have shown resilience amid the drama. They think they’re not far from winning some of these close games and getting back into the playoff race.
“A lot of adversity,” Courtney Lee said. “The good teams, the strong players, will get through it. I have no doubt in my mind that this team has good chemistry, good poise, good togetherness, good individuals and tough individuals that we’ll pull through it.”
But the players might not get that chance if management can put together a trade for Anthony that he approves. Most Knicks other than Kristaps Porzingis probably are available, but dealing Anthony would be a franchise-changing move.
The Clippers could offer Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson and some future draft picks. The two sides reportedly are looking for a third team to make it work for everyone.
It also might take a third team to execute a deal with the Cavaliers. Cleveland reportedly has turned down an Anthony-for-Kevin Love trade.
But Anthony doesn’t seem to be concerned with anything other than the next game and trying to help his team get back on track.
“We only can keep looking forward,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting. I don’t think we’re that far away.”