A marquee player was on the move at the end of All-Star Weekend, and it wasn’t Carmelo Anthony.
The Kings sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans. Meanwhile, Anthony enjoyed hearing that trade talks involving him seem to have cooled off.
“Leave it like that,” he said. “Things I’m dealing with, it’s good not to hear me in the media like that.”
Anthony gave another indication that he plans to be a Knick after Thursday’s trade deadline when he was asked about Kristaps Porzingis’ comment that he doesn’t want to see Anthony traded. “I haven’t thought about not having him as a teammate,” Anthony said.
Anthony has a no-trade clause, so ultimately he has the final say. But his future will be among the main story lines for the underachieving Knicks (23-34) for the rest of this season and into the summer:
1. The never-ending Melo Drama
Anything is possible until the trade deadline passes, but it appears unlikely that the Knicks will find a deal that will prompt them to move Anthony by Thursday, or that he would approve it even if they did. If Anthony isn’t traded, the final 25 games still could be the last of his Knicks career. The Knicks are expected to try to move him in the offseason, when they will have more time for a deal to come together. If the Cavaliers don’t win the title or the Clippers have another early playoff exit, they might be more driven to trade for Anthony. Plus he’ll have more time to think about it and discuss it with his family.
2. Deal or no deal
The best decision might be to deal players on expiring contracts — Derrick Rose (the Timberwolves reportedly have asked about him ) or Brandon Jennings. Kyle O’Quinn has two years left, but he’s been productive and could have some value. The Knicks need to acquire some assets — picks and young players signed for a couple of years. Maybe they can do so by dealing Rose and Jennings to teams looking to bolster their rosters for the playoffs. The Knicks could let Rose and Jennings walk after the season to clear more cap space. But given how this season has gone on so many levels, top-flight free agents again might steer clear of the Knicks.
3. Phil’s future and his next state of the Knicks
Knicks owner James Dolan said he will honor Phil Jackson’s five-year contract, but the reclusive team president can opt out after this season. He could return to Playa del Rey with a tarnished legacy for what he’s done and hasn’t done as an executive. First and foremost, the Knicks haven’t won under Jackson. He also has alienated his best player, has given prospective free agents pause about joining the Knicks and hasn’t provided any confidence or message to the fan base. Jackson hasn’t discussed the status of his team since Sept. 23. Maybe if the Knicks make a trade, Jackson will talk to reporters about the team and his short-term and long-term plans.
4. Make a playoff run or a lottery push
The Knicks’ plan could become clearer soon. A playoff berth still is possible in the watered-down Eastern Conference, but they could get to the point that the focus becomes developing the younger players and getting the best draft pick they can. Five potentially elite point guards are projected to go in the top 10 — Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, N.C. State’s Dennis Smith, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and French League playmaker Frank Ntilikina. Two years ago, with a chance to have the NBA’s worst record, the Knicks won two of their last three games. Minnesota finished behind them, won the lottery and picked Karl-Anthony Towns. The Knicks fell to fourth. Porzingis was a nice consolation prize, but they may have learned from that.
5. The development of the young frontline
After a fast start this season, Porzingis seems to have regressed. The Knicks want him to be the franchise player. He’ll need to take better shots, not settle for long or rushed jumpers and use his 7-3 height to his advantage on both ends. Coach Jeff Hornacek also has to get Porzingis more involved in the offense. Rookie center Willy Hernangomez has been a bright spot, but he also needs the chance to grow. He’s active and versatile offensively but is a work in progress defensively. For Hernangomez to develop, Joakim Noah has to play less. That might not happen if the Knicks are pushing for the playoffs. This week could determine which way they go.