The head of the NBA players’ union, Michele Roberts, believes Knicks president Phil Jackson is trying “to shame” Carmelo Anthony into waiving his no-trade clause.
Jackson said in his end-of-season news conference on April 14 that Anthony “would be better off somewhere else and using his talents somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”
Those words didn’t sit well with Roberts when Jackson uttered them and still don’t.
“I think Phil was deliberately trying to shame Melo out of the city,” Roberts, the executive director of the NBA Players Association, said in an interview with The Vertical that was posted on its website Wednesday.
The Knicks had no comment.
Roberts voiced her concerns to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and issued a statement the day after Jackson made it clear he would try to find a trade for Anthony this offseason. She called Jackson’s comments “inappropriate” and called on the league to respond.
Players under contract cannot publicly request a trade without facing a fine, and Roberts believes Jackson should be held to the same standards.
In The Vertical’s story, Roberts said players “are unhappy” that the NBA hasn’t penalized Jackson and fears that other league executives will think “it’s OK to treat a player this way because Phil got away with it.”
The NBA didn’t immediately respond to Roberts’ comments.
“Our players understand that they can privately complain about how a team is managed, but they cannot do it publicly without being subject to sanction,” Roberts said. “But it has to work both ways.
“If Phil tells Melo in private that being in New York is not a good fit for him, that’s his right. But these comments were made in public, and it’s very disturbing because Phil gave him the no-trade clause and he has to respect it. He’s got to allow a player to make a decision for any reason — to win a ring, for money, home life, whatever.”
Jackson signed Anthony to a five-year, $124-million contract in 2014, and agreed to give him the no-trade clause. Anthony, a 10-time All-Star and the Knicks’ best player, has wanted to remain in New York. But he dropped hints over the last several weeks of the season that he might be willing to leave.
The Knicks went 31-51 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. After the Knicks’ final game, Anthony said he “would love to be back,” but he wanted there to be more of a commitment to winning. The next day Jackson told Anthony in his exit interview that the Knicks are “rebuilding” and probably won’t be contending soon.
The popular belief is that Anthony, whose strained relationship with Jackson has been well documented, will move on if it’s an opportunity to play for a contending team.
The Clippers are a possibility since they were one of the teams the Knicks spoke to before the February trade deadline. Los Angeles was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and could undergo major changes during the offseason. Anthony’s close friend is Chris Paul, who will be a free agent but is expected to re-sign with the Clippers.
There has been speculation that Anthony could be stubborn and not let Jackson force him out. It’s unclear how Anthony’s marriage, which reportedly is in trouble, will impact his decision. Anthony may not want to be away from his 10-year-old son Kiyan.
“I feel for Melo, this is a tough time for him and I can only imagine how he’s feeling,” Roberts said. “I know he has been talking to some other people, so I’ll let him sort it all out.”