Carmelo Anthony has been playing with knee soreness, but his bruised feelings may be of bigger concern for the Knicks.
Anthony is not happy. It doesn’t matter how many times he smiles in front of cameras or reporters, this season has taken a huge toll on him and signs are everywhere that he may be at the end of his rope.
Anthony cares about winning, especially since he’ll be 32 in May, and deep playoff runs are the one thing missing from his resume.
It bothers him seeing his closest NBA friends — LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant — play for teams that could make some noise in the postseason. If it didn’t bother him then you could say Anthony is selfish and only cares about his points.
He sacrificed his scoring this season to become more of a team player, get more guys involved, believing it would improve the Knicks’ chances of winning. He has some of his best all-around numbers of his career, and what does he have to show for it? The Knicks likely will miss the playoffs for the third straight year.
On Friday night, Anthony said, “I do look at my peers and say, ‘Damn, what am I doing wrong? I should be there. Right now it’s kind of a rough patch for me. I’m trying to figure out a way to get out of it.”
Anthony could very well mean get out of New York. He can waive his no-trade clause, and there is a growing belief that if Anthony doesn’t do it this summer he will by next year’s trade deadline if the Knicks aren’t markedly improved.
The “rough patch” quote could be this season’s version of “dark place” and “dark space;” the two locales Anthony was in during the 2013-14 season — the year this playoff drought began.
“It tests you,” Anthony said. “It tests your positivity. It tests you emotionally, psychologically — it’s a big test for you.”
The future may be bright because of Kristaps Porzingis, but are the Knicks going to contend for a title next season or the season after that? Not without major changes.
Hiring Phil Jackson as president was a change that was supposed to turn around the franchise. Anthony bought in, said he believed in Jackson, in his vision, his 11 rings, his court cred. The Knicks began Saturday 42-103 under Jackson’s reign.
During all of this, other than his tweets, Jackson has been quiet. He’s let Anthony, the other Knicks and interim coach Kurt Rambis do the talking.
Jackson hasn’t even talked to his frustrated star player recently, according to Anthony. Not before the trade deadline, not after the trade deadline and not after this week’s exchange with a heckling fan that led Anthony issuing a statement that he said was “the Knicks” idea.
Anthony said it wasn’t a big deal, and “I don’t really think I said anything wrong.” It’s just another aspect of the season that would give him just cause to wonder whether a change of address would be the best thing for him. You can’t blame Anthony if his trust in Jackson is waning.
The Tyson Chandler trade hasn’t worked out. Derek Fisher failed as Jackson’s first coach. Last year’s free-agent pickups gave the Knicks better players, but not the impact ones they need.
Rambis continues to say the Knicks rely too much on Anthony, who is willing to shoulder that load, but can’t do it by himself.
He’s not a game-changer defensively. Although he’s an improved playmaker, it’s still not his strength. Putting the ball in the basket is, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Anthony needs help and wants it. Jackson has to get it, starting with a coach and not just one that runs a system. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is the best one out there. Give him a call.
If the Knicks hired Thibodeau — who will bring a defensive mentality and back to New York — it certainly would give Anthony a sense that something finally could be changing for the better.
Anthony doesn’t have the market cornered on frustration. Durant has been feeling plenty of that lately as well.
After Oklahoma City blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to the Clippers, Durant said his team wasn’t “disciplined.” Durant also said three times “we’re fooling ourselves” in reference to the Thunder being a great team.
Oklahoma City is 2-6 in its last eight games, but still seeded third in the West. Anthony probably would be happy with that.
It didn’t look good that LeBron James, during a three-day break in the schedule, flew down to Miami and worked out with Wade, his old Heat teammate.
“I don’t care,” James said.
He said he would rather have flown to Los Angeles where he has a home, but took the shorter trip, and did it “because I want to.”
It doesn’t look good on so many levels. There could be a part of James who regrets coming home when his most individual success was playing with Wade and the Heat.
The Cavaliers have undergone a coaching change — for which James was given the blame — and haven’t been as sharp as the second half of last season or earlier this year. They came into Saturday, just two games up on the Raptors for best record in the East.
Just imagine the reaction if Anthony flew to Cleveland to practice with James, Miami to workout with Wade or Los Angeles to train with Paul.
What a run by Spurs
The Spurs clinched a playoff spot for the 19th consecutive year, tying them with the Celtics (1951-69) for the NBA’s fourth-longest streak.
Utah (1984-2003) reached the playoffs 20 years in a row. Portland (1983-2003) made it 21 consecutive years. And the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers made it 22 straight times from 1950-71.
The Spurs reached the playoffs in 60 games, the quickest it took them in a season not shortened by a lockout during their 19-year run.
Not nearly as impressive, but eye-opening nonetheless is their 12-0 record in the second half of back-to-backs this season. That speaks to all their areas they excel: professionalism, coaching, defense, execution and doing whatever it takes to win.