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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Carmelo Anthony remains the key to Knicks’ playoff hopes

The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony is called for a

The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony is called for a foul in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 12, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

Carmelo Anthony has been involved in three played-out Melo-dramas this season, and not one was directly created by him.

From Phil Jackson saying he stalls the offense, to George Karl ripping him in his book, to the Charley Rosen article that led to Anthony again announcing that he wants to stay with the Knicks, it’s fair to wonder why he wants to stay with the Knicks.

“What makes it easier to get through it is because I know all of it is [expletive],” Anthony told Newsday. “That’s why I can come here and be at peace and still be able to talk to you all about the situation, because I know a lot of the stuff that’s being said is BS. And I know if I go back to [management], they’re going to be ‘oh, we didn’t say that.’ I’ve dealt with that stuff before.”

The Knicks are losing and perhaps heading to their fourth straight season of missing the playoffs. Anthony often is the scapegoat when he doesn’t play hard defense or move the ball enough. Yet he gets little credit for keeping the Knicks in many games with his scoring and opening up shots for his teammates because of the attention he receives.

This won’t change unless the Knicks start winning, but Anthony plans to stick it out. In an interview with Newsday, he said for the first time that he would “consider” waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks told him “they want to go in a different direction.”

Anthony isn’t there yet. He said he loves New York, loves playing at Madison Square Garden, loves the attention — all of it. He also feels a loyalty to his teammates and doesn’t want to abandon ship while the team is struggling.

It wouldn’t be easy to move Anthony. He has a 15 percent trade kicker, worth roughly $9.9 million, that gets split in half and added to his salary for this season and next.

But waiving his no-trade clause might be something he thinks long and hard about after this season, when he’s not dealing with the daily grind and has more time to talk it over with his family.

As bad as they have been lately, the Knicks still are in the playoff chase, only three games out after Saturday night’s 107-105 loss to the Suns. Their goal still is getting to the playoffs. If they moved Anthony now or before the Feb. 23 trade deadline, they would have no shot at the postseason.

For all of Anthony’s flaws, he wants to lead the Knicks back into the playoffs. He wants to win in New York. He’s not turning his back on them now, and the front office shouldn’t turn its back on him yet.

The Knicks’ focus should be to limit the distractions and play basketball. If they do move Anthony right now, it should be to power forward full-time, with Kristaps Porzingis starting at center. Anthony’s best position now — and it has been the past five years — is power forward. Bring Joakim Noah off the bench.

All that matters, or should matter, is doing whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. Know this: The Knicks have a better chance getting there with Anthony than without him.


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