Ferrara: Is This Even Rock Bottom? How Much Worse Can it Get? The Knicks at the Midpoint

It’s officially halfway through the season and the Knicks sit at 18-24, 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are far from the “superteam” Derrick Rose dubbed them, which no rational person believed, but they’re quickly freefalling from a potential team. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how they got to an apparent Phil vs Melo crossroads, but here they are. What is the best possible outcome for the Knicks going forward?

Carmelo Anthony is in the midst of a 5-year contract paying just under $125 million. Upon re-signing him, Knicks president Phil Jackson also included a no trade clause, which can be taken as a sign of loyalty or another example of Jackson protecting his ego and reputation-deflecting blame if Anthony leaves. While Anthony still has potent scoring ability, he’s on the wrong side of his prime and has lost a step. Anthony is literally an older version of exactly the same player he’s always been—a great scorer, a nice guy, unable to adjust his game, and approach to sacrifice his star power and stats to make others around him better.

Although Jackson and the Knicks have shown virtually no plan other than a perpetual path to mediocrity, trading Anthony would signal a clear rebuild. It’s hard to imagine Anthony would recoup valuable pieces to a rebuild—young talent, or multiple draft picks. Given the NTC, the Knicks would lose all leverage. Additionally, Anthony would be owed a 15% trade kicker spread equally over the remaining guaranteed years of his contract.. Ostensibly, he would want to go to a contending team, or a team in a large market, considering he also has extensive off-court business initiatives. At quick glance, it’s easy to assume neither the Warriors nor the Cavs have any desire or financial ability to acquire him. The Los Angeles market has been rumored to be a potential destination but do the Clippers break up a perpetually contending core? Do the Lakers, newly post Kobe want to acquire another ISO and shot happy vet?

Where does trading Anthony leave the Knicks? One of the few things the Knicks have going for them is cap space and an actual first st round draft pick (for now). It’s hard to envision a scenario where trading Anthony doesn’t involve taking back another big contract, cutting into that future flexibility. For all of his shortcomings and Knick failures, Anthony has always had strong support from Knicks owner James Dolan and other Garden higher ups. While the basketball future of the Knicks should be Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony is still a draw, the face of the franchise. Anthony also showed a comfort level last year with Porzingis. He genuinely seemed to enjoy the young Latvian sensation. That same comfort level hasn’t been seen at all this season.

The best scenario for the future of the Knicks is to end their relationship with Jackson. Send him back to the desert on the ATV he arrived on in March of 2014. Jackson arrived here under auspicious circumstances, just prior to the MSG sending out their annual Knicks season ticket renewal notices. Since his arrival, Jackson was expected to be a beacon of hope and change for the Knicks. With his 11 rings (he never lets anyone forget), he was the closest thing to a winner the Knicks had, although he had never spent a day as an NBA executive. Since his arrival, the only constant has been his desire to prove the triangle offense as still relevant in the modern day NBA. He is currently on his fourth head coach and has turned the roster over numerous times. Jackson has consistently overplayed his hand in trades, often making moves too quickly (Tyson Chandler), not getting enough in return (JR Smith, Iman Shumpert), making trades without regard to the existing roster or potential chemistry issues (Derrick Rose) perpetually keeping his former Laker players employed (hello Sasha Vujacic), and quite possibly in a summer of overpaying free agents made the single worst transaction of the offseason with the ridiculous 4 year $72 million deal to Joakim Noah.

Yes, he drafted Kristaps Porzingis, but every otherwise terrible sports executive usually gets something right. Many suspect that Clarence Gaines was the true driving force behind the Porzingis pick, and seeing how Phil and his huge ego haven’t unendingly taken credit for the move, it’s not hard to think it was more Gaines than Jackson.

In addition to highly questionable basketball decisions, Jackson is getting further away from even playing a competent executive off the court. In the beginning, it was a funny joke about the time he spent in LA, his condescending ways with the local media, his grandfatherly tweets, his pining for years past. This season however, was billed as the season that the Knicks were going to make a real playoff push, that the entire turnover was going to pay off and result in at the very least a playoff appearance for the team and a playoff gate receipt for Dolan.

But at the halfway point it’s become a soap opera in which Jackson is the star. The public comments about his star player – be it through his LA media friends – or his longtime associate Charley Rosen, has gone from possible motivation to overt antagonization. His insulting of Lebron James and his associates is the latest example of Jackson’s tone deaf nature. Rich Paul is quickly becoming an influential NBA agent. The Knicks organizations history of losing and reputation works against them already in attracting big time free agents, alienating a powerful agent certainly doesn’t help.

Just last week, Jackson remained silent when Rose, went AWOL leaving a clearly confused and unprepared Jeff Hornacek to answer difficult questions.

The Knicks need to right the wrong of Phil Jackson before Porzingis truly is the next Ewing, a franchise player who’s legacy is harmed by the front offices eternal desire to chase big names, general inability to build a functioning roster, and prioritization of everything BUT winning.

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