Sources: Phil Jackson's public actions steeling 'Melo's resolve to stay with Knicks

Adrian Wojnarowski
The Vertical
Phil Jackson doesn’t appear to be helping the Knicks’ situation with Carmelo Anthony. (Getty Images)

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson’s public campaign to pressure Carmelo Anthony into waiving his no-trade clause is working to harden Anthony’s resolve to remain with the franchise, league sources told The Vertical.

“[Jackson’s] underestimating ‘Melo’s willingness to stay,” a source familiar with Anthony’s thinking told The Vertical.

Jackson used his largely dormant Twitter account Tuesday to publicly praise a published report critical of Anthony’s evolution as a winning player. In reference to a Kevin Ding column on Bleacher Report, Jackson wrote, “Bleacher’s Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don’t change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.”

Jackson was referring to a journeyman player, Michael Graham, whom he coached in the Continental Basketball Association. Anthony is a nine-time NBA All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist.

As Jackson’s passive-aggressive assault on Anthony has played out, the Knicks have spiraled to a 22-31 record, 12th in the Eastern Conference.

Anthony has privately told teammates, too: He refuses to let Jackson run him out of the Knicks. The Knicks have contacted three teams – the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers – about possible Anthony trades. The Clippers and Cavaliers have interest, but only in cobbling together packages that include role players, league sources told The Vertical.

Anthony has privately indicated an interest in listening to trades to those three teams, but the Knicks have been unable to find a trade package that they’re willing to accept, sources said. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 23.

Boston’s shown minimal interest in Anthony, preferring to continue its pursuit of persuading Chicago (Jimmy Butler) and Indiana (Paul George) to engage in trade talks that involve two younger, more well-rounded stars.

There was an expectation around the NBA that Knicks management would start to search elsewhere for trade possibilities and bring Anthony different scenarios for his approval, but that process doesn’t appear to have begun, league sources said.

Jackson has resisted a transparent approach of simply meeting with Anthony and his representative and telling them that the organization prefers to trade him and wants to work to find an agreeable solution. That approach might have convinced Anthony to be more open to accepting a trade, league sources said, but Jackson’s insistence on public over private communication has severely damaged the relationship – likely beyond repair.

Anthony has tried to maintain a focus on turning around the Knicks and getting them back to the playoffs. All along, he has said that his hope was to win in New York – not leave to try elsewhere.

Anthony’s contract guarantees him $24.5 million this season and $26.2 million in 2017-18, and he holds a $30 million player option for 2018-19. Plus, the Knicks must pay Anthony a $9.5 million bonus if he is traded.

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