There is one way — and only one way — for Phil Jackson’s reign of error with the New York Knicks to take a turn for the better.
It is time to trade Carmelo Anthony. Period.
The Knicks haven’t won with Melo. They aren’t going to win with Melo. They need to turn their one desirable veteran asset into the tools that will enable a viable rebuilding effort centered around Kristaps Porzingis. And they have to make peace with the fact that going all-in the way they did for Melo five years ago was a massive mistake.
That should be easy for Jackson. He didn’t trade for Melo. Admit it and move on. Give the fans some real hope.
The alternative is running in quicksand for years and years to come, and that is not what Jackson — or Anthony — is all about.
Let’s put the firing of coach Derek Fisher behind us and move on to a couple of points that Jackson made Monday at his explanatory news conference.
It’s now clear that the Fisher hiring was a mistake from the get-go, something Jackson, Jim Dolan and all patient Knicks fans (are there any left?) should have realized after Jackson came aboard. You hand the keys to a guy with no driving experience, less than a month removed from appearing as a player in the postseason, and you know what you get? An accident.
So now that Fisher is gone, Jackson has big, big plans …. or so he said Monday after dropping the ax on Gloria Govan’s significant other.
One big plan is to look for a coach who fits into the system Jackson wants to install, a system built around the triangle offense. Jackson’s love affair with the triangle is well-chronicled, but what he refuses to recognize is that it was a combination of his system and his coaching — from his motivational tactics to his managing of super egos — that helped make the triangle work.
If he is unable or unwilling to sit on the bench and try to make it work one last time, he needs to ditch it as a must-use philosophy. The players Fisher has been coaching struggled to adapt to it. The results — although this season is nowhere near the disaster that was last season — speak for themselves.
Jackson’s other big statement was a vow to try to make a significant trade between now and the Feb. 19 deadline. Here’s the problem with that: A trade cannot include Anthony, who has a no-trade clause. Unless, of course, Melo — on the wrong side of 30 with bad knees — gives the Knicks a list of teams to whom he would accept a trade.
Anthony realizes as well as anyone that the window for winning in New York has already opened and closed. If he wants to win a championship before his NBA career ends, it is going to have to be somewhere else.
He could be a difference maker in Los Angeles with the Clippers, but there is no way in heck that Los Angeles would part with Blake Griffin. Same goes for Chris Paul. And DeAndre Jordan.
If Jackson could get the Clippers to part with a No. 1 pick in 2019, along with the right to swap first-round picks in 2018 and/or 2020, he could start to restock the bare cupboard left by his predecessors. As many of you know, the Knicks have no picks in this June’s draft. (And the Clippers cannot trade a 2016 or 2018 first-round pick because they already owe a 2017 pick to Toronto.)
What would the Clippers part with (along with draft picks) to bring Anthony aboard?
How about this:
The top three teams in the West — Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City — have no need or desire for Anthony, and there isn’t another team in that conference that one could imagine Anthony accepting a trade to.
In the East, I could see Anthony green-lighting a trade to the Miami Heat, but Pat Riley already has mortgaged the future to land Goran Dragic while figuring out a way to keep Hassan Whiteside. So there is no deal to be made there.
But what about Boston?
If there is one team that is one player away from being able to challenge Cleveland for the conference title over the next two to three seasons, it is the Celtics. Winners of nine of their last 10, Boston has climbed to third place in the East with a run of success that includes a victory over Cleveland.
Best of all for Jackson, Danny Ainge is sitting on a stockpile of future draft picks that includes Brooklyn’s first-rounders in 2016 and 2018, along with the right to swap first-rounders with Brooklyn in 2017. Ainge also owns Dallas’ pick (protected 1-7) in 2016 and Memphis’ pick (protected 1-12) in 2018.
That’s seven first-round picks in the next three years.
If, for argument’ sake, Ainge would part with the Dallas and Memphis picks along with his own pick in 2018, what else would it take to put Melo in green? How about this:
Neither trade is a short-term solution for the Knicks. But let’s face it, there are no short-term solutions in a conference that the Cavaliers are going to be dominating for the rest of the decade. None.
The plan for the future needs to involve building around Porzingis, the one guy Jackson can point to as a successful acquisition. To do that, you need draft picks, and good ones. Anyone who thinks a top-tier free agent like Kevin Durant is walking into the Garden as a savior is delusional.
And the only way to jump-start a traditional rebuilding plan — through the draft — is to get as much for Carmelo Anthony as you possibly can — and to do it immediately.
If ‘Melo gives his OK, the Zen Master needs to pull the plug on Anthony the same way he pulled the plug on Fisher — swiftly, and with no remorse.
If it doesn’t happen, the 43-year championship drought will become a 50-year championship drought, and Jackson’s legacy as an executive will be one of failure.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and managing editor of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.