All these years later, Patrick Ewing realizes that his biggest blunder was agreeing to that very public divorce from the Knicks back in 2001.
“I never should have left,” Ewing said Friday. “I never should have left.”
It was foolish for Ewing to re-locate to Seattle and shortsighted of the Knicks to trade their aging legend for players — Glen Rice, Luc Longley and Travis Knight among them – who neither upgraded the roster nor improved their salary cap situation. That trade was a lose-lose.
It is a lesson worth remembering 16 years later as Phil Jackson goes full speed ahead with his plan to extradite Carmelo Anthony, assuming Anthony agrees to waive his no-trade clause. The team the Knicks believe would interest Anthony is the Los Angeles Clippers, a pseudo contender with Melo’s buddy, Chris Paul, as the point guard. It makes plenty of sense.
The problem, however, is that Jackson is willing to deal Anthony without getting one of the Clippers top three players in return. As the Daily News reported on Thursday, Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are not part of the proposed package.
Instead, the names being floated are Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, two back-up guards with undesirable contracts. Or as one general manager told me on Friday, “if this trade happens, Phil could be sued for malpractice.”
On Friday, Doc Rivers told ESPN that he would be willing to include his son in any deal if it benefits the Clippers. Meanwhile, ESPN also reported that the Clippers are trying to recruit a third team into the mix, presumably to take Crawford’s three-year, $42 million contract. The Knicks should also insist on a first round pick.
If the idea is to rebuild and trading Anthony can result in assets in the form of draft picks and young players, then the Knicks are on to something. Trading your best player for two combo guards and adding them to a roster that includes Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee may in fact be the textbook definition of malpractice.
It makes you wonder how this is all being received by Garden Chairman James Dolan. My guess would be, not very well. Dolan moved heaven and earth to acquire Anthony six years ago from Denver. That deal was Dolan’s baby.
And now Dolan is going to sign off on Phil trading Carmelo, the best player in the deal by a long shot, for two back-ups?
Regrettably, Dolan gave Jackson the keys to the franchise and stayed out of his way. Dolan kept his word. And yet Jackson has rewarded Dolan’s promise of full autonomy by giving him a losing product that includes four head coaches and constant roster turnover.
With Friday’s win against Charlotte, the Knicks are 82 games under .500 under Jackson. Phil’s not exactly giving Dolan much bang for his buck.
The losing seasons are bad enough and we also know that Dolan doesn’t appreciate the nonsense going on behind the scenes that has played out in the media. Jackson’s digs at Anthony, starting in early December when the Knicks sat in third place in the East, have sabotaged the season.
Dolan didn’t like it when Jeff Van Gundy and Ernie Grunfeld were bickering. Ditto for Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas and Stephon Marbury. This isn’t really the same since Anthony isn’t fighting back. He’s taking the high road while Phil aims low.
“It can be mentally draining, mentally fatiguing,” Anthony said.
It is reprehensible that the highest ranking official picks a public fight with the best player. Where else does that take place? Where else is that behavior tolerated?
And while it’s common for the biggest diva in any organization to be the star player, it’s highly unusual for the team president to be the diva with an attitude. Jackson has more misses than hits yet he’s using Anthony as the scapegoat for all that ails the Knicks. Maybe it’s working. Anthony heard some boos on Friday.
“Yeah,” Anthony said. “I enjoy that.”
Any executive worth his salt goes out of his way to protect his best player. But not at the Garden. Jackson caused the trouble and then leaves Anthony to answer for it.
For a guy who couldn’t land a free agent meeting with Kevin Durant and then insulted LeBron James with his silly entourage quote, Jackson may want to reconsider the way he treats star players. Word travels fast in the NBA.
And the idea that Phil is even considering trading a player of Anthony’s stature for a couple of back-up guards is the talk of the league. And it’s giving everyone a good laugh.