CHICAGO – Phil Jackson cares enough about Carmelo Anthony’s well-being to send a supportive text about his personal issues and still push him towards a better team.
Jackson, attending his first NBA combine as Knicks president on Friday, declined to answer any questions about the disgruntled Kristaps Porzingis, but he reiterated his previous stance on Anthony – even in the face of criticism from the player’s union.
“(Carmelo) has a no-trade clause,” Jackson said. “I think I expressed what I felt. I can’t express it any better. I thought it was well-said even if a lot of you didn’t feel that way. We’d like him to have success, but the opportunity is narrowing. We’d just like for him to have success somewhere. We’re not going to be there. Hopefully we’ll maybe be a playoff team next year. It would tough to consider us possible champions.”
Still, Jackson said he reached out to Anthony amid reports of his extramarital affair and separation from his wife.
“Some personal things came out in the paper that was difficult,” Jackson said. “Wanted him to know we’re supportive of him.’’
Jackson landed in the crosshairs of the player’s union for his postmortem press conference last month, when he said Anthony would be better off with another franchise closer to a championship.
Despite pleas from union boss Michele Roberts for the league to discipline Jackson for “deliberately trying to shame Carmelo out of the city,” Jackson seems very unconcerned. And for good reason.
Aside from accusing Roberts of “working it,” Jackson said Friday he has called NBA commissioner Adam Silver and declared Saturday, “we’re on the same path.” Jackson also said the commissioner is reassured that the Knicks are headed in the right direction, despite any contrary reports in the media.
“I’ve known Adam for some time so we talk about business, about various things, about what’s important for our franchise. We have a number of issues that I think are important. The press is one of them,” Jackson said. “You guys want to knock us around a little bit and make it seem like we don’t know what we’re doing. But they’re comfortable.”
Jackson passed on several questions about Porzingis, who bailed on his exit meeting and has cut off contact with the Knicks amid his disappointment with the direction of the team. He deferring to what Jeff Hornacek said a day earlier about the Latvian, when the coach said he had wished Porzingis voiced his complaints in the exit meeting and shouldn’t dwell in the past.
“Rather than to bat this thing over the net back and forth between parties, we’ll just leave it alone,” Jackson said.
Jackson, however, did address another disgruntled group in the Knicks fanbase. He still wants them to know they’re still gunning for the championship, even if they’re not headed there quickly enough to keep Carmelo around.
“To have a positive base to work from is really important and our fan core is positive and we like to give them hope because they’ve been disappointed,” said Jackson, who owns an 80-166 record as an executive. “Well, they weren’t disappointed 20 years ago when they went to the finals. They were surprised in ’99. So it’s been a long time for hope for our fans. We want them to have hope. They’ve been bridesmaids but never a bride.”