Knicks Reportedly Thought Carmelo Anthony 'Wasn't a Winning Player' Before Trade

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2017

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) reach for the ball in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The New York Knicks front office largely felt by the summer of 2016 that moving on from Carmelo Anthony and building around Kristaps Porzingis was the best direction for the organization.  

"Everybody was on board to try and get rid of Carmelo," a source told Ian Begley of ESPN.com. "The feeling in meetings was almost unanimous: They felt he just wasn't a winning player. They thought they could turn everything around if they just moved him."

That created tension behind closed doors, however, as Begley wrote:

"Some of those execs who wanted Anthony out were the same people who strongly supported him earlier in his tenure. Anthony was well aware of this, and it was one of the things that bothered him most about the organization, according to people familiar with his thinking. When the executives acted as if they were still on Anthony's side during face-to-face interactions with him, he saw right through it."

Those tensions soon enough became public once former team president Phil Jackson made his desire to trade Anthony public, lobbying for the star player to waive his no-trade clause. Anthony refused, however, and the Knicks refused to offer him a buyout in return, creating a public stand-off that defined the team's 2016-17 season and ultimately factored in Jackson's firing in June.

The Knicks dealt Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder in September in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick. And the Knicks seem relieved to have the whole situation behind them.

"Everyone just seems a little lighter," one team source said.

"The drama Phil created with Carmelo really affected the team and the joy factor," another source told Begley. 

Indeed, the Knicks seem to be enjoying themselves more this year, both freed from the drama and the restrictive triangle offense that Jackson essentially mandated the team run last year. Instead, Jeff Hornacek has been free to run his own scheme, and the Knicks have responded by starting the year 16-14, becoming one of the NBA's more pleasant surprises in the process.

With Anthony out of town, Porzingis has been able to serve as the team's superstar leader, responding by averaging career highs in points (25.5 PPG) and blocks (2.1 BPG) while adding 6.6 rebounds per contest and shooting 46.5 percent from the field (39.8 percent from three).

Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Paul George have had their issues finding chemistry in Oklahoma City, meanwhile, starting the year 16-15 despite being considered one of the top contenders in the Western Conference before the season. 

The team has largely relied on its defense (99.5 PPG allowed, third in the NBA) while struggling to consistently generate offense (102.1 PPG, 24th in the NBA). Anthony is averaging 17.3 points per contest, the lowest mark of his career.  

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