Portland Trail Blazers forward and former Knick Carmelo Anthony was a guest on The Old Man & Three Podcast with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter on Thursday.
During the hour-plus interview, Anthony spoke about his time in Denver, New York, Oklahoma City, Houston, and now Portland.
In the interview, Anthony spends roughly 12 minutes talking about his time in New York as a member of the New York Knicks.
After the Nuggets missed out on winning a title with Anthony in town, the organization felt like they were in a spot to start from scratch, an idea that didn’t sit well with the 27-year-old forward.
“I can’t go from where I’m at now to go start over and rebuild. I just can’t do that,” said Anthony of his mindset that eventually led him to being dealt to New York. “You have a lot of excitement in the city. You know, you have Raymond Felton playing out of his mind, Amar’e Stoudemire is an all-star, (Felton) was supposed to be an all-star. (Danilo) Gallinari is here. You have pieces.”
The Knicks were involved in a three-team trade with Denver and Minnesota that led to the acquisition of Anthony, along with Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman.
The Nuggets acquired Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, two second-round picks, one first-round pick, and $3M cash. The Wolves received Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph.
“There’s a lot of excitement because Amar’e signed to New York and people forget he was Amar’e Stoudemire! He was one of the most dominant big men in the game,” Anthony said. “In my mind I’m like ‘Damn, if I’m going to go and start over, I’d rather go there and start over. Once I got there, it was like, ‘Okay, I see it. We’re going to take our time. Okay, I see it. Alright cool, we lose to Miami, we’re going to build on it. Miami went and got the big three, we’re going to build on this,’ then the year after that, they pluck a piece away and pluck a piece away and pluck a piece away and before you know, I’m there. I’m just there.”
In his first half-year in New York, the Knicks finished with a 42-40 record and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and had their first winning record since 2000-01. They were swept by the Celtics in the first round.
The following year, the Knicks finished 36-30 in a lockout-shortened season and made the playoffs again, but lost in five in the first round to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat.
“When I came, I think Donnie Walsh was there, he was the one who facilitated all that, and Glen Grunwald was the GM and with Glen it was like ‘We’re going to build this, fill the pieces we think we really need, this is a two-three year plan but we’re going to follow the plan,” said Anthony. “Then, they get rid of Glen Grunwald and Mike D’Antoni leaves and things start to fall apart, but then Mike Woodson takes over. He’s coming off of Atlanta, Atlanta was playing good those years with him, the offense was great, this is the offense we really need.”
After two appearances in the playoffs in back-to-back years, the Knicks were ready to make a run for the NBA title in year three, just as Grunwald pictured.
They filled in the pieces the Knicks needed.
“We got the older cats now. (Jason) Kidd, (Kenyon Martin), Kurt Thomas, (Marcus) Camby, Metta World Peace, Pablo Prigioni. That was our older guys. Then in the middle of the pack was myself, Amar’e, J.R. (Smith), Tyson Chandler, and Raymond. Then our younger guys, Iman Shumpert, Chris Copeland was part of that, Steve Novak was part of that. We had a good unit.”
The Knicks finished the 2011-12 season with a 54-28 record, clinching the division and were second in the east. It was their first Atlantic Division title since 1993-94, their highest win total since 1996-97 and their first 50-win season since 1999-00. They beat the Celtics in six in the first round, which marked their first playoff series win since 1999-00. They were eliminated by the Pacers in six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
During the following season, former Bulls and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was named President of Basketball Operations. The Knicks failed to make the playoffs in 2013-14. A week after the season ended, Woodson and the entire coaching staff were fired.
Jackson replaced Woodson with former Lakers guard Derek Fisher.
“But when Phil (Jackson) came, it was like ‘I’m going to do it how I want to do it. I got to bring the personnel in to fit the system I’m trying to run. This guy doesn’t fit in the triangle. This guy doesn’t fit in the triangle.’ So he started slowly picking the team apart and putting in his pieces,” said the ten-time all-star.
Before the start of the 2014-15 season, the Knicks traded Felton and Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and a couple of second-round picks in 2014 which turned into Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
During the season, a three-team trade saw Shumpert and Smith shipped to Cleveland in exchange for Lou Amundson and Alex Kirk. Lance Thomas also arrived via Oklahoma City as the third team involved in the trade. A few weeks later, Stoudemire was released from his contract and a day after, Prigioni was traded to Houston in exchange for Alexey Shved and a couple of second-round picks.
In his first full season as President, Jackson’s Knicks finished 17-65, setting a franchise record in losses in a season.
This led to Kristaps Porzingis being drafted by the Knicks with the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft.
“But also, we was in a pivotal time in offense in the game, where it was going at. The triangle, it works, but now, the game is getting faster, guys are getting quicker, guys are jumping out the gym, it’s like ‘no, we can’t slow it down when we got a fastbreak,” said Anthony. “We can’t play in a two-guard front when we got Derrick Rose and Raymond Felton.’ You can’t do that. You can’t put Derrick Rose up there in a two-guard front, that’s just not his game. We need D-Rose up and down the court. We go get Joakim (Noah) because again, we’re trying to slow the game down. That’s when you see guys wasn’t comfortable in that situation.”
Rose was traded to the Knicks alongside Justin Holiday and a second-round pick for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant. Noah signed with the Knicks as a free agent in 2016-17.
“I was one of them,” continued Anthony. “But, because I wasn’t comfortable in it, I decided to give it a chance. Like ‘let me figure this out. Let me learn the triangle. Let me study the triangle. Let me get it to a point where Phil, you got to come to me and say ‘yo, you’re manipulating my triangle.’ I was talking to Kobe (Bryant) all the time just about the triangle and just how to do things. I would call (Michael Jordan) and get little pointers on how to play the triangle.”
Many expected after the abysmal first season under Derek Fisher, that Phil Jackson would come down from upstairs and be the next man to lead New York from the bench.
Fisher would coach another half-season with the Knicks before he was dismissed and replaced with Kurt Rambis.
“It wasn’t hard to learn, it was hard to execute it because the personnel wasn’t there but also, Phil, you wasn’t the coach, so because you wasn’t the coach, it was going to run the way you expected it to run,” said the Knicks record holder for most points in one game. “If you want to coach, you come down here and coach and we would listen and we would run the triangle all day long.”
Before the start of the 2016-17 season, Rambis was not retained as head coach and was replaced with former Utah Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek.
“There wasn’t no pushback. Guys was unhappy, guys didn’t want to do it, but it wasn’t like ‘Nah, we not doing this.’ Because, again, it works, but when you playing that way a whole 48 minutes, teams make adjustments. You don’t make any adjustments, you just continue playing that way. The ball will find you, right? Body movement and ball movement, that’s what it is,” mentioned Anthony. “Wherever you pass the ball out in the triangle, that dictates what happens in the offense. When you start learning that, start finding out from a cerebral standpoint, it’s like ‘man, if they make an adjustment, we’re done.’ If they deny the two-guard front we’re done, if they deny the blind pig, we’re done, so teams started to do that.”
The Knicks’ dysfunction on and off the court was easily visible by other teams around the league.
“When I was with LA and you guys were running this, when I was with the Clippers, I used to actually look forward to guarding it,” said Redick. “It was just predictable and I understand the concept of body movement, ball movement, no one player dominating the ball. But oftentimes, what happens in offenses like that is the ball ends up in the wrong people’s hands, and if you’re not going fast, hey, that 24 seconds go by quick and all of a sudden, you’re on your second action in the triangle and the wrong guy has it with five seconds on the shot clock.”
Anthony is heard in the background agreeing and chuckling.
“I studied the triangle all day every day, to the point where there was nothing to the triangle that I didn’t know,” said Anthony. “The couple of times I sat with Phil, I used to go sit with him and tell him about the triangle and he would be like ‘Man, I’m impressed.’ He was super impressed in the way I was able to articulate what I knew about the triangle and break it down.”
During his time in New York, Anthony averaged 24.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 3.2 APG. He also won the scoring title in 2012-13 with 28.7 PPG.
“When you’re in it, you’re just trying to get through it, you’re not really reflecting on it. The only thing you know is ‘this s–t ain’t working, we got to figure this out,” said Anthony. “I was in New York for seven and a half years. I played for maybe 4 or 5 different coaches. There was never no consistency. We couldn’t grow. We couldn’t build. I played with over 100 players, I had over 100 different teammates in seven years. Three GMs! Three presidents! And you putting this all on me?”
Seems as though Anthony feels like things were quite alright and things were headed in the right direction, but the addition of Phil Jackson is what made it all crumble.
“That’s when it went downhill. That’s why I feel like Phil takes most of the burn of it because it all started when he came. The personnel changed, guys started to lose confidence, they was coming to the locker room just like ‘seven, I don’t know man, look, it’s on you tonight’ and I’m like ‘what?!’ said Anthony with a chuckle. “But they started to lose confidence because we don’t know what to do. He telling us to do one thing from upstairs, the coach is telling us to do one thing, the assistant coaches are telling us to do one thing and ‘Melo, you telling us to do something too. Who are we supposed to listen to?’ I’m like ‘listen to me, go out there and play basketball, get it out your head, play ball. We’ll deal with the triangle later. We’ll watch film on it’ Phil didn’t like that.”
Towards the end of his Knicks career, the New York media bashed him.
Anthony says that he heard everything that was being said, negating the overall consensus from athletes who claim they don’t pay attention to what the media says.
“At that point, I had to say ‘you know what? I just got to do what I got to do.’ I know the media, I know what’s happening. I know what they’re doing. I’m in it. I know what they say. There’s a hundred of them at practice every single day and you hear the whispers and I knew what I was up against. I knew, no matter what, they was going to have something to say,” said Anthony. “Just go play ball, enjoy it, have fun, don’t let them see you sweat, even if it’s bothering you, f–k it, get through it. I started to rally my teammates like that and give them that same mentality like ‘this media, they against us at the end of the day and as you can see what’s happening in the front office, what’s happening with (Phil Jackson), we got to leave that alone, we have to play. It’s us against New York media. It’s us against our own organization because we don’t know what’s happening.”
The New York Knicks finished the 2016-17 season with a 31-51 record. After the season, Jackson stepped down as President of Basketball Operations, Rose signed with the Cavaliers as a free agent, and Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City for Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter and a second-round pick.
The poor ownership of James Dolan is at fault here. The Knicks were on the right path with D’Antoni and Mike Woodson as their head coaches. They suffered a small hiccup on the road to a title, which led to Dolan hitting the panic button once again and had a major overhaul. There was absolutely no need for the overhaul. I have no idea what Dolan expected when he brought in Phil Jackson.
The Knicks were two years removed from the best record they had in the century, and Dolan thought that wasn’t good. He brought in a guy with a certain offense, with players whose set of skills are completely different and are not compatible.
Phil Jackson is certainly at fault for the Knicks fall, but James Dolan should always take the blame since he is the owner of the team.
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