The New York Knicks provided media access, Friday morning, ahead of Monday’s Media Day. And even though there weren’t any players on hand, it didn’t stop local beat writers to repeatedly inquire about the trade possibilities of star forward Carmelo Anthony.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek, team president Steve Mills, and new general manager Scott Perry held court for the assembled, and as expected, the first 15 minutes or so had everything to do with Anthony’s status with the team and whether the Knicks’ brain trust has any interest in coaxing him into waiving his no-trade clause and finally put an end to this saga.
Mills and Perry, however, weren’t taking the bait.
“That’s the plan,” Mills said when asked if Knicks’ fans can expect Anthony at Media Day. None of the three on the stage, though, were willing to talk about a long-term scenario with their star.
“Melo is a New York Knick. He’s part of our basketball team, and we’ll just go about our business [as if he’ll be there],” Perry said. The first-year general manager then reasoned that while the team isn’t openly shopping Anthony, they’re always available to listen to any offers, should an enticing one arise. “We’ve been in constant contact with him [Anthony] and his representatives, [but] there’s definitely a possibility he’ll be here to start the season. I don’t deal with hypotheticals. Melo is gonna be here. If something changes … if there’s something that makes sense for him and the Knicks’ organization, we’ll listen. But obviously that hasn’t happened.”
What has happened, though, is the Knicks have been coyly peeking into an Anthony-less future. Perry recently inked a blog where he specifically touted the promising youth on the roster, led by forward Kristaps Porzingis, while leaving off a certain someone.
Mills had his partner’s back in trying to explain away the omission.
“We focused on the young players because they are our [long-term] future,” Mills reasoned, adding there won’t be any blowback from Anthony, which could cause disharmony in the locker room.
The president noted that he won’t allow dysfunction to set in this season.
“A part of my job is to calm things in what can sometimes be a crazy environment,” Mills offered. “But Carmelo will be fine with this team. Chemistry will be fine. Melo’s a pro. We feel he’ll come in and bring this team together.”
Regarding the chemistry, something that was null last season when then-president Phil Jackson destroyed it and fostered a walk-on-eggshells atmosphere, Perry said the lead trio have worked hard this offseason trying to rebuild a bond within the locker room and front office.
“There’s always things that go on [behind the scenes] that guys have to get through. But players don’t worry about trade talks. Carmelo will be fine. He’s gonna embrace the style that we’ll play, because once guys are out there playing, they’re having fun, and will play a style they’ll like. The style guys are liking to play is different [than Triangle]. It’s more wide open … we look at their strengths and build from there,” the coach reasoned. “It’s our jobs to create a good environment. To reach their best potential they have to enjoy things, on and off the court. I feel that’s what we [he, Mills, and Perry] have done. …. The past is in the past.”
Teams blew right past the Knicks, last season, as New York fielded one of the worst defensive outfits in the National Basketball Association. Hornacek said he’s crafting and tweaking wrinkles on the defensive end that will hopefully seal up the holes – even if Anthony, one of the league’s most disinterested defensive players, remains on the team.
The coach said that Mills and Perry did a good job in bringing aboard veterans and drafting a rookie (point guard Frank Ntilikina) who like to get their hands dirty and relish stopping opponents.
Hornacek reasoned that sometimes all a team needs is an infusion of a just a couple guys to change the defensive tenor.
“Sometimes you don’t need five new guys. Sometimes it’s one or two guys who bring it and it becomes contagious. We’re working on some new defensive concepts [and] hoping it will put guys in right positions — guys who get after it,” said Hornacek.
And what happens if Anthony’s defensive presence doesn’t improve? Would the coach be so brazen as to sit his star and play a better defender?
“The role’s not gonna change. If you think I’m not gonna start him [Anthony] you’re crazy,” Hornacek said with an incredulous chuckle. “He’s a great player.”
Anthony can still be a great player, now that the Triangle is dead. The question remains will it be while donning the orange and blue or something else?