The Knicks’ Dismal Season Speaks for Itself


Carmelo Anthony, foreground, under contract with the Knicks until 2017, rarely expresses frustration over the team’s mounting losses.

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DENVER — I caught a glimpse of Phil Jackson on Tuesday morning.

It was just before the Knicks’ shootaround, before the team’s 39th loss of the season. Jackson, the Knicks’ president, emerged from a room inside the Pepsi Center here and headed toward the court to watch practice.

He did not speak to reporters. And while it would have been nice for him to engage, what, really, is there to say?

Two years into his tenure, the Knicks are one of the least entertaining teams in the N.B.A. The narrative that Jackson’s Hall of Fame success as a coach would translate into front office success in New York continues to be exposed as an expensive pipe dream.

After Tuesday’s 110-94 loss to the similarly moribund Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony was asked about Jackson’s presence on this western swing. Was there a special, cryptic message? Anthony smiled and measured his words.

“Phil wanted to travel with his team,” he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Will his presence lead to a more open line of communication between them?


Phil Jackson, the Knicks’ president, traveled to Denver to watch his team play the Nuggets on Tuesday.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

“When the time comes to talk to Phil, or he wants to talk to me, the line of communication is always open between us,” Anthony, whose contract runs through 2019, said. “Whenever that time comes for us to sit down and talk and figure this thing out, I’m pretty sure we will.”

In terms of becoming a championship-caliber team, the Knicks are an unfixable mess.

Full disclosure: I wanted the Knicks to trade for Anthony. I thought it was a good idea in 2011 — long before Jackson arrived — and I still think it was a good idea. On paper, pairing Anthony with Amar’e Stoudemire looked like a winning combination. And any fan who thought the young talent the Knicks gave up to acquire Anthony — Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov — would lead to a title in New York was delusional.

When the Knicks played Denver on Tuesday, Anthony was the only player from that trade who took the court. Gallinari is injured and probably out for the season. Chandler is out for the season. Mozgov is in Cleveland. Felton is with Dallas.

The larger truth is that it hasn’t mattered whom the Knicks have brought in. Nobody has been the answer to the eternal question: How can the Knicks win a championship?

Instead, frustration and lament are what the Knicks owner James L. Dolan continues to offer and the Knicks fans continue to buy. Knicks fans love to lament. They lead the league in hand-wringing, and in a perverse way, maybe they secretly love the losing. The losing allows them to vent, as one fan did to Anthony last week.

When the heckler suggested he would no longer attend games, Anthony gestured toward Dolan and told him to take his complaints to the boss.


Anthony’s response may turn out to be the highlight of another failed season, but Dolan was not amused. He suggested that Anthony issue an apology, and Anthony complied, but he made it clear that the apology was Dolan’s idea, not his.

“I don’t think I said anything wrong,” Anthony said.

On Tuesday, Denver fans, by and large, were congenial toward Anthony, their onetime All-Star. There was a smattering of grumbles when Anthony was introduced and the obligatory boos whenever he touched the ball.

Anthony, who rarely seems troubled by the Knicks’ mounting losses, said he was oblivious to the noise.

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“I didn’t feel like they was booing me,” he said.

“Over time,” he added, “we as people forget and forgive and try to understand the situation.”

It’s a perspective that Knicks fans should take to heart, too. When you consider that no Knicks player in 40 seasons has delivered a title, you must admit that Anthony, 31, has brought value. The Knicks made the playoffs in his first three seasons, missed in 2014 and 2015, and almost certainly will miss again this season.

Three in, three out. That sounds about right. Carmelo has been a wash.

He is a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Good statistics, no rings. But he does have three Olympic medals, two of them gold.

In fact, the only time Anthony became animated during an otherwise routine pregame interview Tuesday was when he was asked whether his knee would be ready for the Olympic basketball training camp this summer.

“By that time my knee will be fine,” he said, adding quickly: “I want to go. I want be part of it.”

Anthony won a national college title at Syracuse. His numbers as an N.B.A. player are top shelf. A significant part of his basketball legacy will be what he accomplished representing the United States as an Olympian.

“Not too many people can say they played in four Olympics and have a chance to win three gold medals,” he said. “Nobody can take that away from you.”

Then it was back to the dismal reality of the Knicks season and the current trip. A loss in Denver, a game with Phoenix on Wednesday, then on to Los Angeles for dates with the Clippers and the Lakers — playing out the string in what looks like another lost season.

Team officials say Jackson is expected to speak in Los Angeles.

I’ll probably skip it.

What’s there to say?

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