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As Anthony rumors swirl, Knicks focus on youth movement

Jaime C. Harris | 7/6/2017, 10:06 a.m.
As the story goes, back in 2012, Carmelo Anthony issued an ultimatum to then Knicks executive vice president of Basketball ...

As the story goes, back in 2012, Carmelo Anthony issued an ultimatum to then Knicks executive vice president of Basketball Operations and general manager Glen Grunwald and team owner James Dolan that either he or head coach Mike D’Antoni had to go. Anthony and the offensive innovator had conflicting views on his role within an offense that was experiencing the emergence of point guard Jeremy Lin and the phenomenon that would come to be known as Linsanity.

“I just went in and quit,” D’Antoni said to ESPN the Magazine in a profile of him published this past spring. Now, if reports are accurate, Anthony is willing to waive his no trade clause with the Knicks and accept a trade to the Houston Rockets, with which D’Antoni is the head coach, or to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Apparently time heals all wounds. D’Antoni was recently named the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year for leading the Rockets to a 55-27 record this season and a third seed in the robust Western Conference. Anthony, on the other hand, was a repeated target of former Knicks president Phil Jackson’s antagonistic criticism and toiled through a 31-51 campaign with a team that missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

On the surface, it is understandable why Anthony is open to playing for the Rockets. The fences between him and D’Antoni have ostensibly been mended. Last week, the Rockets acquired his good friend, point guard Chris Paul, in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. D’Antoni’s priority is offense, which suits Anthony’s skillset and mentality, as neither he nor D’Antoni are synonymous with defense. Lastly, barring a catastrophe, the combination of James Harden, Paul and Anthony will skate into the postseason as one of the favorites to challenge the conference supremacy of the Golden State Warriors.

The Knicks buying out Anthony’s contract may be the most logical, and at this point the only means, to begin the reconstruction of the team in earnest as trading him to a championship contender has proved difficult, given Anthony’s $26.24 million contract this season and potential trade partners’ stringent salary cap.

Less than a week into the free-agency signing period, Knicks general manager Steve Mills has been extremely prudent and patient as he has resisted offering contracts to veteran players that will be nothing more than stopgaps for a team constructing from the ground up. Mills needs to hold firm in focusing his attention on his current group of young players, notably 21-year-old forward/center Kristaps Porzingis, 23-year-old center Willy Hernangomez, who was named First Team All Rookie last week, and this year’s first round draft pick, point guard Frank Ntilikina, who will turn 19 July 28.

The franchise has sought quick fixes under the leadership of multiple team presidents and GMs over the past two decades and have only gone as far as the Eastern Conference semi-finals—just once—losing to the Indiana Pacers in 2013.