New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony drama continues as camp approaches

Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) guards New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Knicks won 107-103. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

With all of the excitement surrounding the 2017 NBA offseason, somehow the spotlight keeps coming back to Carmelo Anthony.

That’s right, seven(!) All-Star-level players were traded this offseason, yet we can’t stop talking about the one who wasn’t.

Regardless of whether the New York Knicks forward gets traded, he’s stealing headlines for other reasons.

The unquestioned King of Summertime Pickup Hoops, Anthony and the rest of the blogosphere found out this week that he’s listed as the 64th-best player in ESPN’s annual rankings. Considering Hoodie Melo has yet to miss a shot in any highlight videos that exist on Twitter, this is obvious slander.

While these lists exist to get people outraged enough to start conversations (and draw traffic to ESPN’s website), they’re less meaningful to me than Anthony’s pull around the league:

The 33-year-old wing hosted the Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul and James Harden, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, and a slew of other high-profile NBA players for a morning of pickup ball. Later that day, The Undefeated published a feature on Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who discussed Anthony potentially waiving his no-trade clause to join him in the Pacific Northwest.

Even though Lillard admitted that he doesn’t see a trade happening, he implied that Anthony “didn’t seem opposed” to playing in Portland. If Lillard’s intel is accurate, this is quite the development in the Anthony trade saga.

The Knicks have seemingly been ready to ship the 10-time All-Star, but the holdup has been on Melo. With a no-trade clause, the Knicks need his approval on a trade, but he’s been dead set on Houston. At the same time, the Rockets don’t have any assets they’re willing to part with.

Knowing the Blazers want Anthony, and that they have young players and picks they could make available, Anthony’s consent would be huge for the Knicks. A king’s ransom isn’t retrievable, but a Blazer package would surely supplant Ryan Anderson’s unfavorable contract.

This is the rock and the hard place the Knicks have been stuck between this offseason.

Holding tight on trading Anthony has been an attempt at regaining leverage, and it might work. Although the open gym run with Paul and Harden could imply favoritism toward the Rockets, time is ticking.

The Knicks have shown diligence and patience (yes, really), and aren’t against starting the season with Antony on the team. Considering the Knicks won’t be too competitive this season, it’s Anthony who needs to show urgency if he wants out.

Earlier this offseason it was reported that Anthony didn’t want to be traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, just the Rockets. If Anthony didn’t want to go to a team that has a great chance at playing for a championship, why Portland?

After trading for big man Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers went 18-8 after the All-Star break. Through their improvement, however, the team scored less, declining from 110.1 points per game to 105. Is Anthony the missing piece as a dynamic frontcourt scorer next to Nurkic, and relief for Lillard and C.J. McCollum?

Even if he is, how good does he make the Blazers? Anthony has made clear that the measuring stick isn’t being better than the Knicks, it’s competing for a championship. Out West he’d have to compete with not just Golden State and the Spurs, but improved Rocket and Thunder teams.

He’d face similar problems with the Rockets, but before Anthony enters the picture, Houston is better than Portland.

If Anthony isn’t confident he’d help LeBron James get past Golden State, does he think he can help the Blazers? Is that the deciding factor in waiving his no-trade clause for whatever team he ultimately joins?

Although Lillard claimed he doesn’t want to recruit, he has earned a reputation similar to Anthony for uniting players. Convincing Anthony that he could win somewhere other than Houston would cement that legacy regardless of Portland’s success.

Ultimately the decision is on Anthony, but after a stalemate offseason, a trade with Portland seems like the best outcome for the Knicks. It might be Anthony’s best scenario as well, since his current team isn’t in a rush to trade him.

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