Can Carmelo Win the Phil War?

Here we are with Carmelo and Phil, on the other side of the tolerance line. What happens in most relationships is you take your figurative punches, you wipe away the blood, you let the swelling go down and you forgive. It works with varying degrees of success, until it doesn’t work and perhaps that is the impetus for Carmelo likening Phil Jackson to a dark cloud. He said, “I feel like we are playing good basketball and to have a temporary black cloud over our heads….”

Phil as a black cloud is a piercing metaphor because as Carmelo alluded to, a black cloud is temporary. It disappears. So who is going to blink first, Phil or Carmelo. Who is going to disappear?

The fact that Carmelo judges the Knicks as playing “good basketball” when they were humiliated on their home floor by the Cleveland Cavaliers with a national audience watching on ESPN is insight into Anthony’s thinking. He is still wearing the delusional crown. The Knicks have one of the worst defenses in the league. They give up more points than they score. They give up open threes.  If Carmelo actually means playing good basketball to get a lower playoff seed, then he is right. They should be in the scrum for seeds 6-8 and the privilege of getting swept by the Cavs or whomever.

Carmelo is not waiving his no-trade clause.

More importantly, Carmelo is on a western road trip with Phil not in attendance so he can say whatever he wants. Clearly he has had it with the Zen Master criticizing him. It’s not the first time Anthony has heard criticisms of his game but the distinction is between inside and outside. You expect and brace yourself and handle external criticisms from people who are not in the building. But in-house slams feel like family going rogue.

Phil is too linguistically genius and arrogant to take the “black cloud” inference lightly. He will find a way to fight back, that is his style. He made it out of North Dakota and had a NBA playing career. He coached the Albany Patroons of the CBA (Continental Basketball Association), and then directed two franchises to multiple titles. He is not going to sit back and let Carmelo Anthony who has never won anything in the NBA have the last word. At the very least, Carmelo can expect to have himself dragged through the chapters and verse in a Phil book on his New York experience.

As far as the present goes, Carmelo has all the leverage. Phil Jackson made sure of that when he gave Carmelo a no-trade clause. Carmelo has two years left on his deal, including this year, and then he has an early termination. He can, in theory, outlast any Phil storm.

Phil, on the other hand, has a fiancee in Los Angeles with a soon to be vacated basketball operations spot once Jim Buss is fired because of his own predictions that were specious at best. So Phil can troll Carmelo and then hop back to Cali.

But he won’t.

Then Phil would have done something he has never done. Quit after failing. His ego is too grandiose to accept that. He is built to withstand wars. In Chicago he had a very public war with GM Jerry Krause that went on for years and makes this Carmelo interlude feel more like a distraction than an out and out blood sport. Rest assured, Phil Jackson can take whatever Carmelo dishes out.

But can Carmelo do the same? Can he function at the necessary level when he has a critiquer at every single home game and a few road games. He calls this cloud “temporary” but that is trying to put a spin on it that it will be over. This particular slight may be over. But something else is coming. The Knicks are far from a perfect team and there is a lot to critique. All the shade is coming from Phil. That he doesn’t have any semblance of a relationship with Carmelo, so there are no boundaries or rules of etiquette, makes it even more bitter.

And social media worthy. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.


photo via llananba