If you’re doing a quick check-in on the Knicks, yes, Carmelo Anthony is still on the team.
With a little over a month to go before the NBA’s opening night on Oct. 17, Anthony has yet to be traded, despite constant rumors surrounding New York’s star forward. It’s no secret Anthony would like to play for the Rockets, and New York and Houston have discussed trade possibilities, though any deal would likely have to involve a third team. However, an outsider may be lurking in the chase for Anthony’s services.
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Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that Anthony “didn’t seem opposed” to the idea of playing in Portland. While speaking to Spears at the annual Damian Lillard Brookfield Picnic in Oakland, Calif., Lillard explained that he has had discussions with Anthony but didn’t go full John Calipari in the hopes of persuading him to waive his no-trade clause.
“I didn’t want to press (Anthony),” Lillard said. “I ain’t a big fan of doing all the extra recruiting and all that stuff. And I guess they call it tampering or whatever. It’s not against the rules for us to interact with each other. We all peers, we all play in the same league and everybody hints at playing with each other. ‘What you think about this?’ ‘What do you think about that?’ All that matters is whether it got done or did not get done. Or hasn’t got done, and it hasn’t got done. So, it is what it is.”
Lillard is wise to toe the line in regards to tampering, especially after the Lakers were fined $500,000 for improper contact with Paul George’s agent. There is nothing stopping him from reaching out to Anthony, though, so it makes sense Lillard would do whatever he could to help improve his team.
And it’s not just Lillard driving up speculation that Anthony could reconsider his Rockets-or-bust stance. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe recently discussed the Trail Blazers’ desire to acquire Anthony on an episode of “The Woj Pod.”
Wojnarowski: This is a great September conversation because, right, free agency’s done. Everyone’s waiting for camp to start. Carmelo is unlikely to be moved.
Lowe: We should talk about Carmelo. We can talk about Carmelo.
Wojnarowski: Let’s talk about Carmelo. Houston, right now, just does not have a pathway to do a direct deal with New York based on what New York wants. Melo has not really waived the no-trade — he’s not really open — maybe that happens. I think New York is hoping he opens this up. Portland would love for Melo to open this up.
Lowe: I think Portland — I mean you, you’ve been on the nose about Portland ahead of everybody but I think Portland wants Melo like way, like even more than people — like Portland, really really wants to get Melo.
A core of Lillard, Anthony, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic would be intriguing to see, particularly if the starting lineup could unleash Olympic Carmelo. However, there are still significant hurdles to jump before Anthony would land in Portland, including that no-trade clause. Can the Trail Blazers tempt the Knicks with package along the lines of Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis and a future draft pick? Is that enough for the Knicks? Is it too much for the Trail Blazers to give up?
Then there’s the matter of Anthony’s contract. As Lowe notes, Anthony has an early termination option in his contract for the 2018-19 season worth $27.9 million. Any team hoping to snag Anthony in a trade must assume he won’t be turning all that money down. In this hypothetical, that means the Trail Blazers would be paying nearly $28 million to a 34-year-old who is well past his prime years of production. Not exactly a comforting thought.
The safe bet (for now) is to assume Anthony will be present at Knicks training camp in late September, but a wild NBA offseason taught us we probably shouldn’t ever assume we know what will happen next.
“I’m not giving up on anything,” Lillard said. “I just think I’ve done what I can do. And camp is a few weeks away. And you have to focus on getting ready with who we are, plan on going in as we are. Whatever changes, the front office will be the ones making that change, with the Knicks and our front office or whatever. But I get my mind focused on what I can control at a certain point.”