Is Phil Jackson trying to force Melo out of New York?

Is Phil Jackson trying to force Melo out of New York?
Photo by Keith Allison

It has been well reported that new Knicks GM Phil Jackson had dinner with star free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony Tuesday evening, and a few reports have leaked out as to the subject of their conversation.

Unconfirmed rumors are floating that Phil plans to hire current TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr as his head coach, which shouldn't surprise anyone. What might be surprising that Phil didn't discuss the possibility or ask Melo's opinion, he flat-out told him that Kerr would be his coach if he decides to stay a Knick for the foreseeable future.

In most cases, when a front office is conducting an actual coaching search, in today's world they go to their star player and ask for his input. Phil certainly has more credibility than Melo, and he certainly wouldn't be outside his rights to just blatantly tell Anthony "if you stay, Kerr is the coach, end of story".

ESPN's Ian Begley also had an interesting quote from Phil about his level of interest in keeping Melo on the Knicks going forward:

"I'm all about moving forward," Jackson said. "Just deal with what is and move forward. If it's in the cards, man are we fortunate. If it's not in the cards, man are we fortunate. We're going forward anyway."

Talk about a ringing non-endorsement, Phil blatantly seems to not care either way if Melo ever wears a Knicks uniform again.

Combine that with Phil's quotes about Melo taking less money to stay in the Big Apple-

"I think [there is] a precedent that's been set," Jackson said last week, referring to stars taking less money to join or remain with contending teams. "Because the way things have been structured now financially for teams is that it's really hard to have one or two top stars or max players, and to put together a team with enough talent, you've got to have people making sacrifices financially.

"So we hope that Carmelo is true to his word, and we understand what it's going to take, and we will present that to him at that time."

and one has to strongly doubt whether Phil even wants Melo back.

It's one thing to hope your star player takes less money, but to just so casually expect it? One doesn't need to be a skeptic to think that Phil is planning the Knicks' future without Melo, and that he is already playing the PR game to tank the 2014-15 season.

A rookie head coach who has never coached at any level, and a superstar who "wouldn't take the necessary pay cut to let us rebuild properly"? Yeah, if you ask me, Phil is setting things up to sign and trade Melo.

And with the Bulls being most people's obvious choice for Melo, who has made it clear he wants a shot at a championship next season, what would Phil and Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf do for each other?

Unless you're incredibly naive, you know that the PR game is a huge part of big league sports in the 21st century. The Knicks and Bulls would have to work out a deal that is acceptable not only to each team's front office, but also to each team's fan base.

Obviously, the Bulls want to be rid of Carlos Boozer, and they have made it obvious they would prefer to sign-and-trade him for a superstar to put with Derrick Rose. But to get the Knicks to take Boozer, what else do the Bulls have to do for Phil? And it's the Bulls who will have to do something for Phil, because they need Melo more than Phil needs to see Melo in Chicago as I'm sure Phil could also work out a deal with Houston or one of the LA teams.

Personally, I think Phil is banking on the free agent class of 2015 to build an instant contender- LeBron, Bosh, Rondo, Love, and Al Jefferson are among the unrestricted free agents next summer, while Irving, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard are among the restricted free agents who can threaten to sign their Qualifying Offer and leave the next summer if their team doesn't accept the Knicks' assumed top-5 2015 draft pick in a sign and trade.

So what kind of sign-and-trade benefits the Bulls and Knicks the most this season, with the Bulls trying to win and the Knicks trying to lose?

I'm thinking Boozer, Gibson, the Bulls' trio of non-guaranteed contracts (James, Amundson and Brewer), and one of their two first-round picks for Melo and Tyson Chandler is something both teams would absolutely love.

The Knicks' front-court rotation of Amare/Boozer/Bargnani/Gibson, playing with JR Smith/Tim Hardaway Jr/Raymond Felton would be so putrid defensively that they would easily lose 55-60 games. But they would also score a lot of points, keeping the fans in MSG entertained through all the losses.

And does anyone not believe that in the summer of 2015, when the Knicks would have close to $50 million in cap space, that LeBron wouldn't head to NY to team up with Phil, Gibson, Hardaway, and their choice of (maybe two) of Love or Rondo or Jefferson or Bosh?

The move would allow the Bulls to bring over Nikola Mirotic with their full MLE, and it would also allow Thibs to play a smothering defensive front-court of Noah and Chandler more than he should. But a Bulls lineup of Rose/Butler/Melo/Mirotic/Noah with a bench of Hinrich, Dunleavy, Chandler, Greg Smith, their first-round pick, and the Bi-Annual Exception of just over $2 million is an instant, serious championship contender against any team in any conference in any league.

It just makes too much sense for both teams.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround, The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor) . In addition to running Bullsville.net and ChicagoSportsWriters.com, and writing for ChicagoNow and SportsBlog.com, he is also a KHSAA and semi-pro baseball umpire. He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville.

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