Knicks president Phil Jackson addressed the media and made it clear he doesn’t see Carmelo Anthony in their future plans.

For 18 months the no-trade clause in Carmelo Anthony’s contract was the stumbling block in the Knicks’ ham-handed efforts to trade away the player who was once supposed to be star to lift the team out of it’s long title drought.

But as the Knicks have pushed up their efforts, it is not Anthony holding up a trade. With Phil Jackson deposed as team president and Steve Mills in his place as acting president Anthony has provided an opening, agreeing to accept a trade to the Houston Rockets, where he would unite with long-time friend Chris Paul, as well as James Harden. 

The problem now is simple logistics, trying to find a way to make Anthony’s remaining two-years and $54 million fit in a deal and bring back an acceptable return to the Knicks. The two teams have been engaged for weeks in talks, but the Knicks have been reticent to take back Ryan Anderson and his three-year, $61 million contract. While talks have expanded to include three teams in recent days, ESPN reported Wednesday morning that the teams have even begun looking at the possibility of a four-team trade – searching for a team to absorb Anderson’s deal.

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While Mills is expected to eventually take the full-time title as president of basketball operations, he has a lot on his plate right now while working without a general manager – handling both jobs himself. He signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million deal and then handed last year’s undrafted free agent, Ron Baker, a two-year, $8.9 million deal, using the team’s mid-level exception. Now he is left to try to manage a complicated deal that will reshape the franchise.

No matter what Jackson thought of Anthony and his contract – that he gave him – Anthony still has been the Knicks’ best player. He led them in scoring and minutes played per game despite turning 33 shortly after the season ended. Getting back an unbalanced return would be one more blight on the front office’s resume. Jackson’s efforts to convince Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan to buy Anthony out of his contract was one of the last straws in Jackson’s ill-fated tenure.

The idea of Anthony landing in Houston seemed unlikely even as recently as last month. But with Paul joining the Rockets it is a step toward the goal that he, Paul, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have talked about – playing together before their careers are over. While some wondered about Anthony reuniting with head coach Mike D’Antoni, who he had issues with during their time in New York, they were together (with Paul and Harden) on Team USA. Anthony’s biggest issue during their time in New York was not just whether he would play D’Antoni’s style, but who he was being asked to defer to – Jeremy Lin, who had just arrived from the D-League.

Anthony visited the Rockets when he was on his recruiting tour as a free agent, considering the Rockets along with the Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks. The Rockets, with Daryl Morey running the front office then and now, greeted him with the video display outside of the Toyota Center showing Anthony in a Rockets’ uniform. It never got close then, but could come to fruition shortly.

The holdup remains finding a way for the Knicks to clear him out as they go forward with a youth movement they have talked about, and getting some face-saving package in return. Ideally, the Knicks would like to get a draft pick and young talent, but the Rockets have already dealt away their 2018 first-round pick and can’t deal another first-rounder until 2020. If the other teams involved can supply the Knicks with picks and ideally, non-guaranteed or expiring contracts, Mills would likely move quickly while Anthony has provided this window.

The Rockets are scheduled to introduce Paul in a press conference Friday afternoon with Morey, owner Les Alexander and D’Antoni in attendance.

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