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Phil Jackson talks Carmelo Anthony, Knicks’ surprising playoff surge


Phil Jackson held court with the New York media on Thursday and Carmelo Anthony ended up being the primary topic of conversation. With the team’s relatively easy 101-81 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, the Knicks shockingly find themselves sitting in the eighth seed in the East by mere percentage points.

With that in mind, the new Knicks president didn’t want to discuss Carmelo Anthony’s contract status, as he believes there will be far better times in the future to discuss such matters instead of smack dab in the middle of the hunt for a postseason berth. And for now, it’s going to stay that way.

“We’ve had a couple occasions to talk. We haven’t really delved into the future as much as what’s gone on, getting to know each other type of thing,” Jackson said Thurday, per the New York Daily News. “Trying to see how he’s feeling about playing. He’s had to carry a big load. It’s been a tough year for him. But it’s been a tough year for everyone. It’s not just isolated with him. But I think he feels the weight of it a lot more on himself.”

But that did not mean Jackson was averse to discussing Carmelo. He simply kept the discussion reviling around the star’s play on the court, not where he will be playing next season.

Anthony, second in the NBA in scoring at 28.0 points per game, meaning he still is getting gets his fair share of looks at the basket. Carmelo was once criticized by Jackson for what the Zen Master perceived as the shooter’s selfishness with the ball once it going in his hands. Jackson has changed his tune since coming on board with the Knicks, but insists it’s because Carmelo has changed, not because of his new job.

Jackson went out of his way to praise Anthony’s recent play, but made it clear Carmelo can do much more as a team leader.

“Carmelo’s really stepped into another level of trying to help players,” Jackson said. “One of the things in my conversation is that he made a critical pass in the Sacramento game down the stretch to Amar’e (Stoudemire) for a dunk. He sucked the defense in and made the pass and the play was a two-point ballgame at the time and it really stretched the lead a little bit and gave them an opportunity to win.

“I think that’s one of the things that we see that Carmelo can do and that he’s grown as he’s gone along,” Jackson continued. “Those are issues that are not only on the basketball court. They’re off the basketball court, they’re in practices, they’re in the training room, in the locker room, where players learn to lead and from that standpoint push the team forward with their energy and I’ve been fortunate to have coached two of the great ones who have been able to do that in Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

“But there have been other players, too. There’s not just those players that do that. There are other players that have to be leaders on your team, and that’s what we have to assess as we go forward.”
It appears Jackson is approaching his new gig with caution and enjoying being back in the NBA in some capacity. That does not mean that he’s going to eat, sleep and dream Knicks basketball. Not that he won’t be dedicated, but he indicated he will be splitting his time between his new place in New York and his home in Southern California.

Jackson also said he has no plans to travel with the team through the rest of the regular season during this all-too-important stretch run that will determine whether or not the Knicks reach the postseason, succinctly saying, “That’s not my job.”

But if the Knicks should qualify for the playoffs, an unfathomable notion even up to a few weeks ago, Jackson said about his travel plans: “However,” he added, “in playoff situations, yes, I will be there at all games.”

Of course he will. That’s when Jackson’s star has always shined the brightest.

(image via @PeterBotte)