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Is Phil Jackson setting up Carmelo Anthony to look like a liar if he leaves Knicks?

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Either Phil Jackson is attempting to pull of some kind Zen-inspired, Jedi mind trick or he simply made something of a tactical error when discussing how he not only hopes Carmelo Anthony re-signs with the New York Knicks, he believes — or at least implied — that if the superstar remains true to his word, he’ll be back with the team.

Acknowledging that trying to predict what will happen during the free agency period — especially in light of LeBron exercising his early termination clause with the Miami Heat — is a total crap shoot at best, the Knicks president believes the moves the team is making this offseason should make the organization an attractive option to Anthony.

“It’s a big question because there are so many things that can happen out there,” Jackson said regarding any optimism he may have about retaining Carmelo, according to an ESPN.com report. “We really don’t know. With LeBron getting in this free agency, and all this stuff, kind of tipsy and turvy right now.

“We don’t know what all that means. But we have every confidence that Carmelo is good for what his word is, that he wants to be in New York, he likes playing in New York, he wants to compete, he wants to be part of a playoff team that is competitive toward a championship.”

While Anthony has said in the past that he would be willing to take less money to play on a team with legitimate aspirations of competing for an NBA championship, the Knicks can nevertheless offer him more money than any other team, $129.1 million over fives seasons, to be exact.

Jackson is hedging his bets that Anthony would take a smaller chunk of the Knicks’ payroll pie, even challenging the player to stay true to his word.

“When I take his word, he’s the one who opened that up, that it wasn’t about the money,” Jackson said. “So I challenged him on that, because I wanted our fans to see he’s a team player, that he was going to do what’s best to get our team ahead farther and faster.

“But you know, that’s not going to be an issue. I think there’s gonna be things happening in the league in the near future in the NBA that’s gonna grow this league, and monetarily it’s not going to be an issue for us to do it.”

It seems to be a pretty risky gambit by Jackson to essentially challenge Anthony’s integrity by insisting that he’s holding the star accountable for what he said in the past. In essence, isn’t what Jackson is implying with his vague comments that if Carmelo chooses to go elsewhere, he in a sense would be a liar?

Obviously, Jackson did not explicitly say “If Carmelo leaves, he’s a liar,” clearly, but the subtext is there if one elects  to interpret the Zen Master’s comments in that context.

The Knicks pulled off a big trade this week, sending Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, a move Jackson says Anthony was consulted on before he pulled the trigger. Jackson clearly hopes that making Carmelo at least tangentially involved in such a big roster shakeup demonstrates that the team wants him to be part of its future.

But in the end, it may come down to money, as it often does. When asked if he intends to offer Anthony a max deal, Jackson wouldn’t say, but again came back to concept that winning is what should matter most.

“We haven’t come to that,” Jackson said. “But the perception is we want Carmelo to be as interested in winning. When saying he’s competitive and wants to be on a competitive team to also being able to demonstrate that if push comes to shove in a situation where he may have to take a little bit less and we’re more competitive to bring in another player to help us bring this concept along.”

And if Anthony, no matter what the Knicks offer, heads to another team? Is he a liar, then? Not necessarily, but Jackson’s rather pointed comments regarding t Carmelo keeping his word arguably is not the best way for him to ingratiate himself to a possibly departing superstar. Anthony has plenty of options on where to play next season, perhaps it would be wiser to play nice instead of subtly questioning a man’s ability to keep his word.

Sure, it gives Jackson and the Knicks organizational cover from irate fans should ‘Melo leave, but it’s a risky gambit by the Zen Master, to say the least.

[H/T Hardball Talk]

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