Carmelo Anthony missed a game-tying three-pointer just before the buzzer last week against the Wizards. That may end up being the final shot of his Knicks career.
Jeff Hornacek said Anthony probably wouldn’t play in the Knicks’ season finale Wednesday against the 76ers because of the sore left knee that kept him out of the previous two games. The Knicks are listing Anthony as questionable. Hornacek couldn’t say whether Anthony would be back in a Knicks uniform next season.
“I think it’s all his choice still, isn’t it, with his contract?” Hornacek said following Tuesday’s final practice of the season. “I think every year until guys are gone, coaches, we all assume we have the same team. That’s how you prepare. When something changes you deal with it.”
Anthony has a no-trade clause. But the Knicks and Anthony have been on the road to a divorce for the last couple of months.
Team president Phil Jackson tried to move Anthony before the Feb. 23 trade deadline, and took shots at him in an interview with CBSSports.com and on Twitter. Anthony appears worn down by the losing and how Jackson has alienated him.
Anthony will have missed seven of the last 11 games with what the Knicks (30-51) called knee and back issues. He’s also granted fewer interviews with the media.
Later this week, Anthony will have his exit meeting with Jackson, Hornacek and general manager Steve Mills. Anthony said recently, “The chips will be on the table.”
“I’m sure a lot of things will be discussed,” Hornacek said. “That’s something I can’t predict what’s going to happen in that meeting, or what we talk about. Obviously we’ll talk about the season, going forward, what’s going to happen. It’ll be about that.”
The reality is the Knicks and Anthony are going in different directions.
Anthony will be 33 next month and wants to win now. There could be contending teams such as the Cavaliers and Clippers who would like to acquire him.
The Knicks have missed the playoffs the last four years and plan to build around Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez. Porzingis, who is also listed as questionable, has missed the last four games with a sore lower back. The Knicks also will have a high lottery pick so they’re hoping to find a cornerstone player in the draft.
Hornacek said it could work with Anthony returning if he acted more as a veteran leader and the younger players didn’t rely on him too much. But that might not be a role Anthony wants.
“It could be beneficial,” Hornacek said. “If a veteran guy with young players, the leadership, the knowledge of the game, they’re going to help in that respect — it could be a positive. It’s a negative if your young guys rely on the veteran to do everything and they don’t move forward. That’s the bad part of it.
“However it shakes out, if Carmelo is back in that veteran leadership role he’s really got to take to it and help the young guys. We will have a lot of young guys who will be out there.”
When Hornacek was asked how Anthony did this year in that role, he said it was “good at times” and he “helped our young guys some.”
Hornacek had some praise for Anthony and how he played, but it was hardly a ringing endorsement.
“Defensively, he was in the right spot a lot of times. As you get older — he’s got good reactions — but getting back out to somebody, I think our whole team struggled with that this year. We didn’t close out hard enough on a lot of guys. So it’s some things we need to improve on.”
With or without Anthony.