Commentary

The time has come to trade Carmelo

The Knicks must move Anthony before he jumps ship -- because, why wouldn't he?

Updated: February 7, 2014, 2:06 AM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

If the New York Knicks have mastered the art of begging, then there's no way on Earth they should let go of Carmelo Anthony.

But since we know they haven't mastered much of anything, and their history leaves them as one of the least desired destinations for an aspiring champion, it's pretty close to stupid for them not to exhaust every conceivable option to deal their resident star before the NBA's trading deadline.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsCarmelo Anthony may wish he was on a team with a better supporting cast.
In other words, Anthony should not be a member of the New York Knicks two weeks from now. He should not be in position to hold the Knicks hostage once the summer rolls around. And let the record show, none of this is being said because of anything negative about Anthony.

It is because of the Knicks' ineptitude, their preoccupation with media policies and accessibility, public relations and spreadsheets -- everything but winning -- that Anthony should depart Gotham City sometime before Feb. 20. Because, truth be told, the Knicks are in no position to trust that anyone would want to stay with them.

Lost in all this back-and-forth regarding whether Melo should stay or go is the refusal of mostly sensible Knicks fans to actually be sensible. Go ahead and listen to Anthony say he loves being a New York Knick all you want. Listen to his lovely wife, La La, tell folks in the reality TV world that her husband isn't going anywhere else, debunking the myth that the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) is running the Melo Show instead of herself and her husband.

Just remember that Anthony still plans to opt out of his contract come July. He will be an unrestricted free agent. And then, if he decides to leave, not only will the Knicks be helpless to do anything about it, they'll also be devoid of the ability to ensure they'll receive equitable compensation for their most marketable commodity since Patrick Ewing and the most prolific scorer in the game next to Kevin Durant.

All because they trusted that someone like Anthony would actually want to stay in New York. It's enough to make you cry at how pathetic things are right now, once you stop laughing.

Wednesday night's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers was the latest piece of misery. It dropped the Knicks' record to 19-30. The latest losing skid of many this season now stands at three, meaning the team is winless in the month of February.

The Knicks are scoring 96.8 points per game, their lowest average since the 2005-06 season when they finished 23-59. They're averaging 92.6 possessions per 48 minutes -- second fewest in the league, ahead of only the Memphis Grizzlies -- which is indicative of a slow-paced offense too stagnant to entertain anyone, including themselves. Anthony, held scoreless in the fourth quarter against the Blazers, was devoid of any help, as usual -- and because of that, the vultures are already calling for the departure of point guard Raymond Felton. It'll happen for Tyson Chandler, too, soon enough, considering the development being shown by Jeremy Tyler, who's actually looking better than the $14.1 million center these days. And we haven't even gotten to coach Mike Woodson.

A lame duck before the season even began, despite winning 54 games last season, things have only continued to decline for Woodson. His assistant coaches didn't have their contracts re-upped before the season. Players, seeing the handwriting on the wall, have reverted to covering themselves, periodically calling out their coach. And rumors are swirling every day about whether Woodson will even survive past the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, additional rumors have circulated that not only are the Los Angeles Lakers a possible landing spot for Anthony in free agency, but the Chicago Bulls have entered the fray, as well. Needing to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer and get rid of Mike Dunleavy Jr. just to have a shot at grabbing Anthony, the Bulls are supposedly being pushed to entertain such matters. And the Knicks, according to numerous NBA sources, have gotten involved by letting it be known they'd love to get Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau out of the remaining two years on his contract so he can come and coach in New York. Keep in mind, folks, that Thibodeau is a client of CAA, just like Woodson, Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith, Knicks assistant GM Allan Houston and a host of others employed by James Dolan.

Oops! I forgot. Supposedly the Knicks could be interested in Jeff Van Gundy if that doesn't work out. But according to sources, nothing would be considered without major dollars being discussed, along with complete control of basketball operations and the eradication of Dolan's ridiculous media policy that muzzles coaches seemingly because their last name isn't Dolan.

So what does all this mean? In a nutshell, the Knicks are a mess. They're the NBA's version of the Dallas Cowboys -- an accident waiting to happen. Always.

There appears to be no plan. No structure. No rhyme or reason to what they're doing, outside of being tops on the Forbes franchise value list. Years ago that would've been enough for Melo, who dismissed LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's advice -- they urged him to make sure he was part of the 2010 free-agent class, instead of pocketing the guaranteed $80 million from the Denver Nuggets. But that was then, before he was married and before he saw the benefits of potentially collaborating with LeBron, Chris Paul or someone else of that ilk to accrue championships. This is 2014. It's a new day.

Does Carmelo Anthony really want to continue playing with the likes of Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire? Does he want to stick with a team that is losing now, with little in the way of salary-cap flexibility?

In the end, it's not about wondering what the Knicks should do. It's about wondering what Anthony will ultimately do: Stay with the Knicks, or leave for greener pastures?

These are the Knicks we're talking about here, folks. How hard do you think it will be for Melo to say goodbye?

Why torture yourself by praying he won't? Especially when you can just say goodbye and go your own way, and try to move forward for a change.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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