As New York Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry pursue a meeting with Carmelo Anthony in the coming days, league sources told ESPN that the 10-time All-Star is counting on the franchise to carry out its previously agreed upon mandate to trade him to the Houston Rockets.
Whatever stance a post-Phil Jackson front office is taking now, Anthony expects the Knicks to resume trade talks soon and honor the franchise's long-standing goal to rebuild without him, league sources said.
Anthony, 33, has been willing to waive his no-trade clause for Houston and Cleveland, but in recent weeks, he has begun to prioritize a trade to the Rockets to join Chris Paul and James Harden over one to the Cavaliers and LeBron James, league sources said.
With Perry's hiring from Sacramento and the promotion of Mills to president, the Knicks have paused those trade discussions, in part because New York has been unhappy with the recent proposed returns on an Anthony deal, league sources said.
As Perry starts to shape the front office and impact policy, another realization has washed over the organization: Months of organizational harping on Anthony, driven largely by deposed president of basketball operations Jackson, has dramatically lowered Anthony's trade value. Mills and Perry are evaluating whether it's worth allowing time for Anthony's standing around the NBA to be rebuilt, as opposed to trading him at an all-time low, league sources said.
The Knicks realize the odds are long of convincing Anthony to simply forget trade talks and accept a return to New York, especially given how aggressively Jackson pushed to run Anthony out of town. While Jackson was primarily responsible for going to great lengths to publicly shame and discredit Anthony, he wasn't the only one within the franchise to play a part in the campaign.
Because Anthony didn't easily accept waiving his no-trade clause, no one should expect that he will easily shift his mindset back about staying with the Knicks beyond the summer.
Perry has history with Anthony and strong relationships with some in Melo's inner circle, and it makes sense for Perry to spend time this week surveying the depths of the damage and distrust left in Jackson's wake. It is undoubtedly deep, perhaps irreparable, but Anthony has two years and $54 million left on his contract, and there isn't much he can do if the Knicks decide to bring him back for the start of the season. And of course, just deciding that you're willing to trade Anthony doesn't make it easy to do.
One team that New York and Houston had hoped would facilitate a multiteam trade for Anthony, the Portland Trail Blazers, plans to participate in a deal for Anthony only if he decides to expand his no-trade clause to include them, league sources told ESPN.
Portland believes the addition of a player such as Anthony would furnish it with talent and depth comparable to those of the top Western Conference contenders, except for the Golden State Warriors, league sources said. Because of that, the Blazers have little, if any, inclination to facilitate an Anthony deal that would land him with a Western Conference rival such as Houston, league sources said.
Perhaps to get Anthony used to the idea of appearing in Trail Blazers' colors, guard CJ McCollum posted a photo of Anthony in a Portland jersey on Instagram as a seemingly passive recruiting pitch to the Knicks star.
Houston is determined to complete a deal for Anthony and believes he is focused on playing with the Rockets next season, league sources said.