A deal that would end the Carmelo Anthony era in New York and reunite the All-Star forward with Mike D’Antoni in Houston “is at the two-yard line,” a person familiar with the trade negotiations told the Daily News. On Wednesday, ESPN reported that the Knicks and Rockets are trying to recruit a fourth team into a proposed deal to facilitate a blockbuster trade. The deal needs to be expanded due to Anthony’s contract and because the Knicks are opposed to acquiring Rockets forward Ryan Anderson. A deal to Houston would pair Anthony with his long-time friend, Chris Paul, as well as his former Olympic teammate James Harden.
Late last month, Harden and Anthony attended fashion week in Paris, where Harden began actively recruiting Anthony knowing the Rockets were on the verge of acquiring Paul from the Clippers. Soon afterward, Anthony informed the Knicks that he would waive his no-trade clause to play for the Rockets. He also managed to outlast his nemesis Phil Jackson in New York, and don’t discount the importance of that victory to Anthony. The Cavs are the other team Anthony would accept as a destination. But they’ve declined to budge on their stance of not offering up Kevin Love, and so the Rockets quickly became the more aggressive trade partner — and, for a couple weeks now, the likeliest destination for the greatest Knick since Patrick Ewing. Anthony is also concerned that
LeBron James may leave the Cavs next summer as a free agent, with the Lakers as the speculated destination. Houston is a more stable situation. Plus, it is financially beneficial for Anthony to play in Texas, which does not have state income tax. The problem with the Rockets is that they want to match salaries by dealing Anderson, who has three years and over $61 million remaining on his deal. Anthony — who is a much better all-around player — has only two years and $54 million on his contract. The idea is to shed salary and move away from one-dimensional players, not take more on. In other words, the Knicks need a third team to take on Anderson’s contract. The fourth team, according to ESPN, would take on a player “neither the Knicks nor Rockets would accept.” A four-team trade hasn’t been completed in the NBA since 2012,
when Dwight Howard went from the Magic to the Lakers in a deal that also included the Nuggets and Sixers. The complexity of such deals makes them easily combustible, but the most important parties in this situation — the Knicks and Rockets — are confident they’ll complete the trade soon. Anthony going to Houston seemed implausible only a couple of weeks ago, partly because of his feud with D’Antoni when they were partnered in New York. But the combination of Harden’s recruiting and the trade for Paul cleared the path for an unlikely reunion between Anthony and his former coach. About five years ago, D’Antoni quit the Knicks because of Anthony’s discontent with his preferred style of play. “(Carmelo and I) don’t have a bad relationship. I speak to him. He’s a good guy,” D’Antoni, who coached Anthony as an assistant with Team USA, said last year on The Vertical podcast.
“But I had one vision that I wanted him to play one way. He wanted to go the other way. I couldn’t get to my way.” Cleveland would provide Anthony with a more realistic path of reaching his first NBA Finals. The road in the Western Conference is far more challenging, especially with the defending champion Golden State Warriors bringing their top eight players back. The Rockets lost to the Spurs in the second round last May with Harden disappearing in Game 6. It was an odd ending to an MVP-caliber season for Harden, who became the Rockets’ primary ball handler. But the Rockets will alter the way they play with the addition of Paul. The Knicks are far from contenders and are hoping to acquire young players and/or draft picks. Their goal in free agency was to get faster and more athletic. They then signed Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ron Baker to a combined $80 million. Although the Knicks only have about $1.4 million in cap space, they could theoretically create more by trading Anthony. It depends on how much guaranteed salary they take back.