Phil Jackson's inscrutable tweet about leopards' spots appears to be a shot at Carmelo Anthony

There is almost nothing to feel good about right now if you are the New York Knicks.

On Monday night, the team was blown out by the lowly Los Angeles Lakers to fall to a stunningly bad 22-31 on the season. On Tuesday, team president Phil Jackson took to Twitter to share some rather inscrutable thoughts that, after a close-reading, appear to be a shot at Carmelo Anthony for not being the sort of winner both former Jackson superstars Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were.

First, the tweet: 

A T.S. Eliot poem this is not.

Rather, Jackson seems to be referring to a recent column in Bleacher Report from Kevin Ding (“Bleacher’s Ding”). In Ding’s column, he criticises both Anthony and Jackson: Anthony for not having what he calls the “will to win” a la past Jackson superstars, and Jackson for naively believing he could mould Anthony into a player like Jordan or Bryant. 

From Ding:

“Jackson undoubtedly overestimated his own ability — perhaps you’ve heard something lately about the no-trade clause he gifted to Melo in 2014 — to kindle Anthony’s evolution from superstar to winning superstar.

Anthony is a likable person who just happens to be nothing near Jordan or Bryant in will to win. No, Jackson never thought Anthony had that fire, but he thought he could balance Anthony’s ball dominance by teaching teamwork and converting talent into a clear net positive.”

Returning to Jackson’s tweet, he seems to be saying that Ding’s assessment of the situation is nearly correct (it “almost rings the bell”).

The difference, however, is that in Jackson’s mind he knew he could never change Anthony. Jackson here refers to his days (“daze”) coaching former Georgetown great Michael Graham on the Albany Patroons in the Continental Basketball Association (“CBA”). As FTW noted, Graham was a talented player but never had the discipline to make it in the NBA. He was also kicked off the Albany team for fighting with Jackson.

In other words, you can never change a player — in Jackson’s parlance, you can’t change a leopard’s spots.  

If this seems like a rather cryptic way for Jackson to basically say that he knew he could never make Carmelo an NBA champion, even when he decided to give him a no-trade clause, well, that’s Phil Jackson for you. Not to mention the fact that this is a ridiculous and petty way to bash your highest-paid player. 

It’s notable that Jackson hasn’t tweeted since December 27, but chooses to now, with the trade deadline fast approaching. Anthony’s no trade clause allows him to veto any potentially undesirable destinations, and that makes Jackson’s job a lot more difficult.

And while there has been chattering about a potential trade to the Cavaliers in exchange for Kevin Love, for now that seems highly unlike. (Or so, at least, said LeBron James on Monday.)

One potential reading of this tweet is that Jackson is simply trying to annoy Anthony with the hopes that Anthony will waive his no-trade clause in frustration. Who knows?

As the ancient Zen koan goes, the Knicks are an absolute mess.

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