By Ben Cohen

The second week of February was already an official disaster for the New York Knicks when Phil Jackson, the team president, tweeted a strangely encoded message at his franchise player, Carmelo Anthony, who is stuck in trade talks despite his no-trade clause.

Then on Wednesday, Charles Oakley -- a pillar of the team's last real run for glory -- was ejected from his courtside seat behind the team's owner after coming to blows with a security guard.

Just a normal week in the life of the Knicks, now in the midst of another full-on meltdown.

And of course the Knicks blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost again on Wednesday. They are now 10 games below .500.

The latest episode of their soap opera started with a cryptic tweet on Tuesday from Jackson: "Bleacher's Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don't change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze."

This wouldn't make any sense to a normal person. It doesn't make a lot more sense to a Knicks fan. But he seemed to be referring to -- and agreeing with -- an article in Bleacher Report by Kevin Ding in which Jackson was said to doubt Anthony's potential as the centerpiece of a winning team.

"Anthony is a likable person who just happens to be nothing near Jordan or Bryant in will to win," Ding wrote, referring to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. "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. That was part of the formula with Jordan and Bryant. This season has further disproved that formula."

The reference to Michael Graham in his "CBA daze" was even more obscure. He seemedto be comparing the Knicks' cornerstone to a temperamental Georgetown player whom Jackson coached with the Albany Patroons in the Continental Basketball Association before he quickly cut him.

It was a remarkable statement from Jackson, and a rare one. This tweet was his first since Jackson said he and Los Angeles Lakers President Jeanie Buss had ended their relationship on Dec. 27.

But this tweet was more significant for the Knicks, not only for the extraordinary nature of a team president appearing to criticize his highest-paid player, but also because the Knicks reportedly have been shopping Anthony around the league before the NBA's trade deadline on Feb. 23. Such a deal would allow New York to bottom out and rebuild around the young and highly promising forward Kristaps Porzingis. The only problem is that Anthony has leverage over Jackson in the form of a no-trade clause and could block any deal he doesn't like.

The most recent deterioration of Anthony and Jackson's relationship began with a column on a website called FanRag Sports. The article was by Charley Rosen, a Jackson confidante and one of his former assistants for that very same Patroons team, who wrote that Anthony "has outlived his usefulness in New York." Rosen says his views are his own and not Jackson's. Anthony has said he suspects otherwise.

This was the drama surrounding the Knicks when they hosted the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. But in the first quarter of the game, the action immediately shifted to a commotion near the court after Oakley, a stalwart of New York's playoff teams in the 1990s, was ejected from the arena and eventually arrested after shoving an employee, the Knicks said.

"Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner," the team said in a statement on Twitter. "He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon."

Oakley, who has been estranged from the Knicks, was sitting directly behind New York owner James Dolan. They, too, have a complicated relationship. Oakley, who is also a chef, told the New York Times last year that he would cook for Dolan, but he "might put something in it." The Knicks said in response that Oakley was "his own worst enemy."

Write to Ben Cohen at ben.cohen@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 08, 2017 23:44 ET (04:44 GMT)

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