Isiah Thomas played a pivotal role in the New York Knicks' trade for Carmelo Anthony in 2011, according to a new book by Ian Thomsen.
The Knicks and Nets were bidding for Anthony but Donnie Walsh's reluctance to include Timofey Mozgov was holding back a deal from getting done.
"Thomas and I had been sharing information for years, he had provided me with insight on the new generation of AAU players who were seizing control of the NBA, and I believed he would be interested in hearing about Anthony," wrote Thomsen. "But Thomas was gunshy. It had been three years since his departure from the Knicks and he was still being criticized in New York as if he had never left. He said he didn't know (former Nuggets exec Masai) Ujiri, and the last thing he needed was to have it leaked that he was involved in the talks for Anthony. He made it clear that he no longer had authority within the Knicks organization, which meant he had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Thomas could see how this would play out: The trade with the Knicks would collapse, word would get out of his involvement and he would be the scapegoat. 'I don't want anything to do with it,' he said.
“I explained why I had assumed that he would be interested in hearing about the negotiations. Anthony had stuck out his neck to force a trade to New York, and if the trade was doomed to fall apart because the Knicks weren't willing to include a back-end player like Mozgov, then it wouldn't only be Anthony who would be furious. Anthony's fellow NBA stars — his close friends — would be angry with the Knicks too, and it would become more difficult than ever for the Knicks to recruit another star in years to come. The future of the Knicks mattered not at all to me, but I figured it would be important to Thomas. He said he agreed with my point of view, as I knew he would, since he had helped me to understand this dynamic over several years of conversations.
“Thomas thanked me for the call and then insisted that he was going to keep out of it. His goal was to get on with his own life. If the Knicks were going to make the trade, then let them figure it out."
Thomas, however, did not stay out of it despite coaching at Florida International at the time.
"My phone buzzed with the call from Isiah Thomas. 'Well, I passed on the information,’ he said, without saying to whom it had been passed. 'Now we'll see what happens.' The next morning, the news broke that Timofey Mozgov had been included in the Knicks' offer to Denver. That night the trade was completed."