The dust has begun to settle on the New York Knicks’ coaching hire and we are all starting to get used to Derek Fisher’s jump from point guard to head coach. Fisher agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal on Monday and was publicly announced as the new Knicks head coach on Tuesday.
Cutting right to the chase, there’s no doubt that the first item on Fisher’s checklist is getting Carmelo Anthony to return to New York. Fisher and President of basketball operations Phil Jackson have already fielded questions on the matter and both have expressed the desire to retain Carmelo and keep him as the centerpiece of the Knicks moving forward.
Perhaps an interesting question is stemming from the recent events surrounding the Knickerbockers; How does, if at all, the hiring of Fisher impact Anthony’s decision to stay or go?
At first thought it’s understandable to think that who the coach is matters to players and it absolutely does, but not in the spot Carmelo is in right now. I for one hold the position that Fisher’s arrival doesn’t impact Melo’s thinking one bit. The X-factor for a return for Anthony is in the architect, not the coach.
If he’s all in for playing Jackson’s system and trusting his vision with the team, then it’s logical to think the decision to hire Fisher doesn’t influence Carmelo one way or the other. It’s just the first step of implementation process for the team president and the organization. Anthony would be going on faith and trust in Jackson if he were to stay, much like the fan base is. The Knicks faithful are resigned to letting Phil execute his plan and hope it works out for the best and Melo would be also.
On the flipside, Fisher being hired as the head coach still has no affect on Melo if he has already decided internally to leave the Knicks. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles or Miami—Anthony would be going to the place he thinks winning is most imminent, not because the Knicks hired Derek Fisher. There’s no bar set on Fisher and the jury will remain out for a while and we would be sitting in the same boat if Steve Kerr had gotten hired, too.
Anthony’s decision lies between who he wants to play with and who he wants to play under—and which characteristic means more to him. He knows that Miami has LeBron and Houston has Dwight and Chicago has Rose. What he and none of us are sure of is who will be on the Knicks roster in 2014 and beyond; all he knows is that the Zen Master will be constructing it.
The situation concerning Melo’s pending free agency (must decide by June 23) and the conditions of his future earnings has been well documented. A five-year maximum free agent contract with the Knicks would earn Anthony around $33 million more than if he signs with any other team. Anthony could even take the pay cut Phil Jackson not-so-subtly mentioned to the media and still make more money than in any other city. The lattermost option would be the best of both worlds for New York; Carmelo gets paid handsomely and the team can save valuable dollars to use later on while improving the roster around him. Recent rumors have it that he could also take a larger pay cut to play with the four-time reigning Eastern conference champion Miami Heat.
Until that looks like its closer to happening, being the centerpiece of this regime’s New York Knicks could be what fits Anthony’s desires best. I may be in the minority here, but it leaving New York could actually end up being Anthony walking away from his best opportunity to be a winner. The only situation that could emerge and change my position is Melo joining up with the winning pedigree in Miami, where the “Big 4” would like run through the league, or at least the East.
Other than that, by default or maybe not now that Phil is here New York appears like it could be the best option for Anthony. The Knicks will have plenty of cap space, a young intelligent (in both general and basketball terms) coach and a plan in action with a legend running the show. Upon his return, Melo would surely be consulted regarding major personnel moves and the players up for free agency and would continue being “the man” in New York through his prime.
While the Knicks were struggling every night and Steve Mills was still acting as president it really looked as though Melo just about had enough. There wasn’t just a lack of talent on the roster it was the prospect of staying with an organization that had no direction. It’s been the opinion of many including myself that would be the determining factor in his potential decision to move on. A direction has come in the form of Phil Jackson followed by Derek Fisher. Now it’s just whether or not Carmelo believes that direction will lead to the success he’s looking for.