The conversation via the media between New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony has been pretty one-sided. Anthony has remained on the hush while Jackson continues to demonstrate how he wants this team to work moving forward.
As Anthony lines up meetings with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers, Jackson is continuously displaying his vice grip on the Knicks both verbally and with his actions as he begins to turn the culture around on Broadway. His stamp on the organization just months into his tenure is visible and clear by the assured feeling he’s given Knick fans with his demeanor and even a transaction with a beneficial tradeoff (a Knicks rarity) for the organization.
It’s anyone’s guess where Anthony ends up after he hits unrestricted free agency on July 1st. There have been as many media reports indicating the 30-year old superstar is on his way out the door as there have been saying that he’s leaning closer to staying in New York. Chicago and a few other cities offer Melo the best opportunity to win right now while Phil Jackson and Knicks brass is looking to show Carmelo that the future can be as bright as he wants it to be right at home in Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks do have something nobody else can offer—a max contract. Anthony can earn up to $129+ million over five seasons in New York, whereas he can only get four years, $96+ million elsewhere. The only problem is…the max contract may never come onto the table.
Since Jackson took the reins of the team in March, he’s made it clear that he wants Anthony stay in the big apple and be the centerpiece of this team moving forward. New York’s president of basketball operations has also made it clear that he would like Anthony to take a pay cut on the new contract he’s about to receive. Even though he recently stated he has ‘no issue’ with giving Anthony the maximum, the other words he has used tell the true story. He’s not-so-subtly telling us he wants Melo back at his number, one that’s beneficial for both Anthony and the organization as opposed to the maximum deal.
As per many reports but most recently the New York Daily News, Phil Jackson is publicly urging, even challenging Anthony to take less to remain a Knick. Who knows, maybe Jax loosens that grip. We can’t assume that Phil won’t offer Carmelo the max because he very well could when push comes to shove, but Jackson is using Anthony’s own words against him when Carmelo initiated the conversation about taking less in order to win. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise if Jackson lets Anthony walk without offering every penny of that maximum.
If Melo was to stay in New York while taking a pay cut, one would venture that a deal for five years worth $105-$115 million would suffice on both ends. Obviously the less he takes the more it helps the team, but Anthony would still be getting more dollars in New York than elsewhere. His per-year salary would be taking a substantial hit, but that extra few million each season can go a long way with Phil working the controls.
Unless a compromise is made, one of these sides is going to end up with egg on their face and it’s probably going to be Carmelo. If he stays, gets the max and the Knicks are winners then all will be right. But if they fall short, Jackson can always fall back on not having the funds he could have to improve the team had Anthony taken less. And if Carmelo walks then Jax can and will point out that Anthony wouldn’t sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
Phil is wordsmith and savant when speaking publicly; he knows exactly what he’s doing. No matter what, his hands are coming out clean with the Knicks faithful fully invested in him. Carmelo can walk out the door and it won’t be much skin off Phil’s back as he picks up the pieces and rebuilds with money to spend a year from now.
The issues stemming from a compromise in the Melo camp are simple. It’s no secret Carmelo wants to win; it visibly upset him as his team continued to let him down despite his carrying them on his back night after night. He also wants his money, which he and all professional athletes are entitled to. With this being Melo’s last contract in his prime, he wants to get paid as much as possible while still being in a position to grab the ring he tirelessly covets.
As previously mentioned, Melo’s best opportunity to win immediately is elsewhere, although I would argue that in the long run New York could be the best fit. Initial logic tells us that it wouldn’t make sense for Anthony to take a pay cut and remain in a place where winning isn’t necessarily evident, at least not yet. But Jackson is asking for some faith in his attempt to show Carmelo that winning and sacrifice go hand in hand. In fact, he may require it or we might see Anthony donning a new uniform next year.
The good news for the Knicks faithful is that there’s reason to be optimistic either way. There’s a real culture shift going on within the organization and signs are pointing upward. There can be confidence in Jackson having a contingency plan to go with all that impending salary cap space even if New York loses the Melo sweepstakes. And if the Knicks ultimately retain Carmelo for a lesser number, then something could really be cooking in New York—and sooner rather than later.