“…I want to stay and build here with this city and my team. At this pivotal juncture in my career, I owed it to myself and my family to explore all of the options available to me. Through it all, my heart never wavered.” –Carmelo Anthony via www.thisismelo.com
Carmelo Anthony can tell us his heart never wavered, but it did. He knew the opportunity to win was coming sooner in Chicago than anywhere else. Anyone who has watched Anthony carry the Knicks on his back fruitlessly knows how badly the 30-year old star forward wants to win. That’s what had New York feeling increasingly uncomfortable during his free agency.
It’s easy to say Carmelo went with greed over contending for a ring, but he didn’t necessarily. What Melo did was go to (or stay in) the place that offered him the most and yes, it was many dollars and cents but it wasn’t purely monetary.
We all know Carmelo loves his money, he always has. There’s really nothing wrong with it and he’s hardly alone but he’s been thought of as selfish for it. Even going back to his days in Denver before being traded he was trying to maximize his earnings.
To an extent, was this about money for Carmelo? Sure. Guilty as charged, prompt the jokes about his meager pay cut in the first two seasons. But there’s a case to be made with this decision being about winning and winning here especially to go with the happiness of his family.
In choosing New York, we were basically an answer to the question: If someone offered you an extra $40 million dollars to trust Phil Jackson and not gamble on Derrick Rose’s health, would you? Still, the natural go-to criticism of Anthony is going to be: he went back to New York for the money only.
I call it a criticism instead of an observation because saying that makes it sound true; as though it truly was the only reason he chose the Knicks. Before the Zen Master arrived and the culture began to change, that argument would’ve been not only valid but most likely a fact. There was no reason to stay before—no direction, no plan and no example of success to look to for leadership.
Four months into Jackson’s tenure, there’s viability to the Knicks and how their situation sets up. There’s legitimacy to the idea that New York could be built to make deep runs in the postseason throughout the final four years of Anthony’s contract. The installment of a culture and system shift is in place and changes for the better have been made within the organization since Jackson’s arrival. In a wide open conference, a star in the centerfold and money to spend next summer, the Knicks are well beyond where we thought they would be midway through 2013-14.
What New York is to Carmelo is the best of all worlds for him. This city presents happiness for his family, $124 million before non-basketball earnings and a chance to bring prestige back to a place where winning would make him immortal. Even without a run to the finals, finishing this five year deal here will cement his legacy as a Knick one way or the other. His ultimate place in Knick lure will be determined by the success of the current regime with him as the centerpiece but his production alone will put him on the upper tier.
All these things were of importance to Anthony and it’s demonstrated by his return. He could’ve gotten paid almost $100 million in Los Angeles or Houston also but winning in the West isn’t imminent with the competition out there. He could’ve left New York for Chicago and got paid for it via sign-and-trade but Jackson would’ve been taking assets away from the team Melo was going to.
None of that matters though because Anthony is extremely polarizing, as are the Knicks. His return was going to spark the detractors no matter what; they just aren’t able to see what Phil and Melo do because if New York had no chance at contending at some point over the next five years, Anthony would be gone.
When considering all elements of what Carmelo was looking for, New York gave him a chance at fulfilling all of his goals and not just one. Now he’s taking his shot at winning in New York, where he will have a chance to do so while making the money he’s entitled to. Maybe he didn’t put the winning over all that cash as many would’ve liked to see. But as I’ve felt for a while about the situation in New York—Melo didn’t have to choose one or the other.
Maybe he can have his cake and eventually eat it too, right at home on Broadway.