NEW ORLEANS — Talk to Carmelo Anthony and it quickly becomes clear he loves being a Knick. He loves New York, he loves playing in Madison Square Garden, he loves Spike Lee, he loves everything about the experience.
He also wants to win an NBA title.
Are those two things compatible?
Anthony is asking himself that because he can and will opt out of his contract this summer and become an unrestricted free agent. That fact combined with the Knicks ugly 20-32 record — a record compiled a roster that will likely look very similar next season — makes the Knicks front office and a lot of fans concerned he could bolt for Chicago or some other destination.
However, Anthony sounds like a guy giving the Knicks the benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t want to go. He just wants to see a real plan in place.
“At the end of the day that’s my first priority, to stay,” Anthony said while meeting with the media in New Orleans Friday. “That’s my first priority. My priority is to figure it out, let’s figure it out together…
“My priority is not to just because I say I want to be a free agent, is to go leave. I never was a guy that comes into a situation and basically when it’s not going well to leave like that. That’s not my personality.”
Along those lines, Anthony shot down the idea he asked for a trade, nor has the team talked to him about one.
“That conversation never even came up…” Anthony said. “I don’t want to be traded. I just don’t want to be traded. I came to New York, and I said it before, I wanted to retire a Knick. That’s not something I would bull—- with, I said it, I meant it. That’s how I feel.”
Does he still feel that way despite this season?
“I still feel strongly about that,” Anthony said. “That’s why at the end of the season everything needs to be laid out on the table. From both parties. If that’s something we can grow with, we can build on, we can compete with at the highest level, then we’re rolling. If that’s not the plan that they have, then we got to talk about something else.
It seems odd that there has not been some discussion of the long-term plans with Anthony already.
That plan is likely going to be a 2015 and 2016 plan — the summer of 2015 is when Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani all come off the books and the Knicks will have cap room to go after free agents. There have been reports Kevin Love is a target, but if he leaves Minnesota the Lakers and 28 other teams also will target Love. If not him there are a host of quality players potentially the market in those years (LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant to name a couple). The Knicks are going to have to recruit that level of talent, hope Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert develop (or can be flipped for good young players) find a system they all fit in.
Anthony sounds like a guy who wants to believe all the puzzle pieces will fit together and things are going to get better in New York. If he sees an aggressive plan he views as realistic, look for him to sign on to stay the face of the Knicks. That is his priority.