Replacing Mike Woodson as head coach was an easy and obvious first (major) move for Phil Jackson to make in his new position as president of basketball operations with the New York Knicks.
But for the one the franchise needs him to make next, the level of difficulty will increase significantly.
Carmelo Anthony will opt out of the final year of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent, and he’ll be touring teams to hear their sales pitches in much the same way we saw Dwight Howard go about things last summer.
Although he can make the most money by re-signing with the Knicks — a difference of more than $30 million and an additional season on the new contract — Jackson hopes to persuade Anthony to come back for less.
“I think [there is] a precedent that’s been set,” Jackson said of stars taking less money to join or remain with contending teams. “Because the way things have been structured now financially for teams is that it’s really hard to have one or two top stars or max players, and to put together a team with enough talent, you’ve got to have people making sacrifices financially.
“So we hope that Carmelo is true to his word and we understand what it’s going to take, and we will present that to him at that time.” …
Anthony suggested in February that he’d be open to signing a contract for less than the maximum allotment.
If Anthony wants to win in the immediate future, there are places like Chicago and Houston that present extremely enticing opportunities to do that. (The Rockets aren’t in position to sign Anthony to a four-year max at the moment, but it’s believed they could get there quickly if that scenario presented itself.)
If Anthony is all about the money, he’ll re-sign in new York for the five-year max that the team would almost certainly offer.
But he can definitely land somewhere in between by taking less than that, while giving the Knicks some dollars to use to lure another All Star in free agency. The problem is, that can’t happen until a year from now in part because of the horrific contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani that don’t come off the books until next summer.
Anthony’s decision will show us where his true priorities lie.