Phil Jackson has already proven to have at least a basic understanding of what’s required to begin to turn the Knicks around during his short time in office as the team’s president of basketball operations.
The plea made to Carmelo Anthony to opt in for the final year of his contract at more than $23 million was a smart one, because it would buy Jackson some time to pursue free agents in the summer of 2015, when Anthony could choose to sign for less money in order for the team to add championship pieces around him.
It’s a highly unlikely scenario, because simply from the financial side, it’s too risky for Anthony not to take a new max contract the moment the collective bargaining agreement allows it.
But while many believed that he would opt out to re-sign a max deal to stay with the Knicks — something the team would surely offer — some now feel that if Anthony opts out of his deal, it would mean a return to New York is far less likely.
The team’s star forward, Carmelo Anthony, has until Monday to decide if he wants to opt out of his contract and test the free-agent market, something he has long indicated that he wants to do. Once he makes that choice, the Knicks—and all of the NBA—will have a much clearer sense of whether Anthony has played his last home game in New York.
“If he makes the choice to opt out, I think he’s gone,” said one person familiar with the matter.
That’s because Anthony, for as much as he has talked about potentially taking a pay cut to help the Knicks build a winner around him, would actually be hindering the team by becoming a free agent. Despite the possibility that he could opt out and then re-sign for less money, there really is no immediate benefit in that for the Knicks, who are hopelessly over the league’s salary cap anyway until 2015.
Another telling line from that piece: “the Knicks would still be more than $4 million over the cap in 2014 even if Anthony somehow could take a $1 salary.”
Due to the team’s irresponsible decisions in the past, 2014 remains a lost cause in terms of transforming the roster. Because of this, the thinking is that Anthony signing a max deal to stay in New York doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if winning is the priority, either immediately or at some point in the not-too-distant future.
The Bulls, for example, could give Anthony a max deal by amnestying Carlos Boozer and making some other minor moves. Chicago would be immediately elevated to the status of contender with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson already in place, though it would cost Anthony a large chunk of change ($30 million or so) if in fact he makes that decision.
That’s what it’s going to come down to where Anthony is concerned. If he wants the most money possible, he’ll re-sign in New York for a five-year max deal that will hurt the franchise in terms of its ability to provide him with a championship-caliber supporting cast.
If winning is truly the priority, however, he could take less money to stay. But nothing is guaranteed in terms of the Knicks being able to add talent in free agency, so the easier route to success might simply be to sign with an already-built contender somewhere else.