GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was far from certain that Carmelo Anthony would return to the Knicks this season, especially when looking at the real opportunities he had to join a team much more ready to win in the immediate future when he took his summer tour as an unrestricted free agent.
Agreeing to play in Chicago or Houston would have made those teams championship contenders right away, whereas staying in New York would mean embracing a rebuilding process with no guarantees of reaching that high level of success.
But ultimately, Anthony decided he was up to the challenge.
Speaking from the team’s training facility at Media Day on Monday, Anthony said his free agent decision wasn’t easy, but he wouldn’t have felt right about leaving New York after forcing his way there midway through the 2011 season.
“For me to just get up and leave like that, now that I look back at it … I wouldn’t have felt right within myself,” Anthony said. “From a basketball standpoint it probably would have been maybe the greatest thing to do, but for me personally, I wouldn’t have felt right with myself knowing that I wanted to come here, I kind of forced my way here to New York, and I have some unfinished business to take care of. So I wouldn’t have felt right from a personal standpoint, just getting up and leaving like that.”
The money was better in New York, of course, but the vibe you got when hearing Anthony discuss his reasoning for staying was one of excitement, and belief that the changes made in the front office and on the sidelines will eventually yield positive results.
“I think anytime you have a new coach there’s a new energy along with that, “ he said. “You can just walk around the building and feel that energy. In the offseason I felt that energy with myself and my teammates. You can just see that everybody is rejuvenated again, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to do what’s right to help this team to be successful.”
There was plenty of talk about the Triangle Offense, and how it will affect Anthony’s game. He’s been working on learning it for weeks now, and while he understands that it’s a bit complex to implement, he’s trusting the process based on the way it’s been successful under Phil Jackson in the past.
“I got a good glimpse of what the system will be, and it’s fun,” Anthony said. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but for me, my main thing is just to embrace it. Embrace the new situation, the new regime, the new system and then along the way, we’ll have some fun … I know from being a student of the game and watching, knowing the history, that it will work.”
The contract may have been bigger to re-sign with the Knicks, but there will be a short-term sacrifice in terms of learning a new system and building upon it by adding more talent in subsequent seasons that will be the best overall fit. There’s also an opportunity cost, in terms of what Anthony could have done with another team in the years it’s going to take for New York to return to respectability.
But now that the decision has been made, he’s all in, and prepared to wait at least a little bit to see the plans of the front office executed successfully.
“I made the commitment to stay here in New York, I made a commitment to the Knicks organization, I made a commitment to Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson,” Anthony said. “I also made a commitment to my teammates, so that right there goes to show you that it wasn’t all about just running and jumping ship to try to get something in the immediate future.
“I’m willing to be patient. Now, how long I’m willing to be patient, I can’t really tell you that. But I’m willing to be patient, I’m willing to take risks and I’m willing to take that chance.”