Carmelo Anthony says that “without a doubt” he’d accept less money to help Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony has been making the rounds during All-Star weekend, and as you’d expect, the focus of the questions are primarily on his pending free agency decision.

But to Anthony’s credit, he hasn’t shied away from it or been vague. Instead, he’s cleared the air on why he’s entering free agency, he’s stated what his personal priorities are and he’s said what he needs to see from the Knicks going forward.

And when Anthony says he wants to remain with the Knicks, it’s easy to believe him. Pushing all of the dysfunction aside, he’s the biggest star in one of the biggest cities in the world. The Knicks are his team, ran by his agency. If he wants a player out (cough, cough Jeremy Lin), the player is out. He’s the man there.

Wanting to make it work in New York is perfectly logical, even if there’s a degree of difficulty thanks to James Dolan and company.

Anthony sounds open to working on solutions wherever he can, though. Here’s what he told reporters yesterday, as transcribed by Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com:

Carmelo Anthony says he is willing to accept less money to re-sign with the Knicks if it helps the team attract big-name free agents, according to published reports.

“Without a doubt,” Anthony said Friday while in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend. “Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I’d do it. I told people all the time, always say, ‘If it takes me taking a pay cut, I’ll be the first one on [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan’s steps saying take my money and let’s build something strong over here.'”

While that’s all well and good, Anthony giving up money in his next contract won’t help the Knicks — at least right away. New York will be over the cap in 2014 thanks to the giant expiring deals of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, and that’s even without Anthony’s deal altogether. Anthony taking less money won’t create any more flexibility for next season.

Down the road for the highly anticipated 2015 offseason, however, Anthony could certainly help the Knicks clear some more space for a max player (and additional players) by taking less than the max amount he can receive.

Anthony will be due $24.1 million during the 2015-16 if he accepts his full max contract, which is based on a percentage of his old deal.

Has the success of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami set in with Anthony, making him realize that a paycut might be worth it for the chance to win titles?

It’s certainly possible, but ultimately, it’s going to be much tougher for Anthony to just leave money on the table without any stars joining him immediately. Since New York is capped out and lacking major trade assets, it’s tough to see how another star joins him this year.

I’m not saying it was easy for James, Bosh and Wade to take less money, but they were guaranteed to be a championship contender when they did it. The trade off was right in front of them to see. Anthony has no such guarantee. Really, all he has to work from is what he’s seen management and ownership do since he’s been in New York, and that’s rarely been pretty.

But again, the Knicks are Anthony’s team. If he stays, he’s assuming some ownership in his own right. Part of the responsibility to build a winner certainly falls on him, and the Knicks should have a better chance to do that with more room under the salary cap.

That being said, Anthony shouldn’t be criticized or begrudged if he takes the full max. Turning down millions of dollars sounds really easy until, ya know, you actually have to turn down millions of dollars. You’re worth what you’re worth, and if New York is willing to pay Anthony the full max to keep him, so be it.

Either way, it will be interesting to see which ways the narrative twists and turns this offseason when Anthony makes his decision. The basketball world will certainly be watching.