Are the Knicks better off with or without Carmelo Anthony and his massive contract?
That was the hot debate last summer, when Melo was a free agent and New York had a chance to let its star player walk.
But even with Melo’s tempered expectations, this season has been a disaster.
Amar’e Stoudemire criticized the team’s effort, and Melo agreed. Jackson described toxic elements of the Knicks’ culture. Melo reportedly threatened to beat up Tim Hardaway Jr. Players reportedly dislike Phil Jackson’s Derek Fisher’s triangle offense. And Melo might need knee surgery.
Suddenly, the “Should the Knicks trade Melo?” question is re-emerging. This will again make it a national talking point.
sources told The Post the All-Star forward would be open to dropping his no-trade clause if team president Phil Jackson strikes a deal with a team Anthony would like to play for.
“He thought things would be better than this, but he still wants to stick it out for now, ’’ a source said. “He trusts Phil, but I think he’s afraid of Phil.’’
It’s important to remember this report does not say Melo has demanded, requested or even hoped for a trade. He re-signed with the Knicks for a reason, and 24 games – even if 20 of them have been losses – are not enough to completely alter his rationale.
That said, this information leaked for a reason. Someone, whether in Melo’s camp or from the Knicks, wants to make clear that all is not well. New York trading Melo so soon would be a drastic step that neither side saw coming when this contract was signed.
However, a trade might not be so crazy. The Nuggets traded Melo, and they turned out fine (for a while after the deal, at least). As Jackson applies his vision to the Knicks, he might value a fresh start more than he realized when re-signing Melo this summer.
Another obstacle – the 15 percent trade kicker in Melo’s contract – has been overstated. It would not affect anything if he’s traded this season. A trade kicker can’t raise a player’s salary above the max, and Carmelo is already there.
However, if Melo is traded next season, when his salary drops below the max, the trade kicker would net him more money. If the salary cap rises high enough, the final three years of Melo’s contract could also fall below the max, and if it does, a trade during those seasons would also provide Melo his trade bonus.
A trade this season wouldn’t get Melo any extra money. A trade next season would definitely get him extra money. A trade after that might get him extra money.
Knowing those facts could certainly sway Melo to remain patient.
So could his desire to remain in New York.
Beyond finding a trade that satisfies both teams and meets the league’s salary-cap requirements, individual agendas will come into play.
Carmelo Anthony, who cares a lot about his personal branding, has business interests in New York. Playing in the nation’s biggest market certainly raises his (and his wife’s) prominence. A no-trade clause allows Melo to stay in New York if he determines that’s most important to him.
Likewise, Jackson might be hesitant to admit he made a mistake in re-signing Melo. Even a trade that gives the Knicks a high return would be perceived by many as an admission of failure.
It’s a lot to sort out, and considering neither side expected to reach this point already, it’s extremely unlikely Melo gets traded anytime soon.
But if Melo eventually agrees to a trade, what destinations might he accept?
His free-agency tour last summer gives us an idea. Melo met with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers.
Chicago came closest to luring Melo from New York, and Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, both of whom recruited Melo, are still in the picture. The Bulls definitely put Melo closer to a championship. Remember, Melo’s college coach, Jim Boeheim, said Melo should have chosen Chicago.
At one point, the Lakers also reportedly gave Melo a lot to think about. Melo is on record saying he’s not opposed to playing with Kobe Bryant, though that’s easier to say when not faced with the real possibility.
Dwight Howard worked hard to get Melo to Houston, and maybe Melo would give the Rockets another look. The Mavericks didn’t believe they’d sign Melo, which probably wouldn’t bode well for them a second time around.
Melo also reportedly looked into joining LeBron James in Miami. Perhaps, the Cavaliers or Heat would appeal to him now.
Some teams that lacked cap room last summer might appeal to Melo, too.
It’s time to start thinking about how and where Melo could exit New York. The Knicks don’t have to trade him, and he doesn’t have to accept a deal. But, for both sides, the possibility is at least worth considering.