LAS VEGAS — Carmelo Anthony wants to win now, and he wants to win in New York.
Seemingly every year, the topic comes up: would both Anthony and the Knicks be better off if they went their separate ways? Such a move would allow New York to finally rebuild and give Anthony the opportunity he’s never had to play for a title contender. But Anthony has said repeatedly that he will not waive his no-trade clause to go elsewhere, and the Knicks haven’t come close to a deal to move him.
And this year, that option is once again out the window. Every move the Knicks have made this summer — trading for Derrick Rose, signing Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee — suggests that the mission is to get back into playoff relevance this year. And Anthony is completely on board.
“For me, the time is now,” Anthony said Monday, following his first practice with the USA men’s national team in Las Vegas, ahead of their trip to compete in the Rio Olympics in August. “For us as a city, as an organization, that should be the mindset.”
It’s no sure thing that the Knicks make the playoffs, but as of now, they have improved their roster.
“We have a very special team on paper,” Anthony said.
“Special” may be an overstatement, unless you believe that Rose will somehow revert to his 2011 self and Noah will rebound from two disappointing, injury-filled seasons in Chicago and both of those players will blend seamlessly with Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis takes a major leap in his second season and new coach Jeff Hornacek can figure out an offensive scheme that fits everyone’s strengths. Some of those things may well happen, but it would take all of them to put this Knicks team in any realm resembling a contender.
But after the last three seasons, simply not being an embarrassment anymore would be an improvement for the Knicks. Outside of the questionable decision to give Noah four guaranteed years, the Knicks have made some smart moves this summer. Signing Lee at four years and $50 million was good value on this market and provides a much-needed upgrade at shooting guard. They re-signed forward Lance Thomas after a breakout season in New York. They added Brandon Jennings on a no-risk one-year, $5 million deal as a backup point guard and brought over European prospects Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez. In Porzingis, they already have one of the most promising young up-and-coming stars in the world.
As ill-advised as the Noah contract is given his age and injury history, in the short term he’s the perfect center to pair with Porzingis for his rebounding, defense, passing and lack of needing touches on offense.
At least on paper, there is potential for major improvement from this Knicks team. If everyone can stay healthy, there’s no reason not to believe they’ll at least be a playoff team.
“I don’t want no credit,” Anthony said of the Knicks’ summer haul. “Phil (Jackson) did everything. Phil and Steve (Mills),”
If Anthony wants to win now, he has to be happy with what his front office did. They didn’t land any of the major free agents — and didn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant, despite Anthony’s lobbying of his Olympic teammate — but they did everything they reasonably could have been expected to do in a summer that would have been easy to completely mismanage.
The Knicks may not be contending anytime soon, but they’re on the right path, and that’s good enough for Anthony after everything that’s gone on the last three seasons.