By John Schmeelk
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Carmelo Anthony has said a lot in recent days.
He brought some clarity to what his future with the Knicks might be, but there is still nearly as much — if not more — confusion. Here are some of his widely reported quotes and what they probably mean.
“As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level.”
He continued: “Without a doubt, 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 Mr. Dolan’s steps saying take my money and let’s build something strong over here.'”
This quote, first and foremost, speaks very well to Anthony’s goals and state of mind. He learned well from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and understands he might have to take a financial hit to win a championship. This is also great news to Knicks fans who want Melo, but only at the right price. It would be difficult to build a championship roster around Anthony with him making his full max contract of $25 million or more per season, and this quote means the Knicks will never have to do that.
But this is also bad news for Knicks fans that want Anthony no matter the price. Since winning is his one and only priority, the Knicks really don’t have any advantage over the rest of the NBA when the bidding begins for Anthony’s services in the offseason. The Knicks can still offer a fifth season when no one else can, but if Melo’s words are to be trusted that will not take precedence over a legitimate chance at winning a title. In other words, there should be more fear that Melo leaves now. The Bulls, for one, would without a doubt provide a more championship-ready roster than New York.
“At the end of the day that’s my first priority, to stay. … I’ve never been a guy that comes into a situation, when it’s not going well, to leave. That’s not my personality.”
This should obviously make Knicks fan feel better about themselves, but these words do not trump his quotes about wanting to win a championship or what he said later. But at the very least, if all things are equal, it seems as though he is going to pick the Knicks.
This next quote is the one that should scare (and interest) Knicks fans the most. It’s really the most important thing he said, in response to what it would take to stay with the Knicks.
“At the end of the season is the time that everything has to be laid out on the table from both parties. If it’s something we can grow with, we can build on, we can compete at the highest level then we’re rolling. I haven’t had any in-depth conversations with management about who I want to play with, what kind of team we should have. I’ve never had those conversations. That time is going to come. And when that time comes, everything will be laid out on the table. If they can counter that, then we have a long future ahead of us.”
I’ll save how bad this makes the Knicks look for my article tomorrow (how has this conversation with Melo not happened yet, before the trade deadline, I have no idea), but it also sets up a question Anthony is going to have to eventually answer for himself: Is he willing to wait to compete for a championship again? Sure, with some moves, the Knicks might be able to make a playoff run next year, but until Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler are off the books this roster cannot undergo any major changes.
Is Carmelo willing to be patient and wait for that type of responsible plan to take shape, which will give him the best chance to win a title in New York? Or is he going to force the Knicks’ hand to make trades at the deadline and during the offseason that could endanger potential major long term improvement for cosmetic short-term gains simply to convince him to stay? How specific is this plan going to have to be? Is it enough for the Knicks to say they plan on hiring a top coach and bringing in a max player next offseason, or do they have to have names and evidence they can get those players and coach?
There’s also the possibility that Carmelo Anthony is creating cover for himself with a scenario where he can leave New York without looking like the bad guy. He can honestly say he was willing to take less money here, but the Knicks failed to convince him they could build a winning team. It’s more than plausible, and would allow him to pick his team and save face. I don’t even think most New Yorkers would blame him in this scenario. It would show how much Melo learned from his forced departure from Denver.
The best case scenario for the Knicks remains that Anthony re-signs for less than a max contract, giving the team freedom to build around him. That seems a very possible resolution. A debatable scenario, re-signing for the max, appears remote.
But the chance of him leaving for nothing also remains a very realistic possibility if he thinks another team has a better chance of winning a title.
And really, would you blame him if he did?
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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