By John Schmeelk
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The press pass is getting put away. No media credential from here on out.
I’m not writing this as someone who covers the Knicks. This is John, the Knicks’ season-ticket holder who went through hell in the 90s as he saw his team come up short time and time again in its quest for an NBA Championship. This is the guy who sat in the 400s the night Patrick Ewing’s number was raised to the rafters and nearly shed a tear.
Sports are very emotional for fans, and as much as thoughtful analysis is important, fans have to go with their guts.
Do you know what my gut says about Carmelo Anthony? Nothing. I won’t go as far as to say I don’t care whether he stays or goes. It’s not apathy. That’s not fair. But I would be fine either way. Neither thrilled nor crushed one way or the other. It seems it would be an impossible attitude to have with a superstar hanging in the balance, but that’s where I am.
Here are my most favored scenarios for how the Knicks should move forward in regard to Anthony and the roster over the next two seasons.
1) Optimum Scenario: Sign and trade Anthony to the Bulls. Take back an expiring contract (hello, Carlos Boozer!), a first-round pick (or two; the Bulls do have two this year) and then perhaps another young building block on top of that.
If you have to take another salary to help the Bulls, so be it as long as the contract doesn’t run into 2015. A similar package with Jeremy Lin, a pick and other assets could come back from Houston. There’s also the James Harden dream scenario, but let’s put that aside for now. The team already traded one of its assets in Tyson Chandler for current and future assets, so now it can look to moving Iman Shumpert for a pick if it thinks the value is right.
The team will stink next year and will get a high lottery pick in the draft. J.R. Smith, as the primary scoring option, will have a monster year and opt out after next season, leaving loads of space on the Knicks’ cap. But that doesn’t mean the Knicks have to go all-out for two max guys in 2015. Be patient and build a winning culture the right way. Bring in the right guys. Let Phil Jackson build this thing his way. If the team can’t win a title until 2016, so be it. If I was running the Knicks, this is what I would do.
The building would still be full, just like it was in 2008 and 2009 when the team tried to figure out a way to get LeBron James. Knicks fans will show up and support the team if they think there is a real plan in place. Build a healthy franchise; don’t try the equivalent of another get-rich-quick scheme.
2) A Good Backup Plan: Maybe the market for Anthony isn’t what we think it is. Maybe a sign and trade to get back actual valuable assets isn’t possible. Maybe Anthony comes back and tells Jackson that he wants to be a Knick and wants to win a championship in New York.
Jackson then offers a very generous $five-year, $100 million contract, putting his salary for the first couple seasons between $17-19 million. Anthony, having already offered to take less to win, agrees. This is still a very successful resolution to the Anthony saga for the Knicks. They keep a top 10 player at a reasonable salary who gives the Knicks the flexibility to add pieces to build a winner in the future.
The Knicks would be a playoff team next year, and in a weak Eastern Conference the Knicks could find themselves in the second round of the playoffs once again. The fans would be entertained for a year. Derek Fisher would learn on the job in a transition year without championship aspirations, and then Jackson could start building in 2015 after getting a feel for Anthony.
The reason this is my second option is that with Melo still on the team, the Knicks would feel a ton of pressure to make a big splash in free agency next summer regardless if it is a prudent move. The last thing this team needs is another Amar’e Stoudemire contract because ownership was desperate to give Anthony a second superstar.
3) Melo Leaves For Nothing: This is when things start going south for me. Letting Melo leave without getting any assets in return would be very bad. It would be harder for Jackson to build a winner long-term without those additional assets (though the Chandler trade helps mitigate this). This is not the end of the world, but there would be a bad taste in my mouth. It would also reflect poorly on Jackson in his first big move as Knicks GM, watching the franchise player walk away.
4) Melo Comes Back For The Max: This scenario would annoy me to no end. It would prove to me, and many other Knicks fans, that winning isn’t very important to Anthony. It means he chose maximizing his salary over having a better chance to win a title.
It would mean he learned nothing from watching the Spurs or the Heat last season. It would also mean he is a boldfaced liar since he has stated publicly that he would take less to help his team win. This would also create a scenario in which the entire pressure of the Knicks’ fan base would land on Anthony’s shoulders.
Every time he came up short in a big spot, people would pounce. It already started last year and a max contract would only make it worse. If the team failed to win a playoff series another year, the boos would come. If after adding another free agent in 2015 the Knicks still couldn’t get out of the second round, Melo would get the Ewing treatment. Only two years into a five-year max contract, Knicks fans would want him gone.
It would get ugly. Something tells me Melo wouldn’t handle that scenario well, either. It would be a sideshow that would bring down the Jackson regime and send the franchise back into chaos. This is the worst-case scenario for me. Luckily for Knicks fans, it would appear this is the scenario that Jackson, based on his public comments, has already ruled out.
There you have it, folks. Those are my scenarios. Two would make me happy. The third would leave me wanting more. The fourth would result in a Schmeelk explosion from my honeymoon in Thailand that could be detected from the Empire State Building. Here’s to having choice one or two come true.
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