By Sean Hartnett
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Star forward Carmelo Anthony announced Sunday that he is remaining with the Knicks, a decision that will prove to be the best one he’s made during his stellar career.
Why? Because he is expected to sign a five-year deal, matching the five-year pact the team struck with team president/resident “Zen Master” Phil Jackson.
When that happens, the metamorphosis of Melo will begin.
With the help of Jackson and newly installed head coach Derek Fisher, Melo will change the way he is perceived by the long-suffering Knicks fan base. By tying his future to the Knicks, Anthony has provided concrete evidence that he is on board with the triangle offense and Jackson’s long-term vision for the franchise.
Under previous head coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks became too reliant on Anthony. Their offense slowed and stagnated in the “ball stopping” isolation system. Woodson was Melo’s iso-enabler. Now, he will be challenged to take the next step forward in his career by shedding his ball-dominant persona and transforming into a team-first cog in Jackson’s harmonious, ball-sharing triangle.
Melo will be required to adjust his game to integrate himself into an offense that will reduce his isolation tendencies. He will be forced to share the rock in a free-flowing system. There will be less of Anthony creating shots on his own and decreased catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Judging by the statement on Anthony’s website, he appears to be an eager student, ready to soak in the Zen Master’s wisdom.
“A few years ago I dreamed of coming back to New York City, the place of my birth, and on February 23, 2011 that became a reality,” Anthony wrote on ThisIsMelo.com. “This organization has supported me and in return, I want to stay and build here with this city and my team. At this pivotal juncture in my career, I owed it to myself and my family to explore all of the options available to me. Through it all, my heart never wavered.
“I am looking forward to continue my career in Orange & Blue and to work with Phil Jackson, a champion who builds championship teams,” Melo added. “Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball and I am surrounded by the greatest fans in the world.”
This new chapter under Jackson and Fisher will be the best thing to happen to Anthony. A successfully implemented triangle offense will maximize the efficiency of both Melo and his teammates.
The constant movement of the triangle tends to tire out opposing defenses. It also will decrease the wear and tear on Melo. Throughout Woodson’s final season, Anthony frequently ran out of gas late in games. Under Jackson and Fisher, he will be fresher in crunch-time moments, late in the fourth quarter.
All of the team-first philosophies brought forward by the triangle will allow Anthony to finally tap his full potential, as it did for a 26-year-old Michael Jordan when Jackson took charge of the Chicago Bulls in 1989.
Back then, before the Bulls’ dynasty years, Jordan’s reputation was similar to modern day Melo. In the mid-to-late ’80’s, “His Airness” was recognized as an all-world talent who attempted to win games on his own. Jackson’s triangle took Jordan’s raw talent and focused it into a system that was all about passing options and getting the most out of teammates.
Let’s be clear: the Knicks are far from championship contention given their rebuild and the force that is emerging in Cleveland following LeBron James’ decision to join a Cavs team that is chock full of promising young talents.
But at 30, Melo has matured. He sounds like he’s ready to do whatever it takes to speed up the rebuilding process by grasping the triangle offense with open arms.
This can only mean good things for the Knicks once Anthony is fully acclimated to the triangle, Jackson has retooled the roster to fit his system and Fisher has gained vital on-the-fly coaching experience.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Knicks fans have been waiting for what feels like forever for a legitimate contender to grace the famous hardwood of Madison Square Garden. There will be growing pains for Melo and Fisher, but after so many years of upheaval there is finally a much-needed stability in place that will one day provide Melo a genuine crack at a championship ring.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey
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