(Cary Edmondson - USA TODAY Images)
Carmelo Anthony tested the free agency waters this summer but in the end the promise of a new era led by Phil Jackson, calling Madison Square Garden home and some “unfinished business” with the New York Knicks kept the prolific scorer in the Big Apple.
Anthony spoke with reporters during Knicks media day about his free agency process, saying ”from a basketball standpoint it probably would’ve been maybe the greatest thing to do, but for me personally I wouldn’t have felt right with myself. Knowing that I wanted to come here, I kind of forced my way here to New York and I have some unfinished business to take care of.”
Anthony’s correct. He did force his way to New York. After leading the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs for seven straight years — a streak that dated back to his rookie season — he was done being dispatched in the Western Conference. New York needed a superstar to bring a new era of basketball greatness to the city. The Nuggets needed a premium package to absorb the hit losing a player of Anthony’s stature would mean to the franchise. Ultimately they found the right mix of players and contracts and Anthony was set to be the Knicks’ renassaince man.
Only it hasn’t gone that way thus far.
Sure, Anthony captured a scoring title in 2013, but the Knicks have seen just 17 playoff games since he joined the franchise in 2011. They missed the postseason entirely last season despite a weak Eastern Conference that continues to improve while the Knicks stagnate. The kind of success the Knicks, and Anthony, are starving for is the kind of success their two new leaders — Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher — know a thing or two about.
New York needs more than the Triangle offense and “championship experience” to deliver a title, though. We’ve also learned the Knicks need more than Carmelo Anthony’s devastating array of offensive skills to score the level of success that’s been alien to the franchise since 1973. New York begins a long transition this season, trying to find the right mix of personnel that will thrive in a new system. Tyson Chandler, their defensive anchor, was shown the door in favor of a great shooting point guard in Jose Calderon. That’s only a small step in the Zen Master blueprint.
Jackson and Fisher were given the opportunity to have the kind of weapon needed as the centerpiece of the Triangle offense, but it wasn’t painless. Anthony’s extension won’t give the Knicks the kind of salary cap flexibility Jackson publicly challenged the superstar to give him, eating up $124 million over the next five seasons. Anthony wanted to be paid like a superstar, and the Knicks rewarded the one-time scoring champ with the kind of salary figure he felt he deserved.
For now, though, the Knicks are stuck in neutral. Their salary structure left little wiggle room for Jackson to work with once he climbed on board. The Knicks will have to stomach paying the frontcourt duo of Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire a combined $34.9 million before Jackson has the kind of canvas necessary to paint dreams of a Larry O’Brien trophy into the minds of Knicks fans and their franchise centerpiece.
Anthony knows it won’t be an immediate turnaround for the Knicks. The roster remains largely unchanged, and a new system without all of the puzzle pieces in place can only go so far. He’ll remain patient, for now, but it won’t last forever. Just ask the Nuggets or, better yet, ask the man himself.
”I’m willing to be patient. Now how long I’m willing to be patient? I can’t really tell you that,” Anthony told media. “But I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to take risks, I’m willing to take that chance.”
It’s patience and the desire to deliver on the promise of titles that has Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks married heading into a brand new season. For now, at least.