I can give you 62 reasons why the Knicks should keep Carmelo Anthony when he hits free agency this summer, and about 130 million why he’ll be interested in staying.
With the February 20th NBA Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, the pressure to move Anthony is certainly mounting. There’s no doubt that the Knicks have already fielded calls from interested parties, but none of those talks have made any progress. After all, New York has as good of a chance as anyone to retain Melo’s services come July, and it’s not even close to the right time to move on yet. The Knicks can, and will, offer him close to $130 million and an extra year than other teams can, and with good reason, they should.
On February 22, 2011, the Knicks gave the Denver Nuggets Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first-round pick, and cash in return for Melo, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman. The silver lining was the official ending the of Eddy Curry era, as they shipped his fat contract (see what I did there?) to the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Anthony Randolph, in exchange for Corey Brewer. At the time, the national attention made the deal as much of a spectacle as The Decision, and was largest in NBA history.
If New York gives up on Anthony so soon, it will have all been for naught. How foolish would it be for the Knicks to dish the superstar they spent countless hours of manpower acquiring before the draft pick they gave up ever plays a minute of NBA basketball? How shortsighted do you have to be to fall in love with a player, only to decide that he’s not your cup of tea after two complete seasons? The Knicks would simply be abandoning their plan entirely too early.
It’s fair to fear the idea of losing Melo to free agency for nothing, but it’s a risk that New York has to be willing to take. While Anthony is one of the, if not the most complete scorer in the league, the fans have to brace themselves for his departure. Understand that Melo wants to win, and that isn’t happening in New York, at least right now. Worst case scenario, he walks away and the team doesn’t contend for another few seasons. The Knicks haven’t won a championship since 1973, so expecting one anytime soon is just setting yourself up for a letdown.
Replacing one of the league’s top scorers isn’t the quick fix that it’s being made out to be, especially considering that the franchise is bereft of any juicy draft picks, cap space, or other resources that are necessary for a seamless rebuild. Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. are intriguing young pieces, but aren’t the type of guys you want comprising the core of your team, so they might as well wait it out and see if Melo is interested in returning. The Knicks can trade Anthony for five lottery picks and it’s still possible that they won’t draft an offensive talent like him. He averages 25.0 points per game for his career, good enough for 12th all-time. Pure scorers like that don’t just grow on trees.
There are several reasons why Anthony will be interested in staying, with one, two, and three being all the extra money he can earn in New York. The Knicks can offer him an extra year and more cash, but he can also earn a little extra in endorsements. That’s not to say that Chicago and Los Angeles can’t offer similar monetary figures, but New York is home to more than twice as many people as the next closest city, and if Melo abandons The Big Apple, there will be 8.4 million fans that will be that much less interested in buying his gear.
Still, at this point in his career, Anthony is much more likely to make a basketball decision than a financial one. I think it’s safe to say that he has enough saved up for his family and him to live comfortably for generations, but he won’t be sleeping well without a ring. Believe it or not, if Melo returns, the Knicks aren’t too far off from that either. The organization will be able to offer him the ultimate rebuilding plan, and may include Anthony in the decision making process. Obviously, they aren’t winning a title this season, but with some subtle offseason changes, they can still be a top-five team in the putrid Eastern Conference next year. Their pitch will be all about 2015, when, brace yourself, the Knicks have a first round draft pick! Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Andrea Bargnani also come off the books that summer, and the only players due to get paid by New York are Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni (retired?), and Tim Hardaway Jr. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith hold player options for that season. The Knicks can feasibly enter the 2015-16 campaign with a brand new squad, constructed with the input of Anthony himself.
It’s also possible that New York tries to patch things up before ever even getting close to the offseason of 2015. The Rajon Rondo rumors just won’t die, and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to trade within the division if the deal is right. The Knicks will be hard pressed for resources to acquire the All-Star guard, but at least the franchise is showing Carmelo that they aren’t going to just sit around and wait for a rebuild. James Dolan is always willing to spend more money to help improve the squad, and Melo knows this. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that the owner is doing everything in his excessive power to help you.
In the end, Melo will be better for facing some adversity. He’ll be more beloved and respected for not bailing when the going got tough. Nothing makes you want to win more than learning how to hate losing, and as a player he’ll be hungrier than ever, and not in the Eddy Curry type of way, or is it weigh? Last cheap shot, I promise.
If he stays, Anthony will never have to be lumped into the LeBron James category of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Let’s just say that the people of Cleveland are a little more laid back than New Yorkers, so if they were burning Cavalier jerseys upon James’ departure in Ohio, what would be in store for Melo in the City That Never Sleeps? The Knicks need Melo and he’ll be doing a ton for his public image by staying in the city that he forced his way to just three years ago. It may take a year or two to get to the top, but in the end, both sides win. Rome wasn’t built in a day.