New York, it's your turn to hate me.
Carmelo Anthony can terminate the last year of his contract next summer, at which point he would join free-agency ranks expected to include LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and many, many more. Once on the open market, he could re-sign with the New York Knicks or go wherever else he pleases.
'Melo has already headlined three failed postseason campaigns since joining the Knicks, and was thought a flight risk should next year end in a fourth. Then he openly declared his intent to stay during an interview on Bloomberg Television's Market Makers.
Let's shut the door on Melopalooza 2.0 then, shall we? Oh that's right, we can't.
All of me believes Anthony was being sincere. But he could have been speaking in double negatives. Or in the moment. Or he could change his mind. A lot can happen between now and next July.
The basketball gods could decide to stop smiting Amar'e Stoudemire. Tyson Chandler could develop a post game. J.R. Smith could just say no to party-rocking. Iman Shumpert could grow the beanstalk on his head so high those named Jack want to climb it. And the Knicks could go 41 years and counting without an NBA title.
In which case, 'Melo could still (want to) leave.
New York's Outlook
The Knicks have just $27.3 million in guaranteed money owed to five different players in 2014-15. Toss in seven minimum cap holds of $511,336 to reach 12, and they're at roughly $35.8 million in salary commitments.
Free-agency binge here they come.
And there they go.
New York's cap space is nonexistent. Three of their non-guaranteed contracts are Early Termination Options. One belongs to 'Melo, which he figures to use; the other two are STAT's and Andrea Bargnani's.
Stoudemire can opt in to the last year of his deal and earn $23.4 million while Bargs can do the same and rake in $11.5 million. Either of them is about as likely to walk away from that coin as Optimus Prime is to attend Megatron's next birthday party.
Together, they'll add nearly $35 million to New York's bottom line. That's not including a team option on Shumpert and the money the Knicks will pay 'Melo. So bye-bye cap room, hello luxury tax. Again.
Though Anthony wanted to team up with Stoudemire—and hasn't indicated he resents him in any way—this dyad hasn't panned out. STAT's knees have the structural stability of a Sour Patch Kid, and playing the what-could-have-been game isn't going to win championships.
To their credit, the Knicks have attempted to cloak this failure in superior depth. And they've succeeded. They just haven't been good enough.
Chandler's offensive game ran off with Manti Te'o's dancing partner, Shump is still too young, Bargs maintains the word "defense" is not in the Italian dictionary and Smith always seems to take one step forward only to fall two steps back.
Simply put, they're not a superteam. Maybe they have what it takes to outshoot the Miami Heat, outsmart the Brooklyn Nets and seep through the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers defenses. The time for "maybes" has come and gone for 'Melo, though. He needs to be sold on certainty.
That is exactly what the Knicks will say they can provide in 2015. That's when they'll have cap space enough to sign, say, Rajon Rondo or Marc Gasol (or Kendrick Perkins!).
While that sounds good, need I remind you that Rondo hasn't shown how he'll fare after rehabbing a torn ACL? Or that the last time the Knicks promised 'Melo something (a sidekick) they got him Bargs?
Nothing they have done since 'Melo arrived has been particularly terrible. Yet the Knicks haven't built a winner either. They've supposedly been right there since 2010, and each time they've come up short.
Fed up with the absence of a championship, turning 30 and New York's track record these last 40 years, 'Melo could elect to move on.
Waiting is for chumps. That's what I imagine a 25-year-old LeBron James told his friends in 2010, when he spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat.
He could have waited. He could have toughed it out in hopes of winning a championship with his incumbent team. Or he could've taken his career by the horned sandcastle in South Beach, which he did.
Anthony is going to have options next summer too. Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers already have eyes for him. Their recruiting pitch is likely to comprise billboards, 'Melo-shaped cakes and a reenactment from Say Anything, where Kobe is a boombox-clad John Cusack and Anthony is Ione Skye.
Los Angeles won't be the only one after him either.
The Chicago Bulls can easily create some cap space by letting Luol Deng walk and subsequently trading or amnestying Carlos Boozer. Coach Tom Thibodeau isn't known for his offense, but playing next to Derrick Rose would be difficult to turn down.
'Melo also wanted the Knicks to trade for Rondo, so playing alongside a top-tier point guard is apparently something that interests him now.
Then there's LeBron. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said James wants to play with Anthony just like he did with Dwyane Wade. LeBron found a way to make that happen; he could do the same with 'Melo.
To be clear, it's not going to happen in New York unless LeBron himself opts in for another year with Miami, and explores free agency in 2015. Translation: It's probably not going to happen....in New York.
It could happen somewhere. Anthony can find the superteam New York hasn't given him, and won't be able to give him until 2015—somewhere.
Should he find a locale that's 'Melo and LeBron friendly, or one with another superstar in general, does Anthony still sing the "I'm not going nowhere" tune?
Much like a high schooler wondering if his cafeteria is serving actual chicken and not breaded rubber, I have my doubts.
Four decades worth of championship-less basketball are hanging over his head like a persistent cloud. Nothing short of a title will ever be good enough in the Big Apple.
Nor would it be good enough after swapping teams (again). At least then, though, he could team up with another star and share the burden. Better yet, he could sign with the Lakers and defer all responsibility to Kobe. Riding the coattails of another star's franchise has its benefits, after all.
Not that I'm calling Anthony a coward. I'm not. He came to New York, signed an extension and he's fought. And there's nothing to suggest he'll stop fighting.
"That is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here to New York, just so I could take on those pressures and those challenges,'' Anthony said, via Iannazzone. "A lot of people do not like to deal with the pressure. A lot of people do not know how to deal with the challenges they face. To me, it is everyday life.''
More than anything, that sounds like a guy who knows what he got himself into, and loves it. At the same time, that's a guy who knows what he got himself into—it's two-fold.
'Melo knows the expectations aren't going anywhere. Ever. Even if he manages to win a title, New York will always want more. Concrete jungle-ites like myself make no apologies either. It's who we are; it's what our city's basketball standards were founded upon.
For now, 'Melo seems to appreciate it; he wanted this. One year is a long time, though. Just as quickly as he wanted it, he could loathe it.
At that point, jumping ship to partner up with a fellow luminary and resident cross-bearer may not seem like such a bad idea.
What to Do, What to Do?
No matter what Anthony says now, he'll have a decision to make next summer.
Although it appears his love for New York is everlasting, things change. Teams lose and players become frustrated and leave. The Knicks aren't an exception.
Anthony knows how good he has it with these Knicks. He and Mike D'Antoni weren't jibing, so Magic Mike was sent packing. The players that 'Melo wanted within reason, the Knicks got. Regular toilet paper wasn't cutting it, so New York's locker room is now stocked with two-ply goodness.
The Knicks are his team, and the organization wants to keep it that way. Anthony seems like he wants it to stay that way, too.
What remains to be seen is if there's another team prepared to give him what the Knicks can't, and what he'll do if they come calling in less than one year's time.
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