Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are the Knicks better off without Carmelo Anthony?

So now that push has come to shove, with Carmelo Anthony officially having opted out of the last year of his contract with the Knicks, the machinations, speculation, rumors and general hand-wringing already have spiraled to a fever pitch.

New Knicks president Phil Jackson already has met with Anthony, and has stated publicly he has asked Anthony to consider waiting a year to become a free agent, just to see how things go now that the Zen Master has taken the reigns of this once proud, now long misbegotten franchise.

Jackson has even pulled off a trade to clear room under the cap, shedding Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for a package of serviceable players, including Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. And with one of the draft picks the Knicks added in that trade, they selected the intriguing Cleanthony Early from Wichita State.

Still, Anthony has chosen to "test the waters," even though there is no other team that can offer the max contract of five years and $129 million that the Knicks can (whether they actually will offer that is another question). It is absolutely Anthony's right to do so; why not get as much as you can?

But the question needs to be asked: Is Carmelo worth the trouble?

True, opting out is now officially a thing in the NBA. The Big Three in Miami have all done it, so now at least Anthony can have something to chat with LeBron with over a magnum of Cristal.

Full disclosure: I am not a Carmelo fan. Yes, he is a nine-time All-Star, averaging 25.3 points in his career. He is undoubtedly the most talented player on the Knicks roster ... but I don't think he's the kind of player you kowtow to and build your team around. He's a terrific scorer, but I'm not so sure he's such a terrific leader.

He says he's all about winning, but to me, he comes across as selfish and the kind of guy who would jump somewhere else if he were offered one dollar more to go -- more about himself than the team.

I also think Jackson has gone as far as he is willing to convince Anthony to stay ... although you can make the case he really hasn't tried all that hard. Jackson said Anthony's decision "is out of our hands now," which gives you the sense he's at peace with it if Carmelo leaves.

And maybe that's not a bad thing. Think about it: There will be a honeymoon phase with a new team president, a new coach in Derek Fisher and a new infusion of players. Maybe they'd be better off sticking to Jackson's system -- with more room under the cap -- and bringing in young, hungry talent eager to learn and absorb all the wisdom (and required reading) Jackson will shower on them.

The won-loss record might not improve that much this season, but it's fair to give the new regime a chance to change the culture and rebuild for the future.

A future without Carmelo Anthony.

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