HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – There’s a lot of angst surrounding the New York Knicks and the possibility that Carmelo Anthony will leave as a free agent next summer.
In an interview with the New York Observer, Anthony said that he’s looking forward to being a free agent.
“I want to be a free agent,” Anthony tells me, as our cigars burn close to the nub. “I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It’s like you have an evaluation period, you know. It’s like if I’m in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.”
Though he’s now in his 11th season, Anthony has never been a free agent. He signed a five-year extension with the Denver Nuggets before his rookie contract expired, and then signed another extension upon being traded to the Knicks.
Anthony didn’t say to the Observer that he plans on opting out of the final year (2014-15) of that contract, but he made it clear in a Thursday morning meeting with reporters. Though he’s set to make more than $23 million next season, he can turn that one guaranteed year into four (if he signs with a new team) or five (if he re-signs with the Knicks).
The Knicks gave up a lot to bring Anthony to New York. Rather than wait to sign him as a free agent in the summer of 2011, they gave up three starters and three draft picks to get him at the trade deadline. So to have him walk away three years later would be a tough blow.
Anthony made it clear Thursday that he’s not exactly looking to bail on the Knicks, as Marc Berman of the New York Post writes…
“This is something when that time comes, I’ll definitely explore,” Anthony said. “Does that mean I’m not coming back to New York? Not at all. But it’s definitely an opportunity I’m willing to explore and experience. That not whatsoever means I’m not coming back to New York or I don’t want to be in New York. I don’t want anyone to get that impression of what that story was. That question came different than what everyone is reading.”
Indeed, it seems Anthony is heavily leaning toward staying with the Knicks, but if they take a severe step back this season, all bets are off.
Anthony isn’t the only one who needs to think about this relationship between team and player. The Knicks need to figure out if they can really contend for a championship while paying Anthony $129 million over five years.
Teams can get good role players on cheap contracts these days and the Knicks found an offensive formula (pick-and-roll + Anthony + shooters = efficiency) that worked really well last season. But if any team is going to pay someone more than $25 million a year, that team needs him to help on both ends of the floor. Anthony has never shown an ability to do that consistently. And as good as the Knicks were offensively last season, they had a below-average defense. (They were above average both offensively and defensively with Anthony on the bench, by the way.)
The salary sheet will look a lot better when Amar’e Stoudemire‘s contract finally expires in 2015. (That guy isn’t opting out next summer.) But Anthony will be 30 years old when he signs his next contract and 34 in the final season of a five-year deal.
So the Knicks might want to think twice about committing to another five years of paying max money to a one-way star whose production is guaranteed to decline as his salary climbs. There may be better ways to construct a championship-contending roster.