Carmelo Anthony

The New York Knicks and Phil Jackson are moving fast: Mike Woodson is fired, and Steve Kerr might be coming in. All that doesn’t change the mind of Carmelo Anthony, who wants teams to make him feel like he’s special through free agency, even though he doesn’t deserve any royal treatment.

Anthony has a player option for next season worth $23.5 million, but he is likely to opt out and test free agency waters for one big reason: He wants to win now, and even though there’s a Phil Jackson at the top of the system with a new head coach coming in, he’s not sure the Knicks are the team that offers him the best chance of success. The Knicks are a top priority because that’s his team, the place his wife wants to live in and where he’ll make the most money, but not alone in the equation.

Anthony wants the Dwight Howard treatment in this free agency period. What does it mean? He’ll set up shop in New York just like Howard did last season after his awful tenure with the Lakers and listen to pitches while teams from all over the league come in with offerings and promises, hoping to seduce him to their cause with money and titles. Anthony is a superstar, but as the last 11 seasons have proven, he isn’t a championship-caliber player; not as the number one guy on a team.

Carmelo

The Chicago Bulls are really interested in him, but will need some creative financing to make it work. Carlos Boozer getting the amnesty clause a year or two too late might work, and they also have two first round draft picks they might use if they want to include Boozer and his heavy contract in a trade. The Rockets are pressured by Harden and Howard to bring in a third “star” so Anthony might be someone they go after, as impossible as it might sound to put Harden and Carmelo on the same court with just one ball, and the Clippers are also looking like a team that might try and make a move for him. The Lakers are likely to make a pitch as well. Bryant and Anthony? Doesn’t sound right.

While Anthony is one of the best players in the league, or at least one of the most gifted scorers, no team committing a huge chunk of their salary cap to him will win an NBA championship. Maybe the Bulls can, but only if Anthony can change his ways on both offense and defense. At his age, that doesn’t sound very likely. All the courting during free agency might be very good for his ego and possibly his bank account (although he said he’ll take less money for a title contender), but won’t make him a champion any time soon.

As for the Knicks, with Anthony or without him, times are tough. Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler are on the payroll for next season. There aren’t any draft picks to hold on to as hope. Even if Anthony leaves, they’ll still be way over the salary cap, meaning there’s not a lot of room for maneuvering and bringing in new, fresh faces that can improve them. It’ll probably take time before they have a chance to call themselves contenders.

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