The title might be a bit misleading. It’s possible to build a team around Carmelo Anthony, there’s no doubt about that, but if the New York Knicks still think that giving him the kind of money a max extension is about and a say in his next batch of teammates will get them anywhere near an NBA title they couldn’t be anymore wrong.
According to certain reports, including this one from Hoopsworld, the Knicks are about to give Anthony the keys to the kingdom. What does that mean? They know there’s quite a threat of losing him to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014 when he can opt out of his contract, so they’re not only waving that max extension he can get only with them (five years, $130 million, which is pretty much Kobe Bryant money) but also giving Anthony a chance to be part of the team building.
He’s not turning into a GM. He’ll just have a say in the players they’re likely to go after in 2015, when his contract, along with Stoudemire, Chandler and Bargnani, runs out, pretty much giving the Knicks a clean slate heading into the 2015-2016 season.
Anthony has said this week that moving to the Lakers sounds unlikely, but it’s impossible to say so far in advance. Things change a lot in 10-11 months, and another disappointing ending to their playoff experience might lead Anthony to take a very different decision.
Not wooing Anthony with everything they got is a risk. Giving up on him means pretty much starting from scratch in 2015, or worse: Losing him in 2014 and staying stuck with three eight-figure contracts on players with their best days behind them. Bargnani isn’t that old, but many are quite sure that he has already given NBA fans the best (which wasn’t that much considering he’s a number one pick) he has in his arsenal.
NBA teams take risks, and bringing Anthony over was a huge one. It’s not that Anthony is playing badly, but he’s the kind of superstar that commands a maximum deal, yet can’t be the leading man on a team that wants to win an NBA champions. His contract right now is crippling. Just think of it when it reaches Bryant proportions in a few years. Take a look at the Los Angeles Lakers right now. The Knicks aren’t going to win an NBA title with what they have, and certainly won’t be able to with Anthony eating up more than half the cap space.
But giving up on Anthony means practically rebuilding. The Isiah Thomas years, as a coach and GM were very painful. Expensive and terrible professionally, with an endless number of terrible contracts that took a few years to get rid of. And Anthony, like it or not, is 29. At some point, we’re going to see a decline in his dominating offensive game, and the lack of other things he does well (like pass or defend) are going to be sorely and painfully missed.
The Knicks don’t want to reach the situation the Lakers are in right now, or where the Boston Celtics are at for the moment. However, their decision on Carmelo Anthony is going to decide their future for the next five seasons. Whatever it is, with him as their number one player, an NBA title isn’t going to come.