Playing great basketball for a team not quite good enough, all the while refusing to provide assurances about his future as he prepares to enter unrestricted free agency—LeBron’s been here before, where Carmelo Anthony is now.
To an extent, LeBron himself is there now. Or rather, he should be. King James can hit free agency this summer as well, but coming off two straight championships it’s difficult to imagine him leaving the Heat this soon, when they’re still working towards building a dynasty. As such, his impending availability hasn’t been dissected the way ‘Melo’s has. If his Heatles suffer an early playoff exit, things stand to change. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Anthony is the one everybody’s talking about. He will become a free agent this summer upon exercising his early termination option. Once he does, he’ll be met by a foray of suitors, all promising him things they’ll claim the Knicks cannot.
A year ago, the thought of ‘Melo leaving New York was absurd. Now, with the Knicks struggling and barren of cap space until 2015, it appears to be a legitimate possibility. All we really know for sure is that ‘Melo will become a free agent—for the first time in his career.
Unlike LeBron, Anthony didn’t hit the open market previously, forcing his way to New York via trade instead. Eleven years into his career, it will be the first time Anthony experiences such freedom and with a difficult decision looming, LeBron had some advice for ‘Melo before Miami lost to New York.
From Newsday‘s Al Iannazzone:
LeBron James called Carmelo Anthony “one of my greatest friends” and had some advice for him when he enters free agency in July.
“You got to do whatever makes you happy,” James said before Thursday night’s Knicks-Heat game at the Garden. “When you’re happy, the game of basketball is going to be fun for you. Strive to be great every day and live with whatever else happens. So we’ll see.”
Anthony’s situation now is a bit more complicated than LeBron’s in 2010. Teams aren’t tanking in bunches, shedding salary in hopes they can land ‘Melo this summer. Whatever teams have cap space, have cap space. And that’s that. Which is why Anthony could be “trapped” in New York, for want of a better word.
‘Melo’s desire to play in a big market is common knowledge. It’s why he came to New York in the first place. That limits his options considerably. If he’s averse to playing in locales such as Phoenix and Cleveland, there are only a few places he could go.
Among them is Los Angeles. The Lakers figure to have cap space and have long been considered the Knicks’ greatest threat. Yet after signing Kobe Bryant to a lucrative two-year extension, the Lakers won’t have enough cash to pay both him and ‘Melo, and assemble a viable supporting cast.
Chris Paul’s Clippers are intriguing for obvious reasons, but they don’t project to have cap space. Barring a trade, ‘Melo won’t be donning Clippers red next season, either. Same goes for the Bulls, who even after amnestying Carlos Boozer won’t have the cap room to sign Anthony, unless they move someone like Taj Gibson.
So ‘Melo could be stuck. Or he could accept a pay cut, something LeBron kinda, sorta endorses:
“I recommend it to me,” James said. “It doesn’t work for everybody. The way I live my life don’t work for everybody. All I care about is winning. I came to Miami to win. Money didn’t make me happy. Winning made me happy, and it still does. That’s what matters to me.”
This late into his career, it likely matters for the ringless ‘Melo too. He’s given no inclination he’s prepared to make the kind of financial sacrifice LeBron and others have, but after an 11th “failed” campaign, accepting a pay cut may suddenly become appealing.
That’s what is truly the Knicks’ greatest threat—Anthony’s desire to win.
The way free agency is shaping up, there will be no offer from a market Anthony loves screwing the Knicks over. They can offer him one year and about $30 million more than anyone else and based on ‘Melo’s past actions, he should stay. But if he has the slightest inkling to take less in the name of winning immediately, that’s when the Knicks are in trouble.
If he decides to traverse LeBron’s path, only to a greater extent, that’s when the Knicks are screwed.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com.