For those of you that watched Carmelo Anthony‘s staggering 62 point performance last Friday at Madison Square Garden, what was your initial reaction? Was it sheer bewilderment? Shock? Awe? My reaction centered around watching a star say his final goodbye to his team. The game felt like Anthony’s swan song to all New York Knicks fans.
Anthony can opt out of his contract this summer and there is heavy, borderline incessant discussion on where he could end up. Let’s break it down:
1) Lala Controls Everything:
Lala Anthony is a key cog in the decision making process. For one, she’s Carmelo’s wife. Secondly, she has a brand to maintain within the entertainment industry. The only viable places to succeed in that field are Los Angeles, New York City and Miami. Do you see Melo playing in South Beach with LeBron? I don’t either. That leaves us with two options.
2) Kobe and Melo in LA
You may not think about it, but these two players are very similar. Kobe Bryant obviously has the hardware in the form of Larry O’Brien trophies and various MVP awards, but they are built from the same offensive template. They demand the ball, have the unique ability to create shots out of nothing and can single-handedly win/lose a game for their team. LA fits Lala’s template, gives Melo the opportunity to play on an equivalent stage to New York and puts him in legitimate title contention depending on Bryant’s recovery and the Lakers’ draft pick. Not ruling this one out.
3) Carmelo signs with the Chicago Bulls
Reported on ESPN yesterday, a rumor was circulating that Carmelo has expressed interest in signing with the Chicago Bulls in the summer. In response to this information, Carmelo and Coach Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls sounded dumbfounded. Melo regurgitated the “I’m all about the championship” mantra that all pending free-agent superstars say in a time of questioning and Thibs actually seemed to be legitimately confused. Either way, I do not see this one happening. Derrick Rose is a proven young superstar, but even if he is at full strength this signing seems unlikely. Chicago does not pass the “Lala Test”, Thibs is a notoriously tough coach that preaches defense (Melo, unfortunately, is not about that life), and lastly, it hit -30 degrees there this month. People threw boiling water into the air and it turned into dust!
4) Concrete Jungle where $$$ are made of
The Knicks can offer Carmelo $129M for 5 years while all other teams can offer him a maximum deal of $96M for 4 years. For you math majors out there, that is a difference of $1.8M per year. While that may not seem like a lot in NBA player terms, it is substantial. But the main factor here is the extra YEAR of nearly $26M in guaranteed salary. As an aging veteran, that is the best leveraging chip that the Knicks have and frankly, the only one they need. There will have to be a cash vs. winning debate within the Anthony household this summer.
My thoughts? I think he finishes his career as a Knick, but the decision is totally based on lifestyle preference. Is that the most productive move to win a championship? No, but it is the best move for his financial future. The Knicks are at the mercy of their own ineptitude and Carmelo has to find a way to best deal with that if he plans to stay in New York. The team has no cap space, they filled the current roster with aging veterans, management miscalculated and resigned JR Smith to a big money deal, and gave away their draft picks on a year with one of the deepest drafts in a decade. At this point, he is in charge of making his bed. Whether he wants to pursue championship glory or a big pay day is on him. Being remembered as a winner or being remembered as this generation’s Charles Barkley/Karl Malone is also on him, too.