Earlier this week, it seemed like Carmelo Anthony had made up his mind and was returning to the Knicks. While Phil Jackson remained positive yesterday, he is still waiting for ‘Melo to reply to his texts. According to a report, the Bulls and Lakers are still very much in the race.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports reports there’s been an about-face from reports he was re-signing in New York because ‘Melo has not made up his mind yet about his three biggest suitors:
At Summer League in Las Vegas, Jackson told reporters that he’d texted Anthony since their free-agent meeting, but Anthony hasn’t responded. The team that has been viewed as the strongest suitor for Anthony, Chicago, hasn’t been apprised of his intentions, either — but a league source told CBSSports.com Thursday that the Bulls and the Lakers remain under consideration for the seven-time All-Star.
Just as James has bought Heat president Pat Riley 10 days to try to upgrade the roster — with minimal results — Anthony’s lack of commitment has given Jackson time (and applied pressure on him) to make roster upgrades. A person with knowledge of Anthony’s message in his free-agent meeting with Jackson said he expressed confidence in Jackson’s plan to revamp the roster after next season. But Anthony’s biggest concern, the person said, was avoiding a repeat in 2014-15 of the Knicks’ 37-win debacle last season — the first time in Anthony’s 11 seasons that he failed to make the playoffs.
Without other moves, signing Anthony would leave Jackson with only the taxpayer mid-level exception of $3.3 million and minimum deals to add quality players to the rotation. With the Bulls, Thunder, Lakers and Spurs in pursuit of Pau Gasol, that kind of salary hole isn’t going to be enough to land the Spaniard.
The Bulls are the only team out of the three suitors who can say they have a realistic shot at contending next year. If ‘Melo wants a four-year, $96 million max deal from the Bulls, they would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer but also find a way to trade Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy without taking back additional salary.
It’s the classic dilemma of a superstar wanting to go to another team for the max, but he can only do so if that particular team guts their roster partially, which defeats the purpose of the signing.
In this regard, the Knicks still hold the advantage, in terms of the amount of money they can offer, and the growing belief ‘Melo is buying into Jackson’s vision and ability to build a contender in New York. But unless they can shed Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire‘s expiring contracts, the Knicks will be restricted in what they can do until next summer.
‘Melo also has a very close relationship with Kobe Bryant, and — perhaps on the strength of their friendship alone, plus all the off-court opportunities Hollywood offers — he’s still considering the Lakers. Having been with the Knicks, ‘Melo understands the appeal of playing for a team in a big market, but he would be placing a lot of trust in the organization and in Kobe’s health if he’s expecting to win right away in Los Angeles.
There’s no clear front-runner in this race — despite the New York Daily News‘ report. All three teams have their own sets of questions which are being considered by ‘Melo as he nears a decision. Ultimately, he’ll have to place his trust in one of these franchises to come through on their promise of becoming a contender.
What do you think?
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