Jackson Takes Firm Approach With Carmelo, Who Will Decide By Second Week Of July

Surprise, surprise: New York Knicks president Phil Jackson is taking a hardline approach to Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency. The 13-time NBA champion told reporters that he expects Anthony “is good for his word” on wanting to play in New York and potentially taking a salary discount to construct a contending team around him.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News offers more insight on Jackson’s firm words for his superstar.

Jackson reiterated on Thursday that his preference is to re-sign Anthony while making it abundantly clear that the club is looking to negotiate a contract that benefits both parties. Just short of pounding his fist on the lectern and saying “read my lips; no max deal,” Jackson challenged the Knicks free agent forward to demonstrate that he’s a team-first guy by taking less…

“We haven’t come to that,” Jackson said when asked if he and Anthony’s representatives have discussed a max contract. “But the perception is we want Carmelo to be as interested in winning. When saying he’s competitive and wants to be on a competitive team to also being able to demonstrate that if push comes to shove in a situation where he may have to take a little bit less and we’re more competitive to bring in another player to help us bring this concept along.”…

“We have every confidence that Carmelo is good for what his word is, that he wants to be in New York, he likes playing in New York, he wants to compete, he wants to be part of a playoff team that is bound competitive toward a championship,” Jackson said.

That doesn’t exactly sound like an executive willing to offer Anthony maximum-level money. Jackson is notoriously brilliant at manipulating situations to his favor through the media; this seems yet another example. Anthony has been adamant since February that he would be willing to take a substandard contract as long as it meant improving the team surrounding him. Jackson’s words are a stern reminder to Carmelo that he should back up his team-first talk, and also increase public pressure on Anthony to do just that.

However, Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports offers a different take. In a report that Anthony hopes to decide his free agent destination in the second week of July, Spears also says that Jackson isn’t as unwilling to offer Carmelo a max contract as it appears.

Jackson has said that he asked Anthony to potentially take a pay cut to remain with the Knicks. But the source also said Jackson only talked to Anthony about the concept of taking a pay cut and that Jackson said he would be willing to offer a maximum contract if that is what it took to re-sign Anthony.

We’ve talked ad nauseam about the smoke and mirrors put forth by front offices, agents, and players during the offseason. Even without Spears’ report, Jackson’s insistence that Anthony take a salary discount to play for the Knicks seems hollow. Teams should roll out the red carpet to sign talents like Carmelo, and when push comes to shove conventional wisdom says that New York will do so in the form of a five-year, $130 million contract offer. News that the Knicks are prepared for that scenario anyway only confirms that belief.

Kudos to Jackson for trying, though. New York has needed an aggressive yet even-keeled decision-maker at the helm for years, and Jackson is proving he’s just that type. Even better is that he backs up that bravado with a track record of unparalleled NBA success.

Carmelo is surely listening. The question now is whether or not Jackson’s influence and a clean cap-sheet after 2014-2015 will loom larger than a roster that is still subpar despite some recent shuffling. Apparently, we’ll find out in just over two weeks’ time.

Will Carmelo re-sign with the Knicks

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