Is 2012-13 a do-or-die season for Carmelo Anthony? That is one way to look at it.
Though on paper, the New York Knicks’ core—he, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler—are signed through three more seasons, any one of them could be on the hot-seat come June, depending on the circumstances.
At first glance, it seems unlikely that GM Glen Grunwald would move forward with a roster shakeup following this season, but that is assuming a few things, prime among them, an improvement over the last two years’ first round playoff exits.
Compounding matters, Grunwald’s ability to deal is hampered by bulky contracts and harsher luxury tax penalties that go into effect with the 2013 season.
In more ways, this is Amar’e Stoudemire’s do-or-die season. As I’ve put before, “This is the year that is going to really tell us what we have left in Amar’e.” But Stoudemire and his contract will be difficult to move if things go really south.
More is expected of Anthony—it’s his team, in his hands—and what he does with it in 2012-13 will tell a lot about Anthony’s future.
Though seemingly improbable, failure to make the postseason in 2012-13 will prompt a thorough reexamination of the whole team, Carmelo Anthony included.
This scenario could cause a housecleaning, with Anthony shouldering most of the blame. Doubly daunting for him is his movability, in effect making him the Knicks’ most valuable trade piece.
From my perspective, this would not be the best move. There have been so many transactions over the past three years, that you have to give a single roster a few years opportunity to produce.
But James Dolan may have different feelings on the matter, and they will be based on profit more than anything else. The luxury tax will come into play here, and also if New York fails to do the following....
And hopefully they will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. At the least, the Knicks should make it to the semis for there to not be an uproar.
But not getting past Round 1—again—will be almost as bad as not making the postseason in the first place, with Carmelo Anthony failing to deliver for a third season in a row.
The first step in getting out of the first round is to secure a top seed. Realistically, the Knicks can get the No. 3 seed behind the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, beating out the Boston Celtics. More fantastically, they could pass the Bulls and grab the No. 2.
A comfortable berth is a double-edged sword, though. Expectations will be higher, and the consequences of failure, greater.
Especially if the Knicks don’t do this...
Let me clarify in a reasonable sense. It would take a good heaping of embarrassment for a Brooklyn Nets-instigated Carmelo Anthony move.
A Brooklyn season sweep wouldn’t be enough, but what if New York is swept away badly by Brooklyn in Round 1? James Dolan might bite on Mikhail Prokhorov’s ensuing back-page jabs, and actually do something about it.
What complicates the three failed-playoff scenarios presented, and could have an impact on Anthony’s future in New York, is the looming specter of punitive changes to the NBA’s luxury tax code that go into effect in 2013-14, a code Prokhorov may flout, while Dolan scales back.
The Knicks did not match for Jeremy Lin for one reason: the upcoming new luxury tax structure.
After years of red ink, the Knicks have profited handsomely the past two years, in part thanks to no luxury tax payments. They are over the cap this season and will fork over some penalty.
But beginning next year, they will pay comparatively through the nose.
According to Forbes,
"Starting in 2013, it is an incremental tax that penalizes teams harshly the further they exceed the threshold. Repeat offenders get dinged even further. A repeat luxury tax offender would pay $4.25 for every dollar between $15 million and $25 million spent over the tax threshold."
So the Knicks, and everyone else above the cap will be paying more than four times as much in 2013 than in 2012.
No matter how bad Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks perform in 2012-13, we all may just be stuck with this roster, sans any improvement, for another two fruitless seasons.
And you can forget about this improvement if Dolan shies away from additional taxes...
To start, Paul refused to sign an extension with the Los Angeles Clippers, a move somewhere between angling for more money in L.A. and leaving the door open for a last-ditch effort to move to New York.
Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul are tight, and have endlessly reminded everyone of their desire to play together.
Depending on Anthony's and the Knicks' performance in 2012-13 and how close they seem to be to a title, Dolan and company might be willing to suffer any financial penalty, or make even an ill-advised maneuver (say trade Tyson Chandler), to get the All-Star point guard.
However, if this season is a total bust, both Dolan and Paul will think twice.
Chris Paul may not want to come to the Knicks, pal Anthony or not, if the team is an unfixable mess for the foreseeable future. He has a good thing out there with Blake Griffin.
Meanwhile, Dolan will either let the roster ride it out to the bitter end, or attempt a dismantling.
So, is 2012-13 a do-or-die season for Carmelo Anthony?
On the surface it may appear not.
But a disastrous season, especially one marked by regular and postseason ineptitude, may highlight Carmelo Anthony's ultimate limitations and signal the beginning of the end for this Knicks' multi-year construction.
Pile on humiliation at the hands of their new crosstown rivals and a reminder of the team's financial constraints which put a prohibitive price on any roster improvements, and the stakes grow higher for Anthony—the standard bearer of the Knicks.
It is not a given the Knicks will excel in 2012-13. We think so, but nothing is definite, not even Carmelo Anthony's future with the team.
Ask Bobby Valentine. Ask Peyton Manning.