According to ESPN New York's Ian Begley, Melo has a rolodex filled with prospective NBA free agents he plans to recruit.
The fact that "rolodex" is in Anthony's vocabulary makes me appreciate him even more. (That's right, I don't hate him). Melo has jokes apparently, and some of them are funny as anything.
More seriously, if you want proof that he isn't going anywhere, this is it. This is as close to a sworn affidavit as you're going to get.
Well this, and Anthony saying he doesn't want to leave New York. But this is better. The former could imply compliance. He wants to stay with the Knicks, but if they're not what he's looking for and cannot give him what he's seeking (other than money), he could leave.
Courting other players is Melo taking action, earnestly fighting so that he doesn't have to leave New York. It's him inflicting his star power on other stars in hopes of transforming the Knicks into a legitimate powerhouse.
It's him showing us the outlook in New York may be brighter than we thought.
Who, When and How?
Once we wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes after picturing Anthony flipping through a stretch forward-sized rolodex, we're in need of some context behind his legendary words. Recruit whom? And when?
Begley wrote that Melo was talking about this summer:
Anthony plans to recruit players to come to New York this summer, which could be taken as a strong indication that Anthony will re-sign with the Knicks.
I haven't had a complaint yet in my 11 years in this NBA about playing with me. I think people would love to come to play in New York, Anthony said. And when that time comes we'll be working on that. I have a big black book. I have a big Rolodex. People that talk about what's going on with me in the offseason, this and that, I should be getting people to come here, I am. I'm trying.
The New York Post's Marc Berman intimated that he was referencing 2015, when the Knicks are slated to have cap space.
Indeed, 2015 seems more realistic. Entering that summer, the Knicks will have just $290,000 in guaranteed contracts on the books. That doesn't include what they would be paying Anthony. A potential extension for Iman Shumpert along with the player options for J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton and a team option on Tim Hardaway Jr. must be taken into consideration as well.
Case in point: That number could balloon to around $38 million when all is said and done. But that's more than enough room to sign one star, like a Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo or Marc Gasol. New York would also find parting ways with players such as Smith and Felton more than doable, if it goes that far.
This coming summer doesn't present the same flexibility.
The Knicks are carrying roughly $27.3 million in guaranteed contracts for 2014-15, not including what it would take to re-sign Anthony, or the prospect of Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.4 million) and Andrea Bargnani ($11 million) opting into the last year of their deals.
All told, after retaining Melo, and after STAT and Bargs opt in (they will), the Knicks could owe more than $91 million to 12 different players. Unless Melo knows something about an unprecedented series of salary dumps that we don't, making a play for a LeBron James would be impossible.
|Knicks Salary Outlook|
|Metta World Peace||$1,590,000||~$1,661,550~|
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||$1,196,760||[$1,250,640]||$1,304,520|
(Contracts are denoted as followed: (Non-guaranteed); ETOs*; [team options]; ~player options~; —qualifying offers—)
Merely talking about it is what matters most, though. His willingness to look ahead and think that he can have an impact on summer dealings, be it this one or next, is huge.
Commitment. That's what the Knicks are looking for from him. It's what they need from him.
It's what they appear to have gotten from him.
A Plan Worth Implementing
Do the Knicks really look like a team with a plan? Absolutely not. But they have one. And they had an even better one.
Initially, the Knicks planned to strike free-agency gold in 2010. New York would become LeBron's town. Maybe Dwyane Wade's, too. Free agency was the Knicks' oyster.
Then, things went crooked.
LeBron and Chris Bosh joined forces with Wade on the Miami Heat, forming what could become the next great dynasty. Joe Johnson even spurned the Knicks (thankfully) in favor of a six-year contract from the Atlanta Hawks. Stoudemire was left, whom the Knicks inked to a five-year pact worth nearly $100 million.
No LeBron? No problem. The Knicks came up with a different plan. Not a better one, a different one.
STAT began recruiting immediately, although he zeroed in on players who weren't yet free agents. Anthony was one of them, and you know what happened—he came to New York.
Since 2010, it's been one wrench in the plans after another. The Knicks didn't get Chris Paul; they got Tyson Chandler instead. Stoudemire wasn't able to stay healthy. In fact, he did the exact opposite.
Well, Melo can be the wrench to the string of never-ending wrenches that have bedeviled the Knicks. Superstar pairings have to start somewhere, and usually, that's with another star.
There is almost always a Superstar Zero, someone who arrives and plays somewhere before everyone else. Wade was in Miami before Bosh and LeBron. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez made the Brooklyn Nets a desirable trade destination for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Stoudemire didn't hook that big fish for the Knicks in 2010. LeBron still went to Miami. There was no grand scheme that ultimately came to fruition for New York the way it did for Miami. Unbridled speculation behind Anthony's arrival is the closest that the Knicks came.
Anthony can be the one who nets the Knicks a (healthy) superstar or two. Most likely, he'll have to wait until 2015, but the Knicks can rest easy knowing they don't have to rely on a coach or an inexperienced roster to do the wooing. It can be Melo, a top-10 star who is a member of the exclusive brat pack.
If he's on board, they will come—current superstars, I mean, not the ghosts of baseball players past.
Speaking of Which...
Stay with me...
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said LeBron was interested in joining Anthony in New York, and I'm not going to rule it out.
Did I lose you? Good.
LeBron is eligible to become a free agent this summer. Assuming the Knicks don't find a way to flip Bargs, STAT and Tyson Chandler for nothing, they won't have the scratch to sign King James. If LeBron opts in for another year with the Heat, though, 2015 is a whole new ballgame.
Conventional wisdom suggests LeBron won't play in Miami for another year before hitting the open market. Third ring or not, he'll opt out and get paid.
But to hell with conventional wisdom. LeBron could stay with the Heat; he could prolong free agency another year.
Why? Because he wants to play with Melo. And he could also have an opportunity to win a fourth ring in Miami, making the most out of whatever gas that Wade has left in the tank. Or he could still be chasing that third title and see Miami as the best place to do it.
Advocates of the prodigal-son theory want him to join the Cleveland Cavaliers again. The Los Angeles Lakers are an intriguing case study, too. They will become viable options this summer, if LeBron sees them that way.
So do the Knicks. Probably (most definitely?) not this summer, but maybe next year. That's the benefit of building around Melo. Players like LeBron will wait to play with players like Anthony.
All the power the Knicks have given him—the assets and energy they've invested in him—has been for moments like these, when his stature in the league could help them win just as much as his skill set.
"I'll deal with that in the offseason when that time comes," Anthony said of free agency, via Begley."So that's not something I'm actually thinking about at this point in time."
I mean that in the nicest possible way. He is lying. Of course he's thinking about it. Everyone's asking him about it and forcing him to think about it. And he's already committed to recruiting free agents down the line. That means he's thinking about it.
"I'm very excited about this season," he continued. "I think it'll be a great season and I think we have a hell of a chance to do something this year."
Provided he stays true to his word, the Knicks have a great chance to build something special in the years to come, too.