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At the crux of it all is re-signing Carmelo Anthony, and doing so for less than the maximum salary he could receive from the Knicks.
On Valentine's Day, Melo expressed his affection for the Knicks and said he would take less money in order to help the team, per ESPN New York.
"Without a doubt,'' Anthony said Friday while in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend. "Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I'd do it. I told people all the time, always say, 'If it takes me taking a pay cut, I'll be the first one on [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan's steps saying take my money and let's build something strong over here.'"
Since the All-Star break, the Knicks have lost seven of eight, making the situation in New York look that much bleaker. Now it seems like the only reason he'd stay is for the bigger payday.
Nevertheless, Melo won't take the five-year, $129 million max available to him because winning really is the priority. He knows that if he gets that gigantic check, New York will have fewer resources to surround him with a capable supporting cast—which is what he really lacks right now.
He's scoring as well as ever with no reliable offensive options on the court with him. Sure, the best player has to take some responsibility for his team's shortcomings—Melo certainly isn't extinguishing the tire fire on the defensive end—but in terms of effort, Anthony hasn't let up this season, something that can't be said for many of his teammates.
Melo deserves better in New York, and maybe someday he can still get it. More than anything, however, the Knicks need to keep him; if they go the alternate route and sign-and-trade him somewhere, it's highly unlikely this front office could get anything resembling fair value for him.
And that's just in the short-term. Down the line without Melo, don't expect Dolan and Mills to turn that vacated cap space into a player nearly as good. Yes, Kevin Durant hits the market in 2016, but he's not looking to dive into this wreck.
Somehow, New York needs to convince Melo he can still win here. Otherwise, the future just gets grimmer.