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It's easy to assume that Jackson's presence in the front office of Madison Square Garden ensures Carmelo Anthony's continued tenure with the Knicks. But that's not necessarily true.
The credibility Jackson brings with him eases the process of re-signing 'Melo, but it in no way guarantees that he'll choose to stay in New York above fleeing for a new destination with a more promising immediate future.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith (h/t HoopsHype.com) basically said as much (though in stronger fashion, of course), on First Take the same day as Jackson's introductory press conference:
I was told this last week, I was told a few days ago, I had it reiterated to me by somebody I trust yet again this morning, that Carmelo Anthony is gone, he is leaving New York city. There are those like myself who still hold up the possibility that that may not be true (...) but for what I'm being told, he is gone. And he is gone because he's at the mindset that in order to achieve any amount of success he would had to sacrifice not just this this year but next year as well, because of this current roster.
There's certainly a chance 'Melo leaves. But there's also a chance he stays, which is what Jackson is banking on.
Building around the All-Star forward must remain priority No. 1, because he's easily the most talented player that Jackson has access to, whether in the near or semi-distant future. The Knicks don't have enough cap space to go after any marquee free agents in 2014, and no one is a guarantee to join the MSG residents during the 2015 offseason.
Should 'Melo demand a max contract, Jackson should have the contract offer already drawn up so that he can immediately hand his top star a pen and have him sign on the dotted line. Ideally though, Anthony is willing to take a pay cut and promote the building of a stronger team in the future.
"As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me," Anthony told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News while explaining he'd be willing to take less than a max deal: "If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level."
The Knicks should be hoping those aren't just empty words, but they should also be prepared to act if they are.