New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony has been tested like never before during his 11th year in the NBA. At 30-42 overall, the Knicks have the ninth-best record in the Eastern Conference—1.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks—but ‘Melo is holding onto hope that NY will reach the playoffs at season’s end.
According to the New York Post’s Marc Berman, Anthony said New York’s abysmal season is still salvageable if the team manages to sneak into the postseason:
“Absolutely. Nobody really looks at the regular season. It’s over with. Everybody starts 0-0. Our goal is to get there,” he said.
If the Knicks fail to make a run and miss the playoffs, it will be the first time Anthony hasn’t made a postseason appearance in his career. That likely won’t help the Knicks’ odds of keeping 2013’s scoring champion, as he’s expected to opt out of his contract at season’s end. He told the New York Observer’s Rafi Kohan last year, “I want to be a free agent.”
Reaching the playoffs is one integral factor at play, but what impact—if any—will Phil Jackson have in his new role?
The Zen Master signed on to become president of basketball operations under owner James Dolan earlier this month, but his hands are essentially tied by New York’s plethora of bad contracts. Deals for Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton won’t expire until 2015 at the earliest, per ShamSports.
Jackson’s championship pedigree may be enough to convince Anthony to stay. He and his new leading man met in the locker room prior to a March 25 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, but ‘Melo explained that the two didn’t have a serious conversation about the future, per Berman:
"He told me to get ready and play and try to finish out the season strong. We talked about him [relocating] to New York, him coming back from LA. The weather. A lot of generic.
"We haven’t had a tea party yet."
A tea party with Anthony and Jackson? Color me intrigued. Will Mrs. Nesbit be there to discuss NY’s future plans?
All kidding aside, the Knicks organization is facing a great deal of uncertainty. If Anthony decides to jump ship and sign on with another contender within the Association, the Knicks will be set back to the Dark Ages in terms of building a championship-caliber roster.
It's not promising that ‘Melo has already been cryptic with regard to Jackson’s influence on his future. He said the following earlier this month, according to the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte:
I don’t think it’ll have any effect on me, just as far as what I’m thinking or my decision or anything like that. Like I said, I haven’t talked to Phil yet, just to get his insight on a lot of things, what’s the plan, what’s his future plan. Because everything’s in his hands now.
Anthony also said the following of the hire, per Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders:
Melo, on the Phil Jackson hiring: "I'm a chess player, and that was a power move."— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) March 15, 2014
The seven-time All-Star is certainly keeping his free-agent options open by showing indifference to the front office addition.
Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal had this to say of the Jackson/Anthony dynamic:
Power move of not, it’s worth noting that Jackson is not a guarantee of future success. Nor is his presence in the front office akin to an assurance that ‘Melo will keep playing home games in Madison Square Garden past the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign.
Anthony will continue to focus on getting New York into the postseason picture. After that point, playoffs or no, Jackson will have an arduous task ahead of him to woo ‘Melo back to the Big Apple.