The New York Knicks were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday. Meaning Tuesday's intra-borough showdown with the Brooklyn Nets represents less a postseason tune-up than a sad formality.
Starting Wednesday, the focus will shift to something else entirely: the fate of Carmelo Anthony, who had this to say to Newsday’s Al Iannazzone the day after the Knicks had their playoff hopes dashed:
Everything for me is just cloudy. I've never been [eliminated from the playoffs] before. I don't know what to say about this situation. The only thing for me is to stay positive throughout this situation. There's going to be a lot of questions that I have, that I'm going to be asking myself: Why this? Why that? I'm pretty sure I won't find no answers anytime soon. We'll see what happens.
OK, yeah, that’s not the musings of a man who doesn’t like the weather. That’s someone who just had basketball-sized hail fall on his house.
Anthony was speaking, of course, about his impending free agency, wherein the 11-year NBA veteran will forgo the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks.
Now, New York has the ability to pay Anthony as much as $34 million more than any other team. That’s leaving a lot of tea on the table, folks.
Melo did, however, add a potentially crucial caveat, saying, “Even if we had the greatest of a season, I probably would still be in that situation.”
Whether Anthony is being truthful is irrelevant at this point. What matters is Knicks fans are about to bear witness to an epic three-month stretch of rumors, speculations and he-said-she-saids.
For his part, New York’s freshly anointed president of basketball operations, Phil Jackson, has stated—in his opening press conference, no less—that retaining Anthony’s services would indeed be a top priority for the new regime.
However, whether the Knicks should go that route remains something of a controversial question. If Melo does indeed insist on the hometown max, Bleacher Report’s Joe Flynn thinks New York should bid immediate adieu:
The Knicks should take this opportunity to undergo a true rebuilding process. It won't be easy, because New York has already sold off their first-round picks in 2014 and 2016, but the first few years of the Donnie Walsh era showed that Dolan is less interested in the Knicks when they are rebuilding. If the team can find a smart GM and fly under the owner's radar for a few years, they might have a chance to finally construct a competent team from the ground up.
It goes without saying the Knicks put themselves at a decided negotiation disadvantage by not making the playoffs—the first time in Anthony’s career he’s failed to breach the postseason.
But if Jackson’s legendary superstar rapport can be trusted, the Knicks—reluctant as they might be to overpay and thus further jeopardize their rebuilding efforts—will spare no expense otherwise to assure Anthony remains in orange and blue.
If they fail, they'll need more than just an umbrella to protect them from the subsequent hailstorm.