Can Steve Kerr Keep Carmelo Anthony with New York Knicks?

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Can Steve Kerr Keep Carmelo Anthony with New York Knicks?
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The New York Knicks appear to have settled on Steve Kerr as their desired coaching candidate, but that won't bring any certainty to the unsettled future of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

Getting Kerr to the Big Apple is more than a formality, but team president Phil Jackson doesn't seem to see it the way. With 13 championship rings in the Zen Master's jewelry case, maybe we should follow that vision.

In Jackson's mind, Kerr will be replacing the deposed Mike Woodson soon. Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein the Knicks are working to ink a deal with Kerr "that would install him as their new coach after the first round of the playoffs."

Jackson seemed to confirm as much during a recent dinner chat with Anthony in Manhattan. He reportedly told the former scoring champ that "he is fully expecting to hire Steve Kerr as the team's next coach," as multiple sources told Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal.

While Kerr seems to be sitting atop the Knicks' list, it's unclear if the current TNT analyst sees the situation the same way.

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Should the Golden State Warriors opt to part ways with head coach Mark Jackson, Kerr "may listen if approached" by them, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported. Sources told Stein Golden State has "strong interest in Kerr" if it has a vacancy to fill, but the Knicks "are the clear front-runners to land Kerr."

Assuming Kerr wants to make New York's courtship a marriage, what would that mean for Anthony's planned venture into free agency?

Perhaps nothing.

The only noise in the Knicks' coaching search coming from Anthony (or sources close to him, rather) is that it won't play a part in his free-agent decision. The potential for team success weighs heaviest on his mind.

"He wants to be in a situation where he can start winning, and he is going to look at teams based on that,” a source told Sporting News' Sean Deveney. “Coaching is only a part of the equation. What they do now is not going to be as important as can they win?”

That's going to be a tough sell for Jackson and his staff.

New York trudged to an unsightly 37-45 record this season and, barring a trade, will return (at least) eight players who contributed to that mark. With their lottery pick owed to the Denver Nuggets and nearly $50 million committed to Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani alone, the Knicks are short on avenues to acquire the kind of assistance they appear to need.

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That's what makes this coaching hire so crucial, even if Anthony might downplay its significance behind closed doors. If Melo wants to see personnel improvements, this might be the best card in Jackson's hand.

How much confidence could Kerr, who has no coaching experience, instill in Anthony? More than you'd think. As a close associate of Jackson, Kerr would be a mirror of (or medium for) the legendary coach.

"Phil wanted [Anthony] to know that Kerr and his thinking will simply be an extension of himself," a source told Herring. "He wanted Carmelo to know he'll still be able to coach him by extension."

Talent trumps coaching in the NBA, but clipboard-carriers are still important.

The Knicks are loaded with talent, but Woodson either couldn't figure out how to make the pieces fit or couldn't get the players to buy into his program. Jackson was a master at bringing groups together for one common goal, and Kerr should have access to the full complement of Jackson's team-building tools.

Could a Kerr-Jackson combo transform the Knicks into title contenders overnight? Probably not. But getting back to New York's 2012-13 level of success (54-28) might be a possibility, which would provide some momentum to propel the Knicks into the 2015 offseason when they'll have the financial means to be major free-agent players.

The question becomes whether Anthony is willing to wait that long. If he's looking for a more rapid rise up the NBA food chain, he'll have suitors capable of offering more immediate help.

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Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls figure to be one of those suitors. While they'd need to make a few salary-slashing moves to get in Anthony's price range, you get the feeling those are decisions they'd be willing to make.

Noah reportedly spent All-Star weekend in Anthony's ear, and those recruitment efforts apparently haven't stopped since. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote:

According to several sources, including a teammate, Noah’s All-Star Weekend 'conversation' with New York Knicks standout Carmelo Anthony didn't end in New Orleans. They had discussions via text the rest of the season, including the day after the Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

A three-headed monster of Anthony, Noah and former MVP Derrick Rose would make the Bulls a formidable force in the championship race. At the least, that option seems to be worth Anthony's consideration.

In terms of top-shelf talent, the Knicks can't compete with that. Not now, anyway.

However, it's hard not to wonder whether the potential to eventually compete in New York trumps the chance to make a more immediate run with Chicago in Anthony's mind.

Anthony bullied his way to the Big Apple. He hasn't hidden the fact he'd prefer to stay in the Empire State. He knows what we all know—winning in New York would be an automatic legacy builder.

Only he knows how tempting that possibility is.

Is it strong enough to make him delay his desire to contend for a title? Is it worth accepting less than max money (New York can offer him an extra year and $30 million more than any other suitor) to give the Jackson the tools needed to build a winner?

He sounds willing to do the latter but not so sure about the former, via Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

Kerr, even with the support of Jackson, can't keep Anthony around. Kerr can sell a stat-friendly role and the potential for internal growth, but he can't give Anthony any promise of success.

Kerr might become the league's next coaching star. With a legend like Jackson showing him the way, Kerr could be the one who leads the Knicks back to relevance.

That potential won't be the one driving Anthony's decision. He'll need to buy Jackson's ability to put championship-caliber players around him sooner than later.

Kerr can help sell Jackson's vision, but Anthony has to see it for himself. Anything short of that and Anthony's as good as gone—regardless who's coaching the team.

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