There will be plenty of change in New York now that Phil Jackson is running the Knicks, but a little continuity might be nice—especially when it comes to the team's best player. Carmelo Anthony may stick around when it's all said and done, but the first hurdle to negotiate is whether he'll test free-agency waters this summer.
Anthony can opt out of his contract early, and Jackson is hoping it won't come to that. Some progress to that effect may have been made recently. According to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola, Jackson has tried talking Anthony out of opting out—and Anthony will give it some consideration.
Phil advised Carmelo Anthony not to opt out until July 2015. Interesting.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 30, 2014
According to Phil, Carmelo said he would consider it.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 30, 2014
Isola notes that Anthony's willingness to contemplate leaving his contract intact "would be a dramatic change since Anthony has said repeatedly since October that he plans to exercise an early termination clause in his contract and become a free agent on July 1."
Per Isola, here's what Jackson had to say on Friday about his communications with Melo:
I told him it might be a good idea to hang in here and see what it's like for a year, and go out the next year. But that’s his option, that’s what he’s earned, and that's what's part of his contractual agreement.
He has the right to do that. But I just offered that as: 'look, this gives you an opportunity to see how this is going to change, see how we're going to get going, your relationship to the team and the coach and the system or whatever.'
In other words, Jackson wants Anthony to have a taste of the new era before exploring his options in earnest. That time will come inevitably—it's just a question of whether it's in 2014 or 2015. If it's the latter, Jackson will have an easier time selling Anthony on staying given the club's financial flexibility and potential to attract another top-shelf talent in 2015.
Given the club's current financial state of affairs, what you see is what you get for the moment.
As Jackson put it:
We have an opportunity in the next couple of years to get back in the hunt for free agents that are headline players. This year, not so. But we're going to make improvements on this team regardless. But next year and the year after we think that we're going to have that opportunity. Can we get two instead of just one? Yeah that's a possibility.
Whether it's this summer or next, Anthony will certainly have some options with a handful of suitors likely to make runs at him. Newsday's Al Iannazzone notes, "The Knicks can offer Anthony roughly $34 million more than another team. But the Bulls could have the money to make a serious run at Anthony. Other teams that could join the mix include the Lakers and Rockets."
By 2015, that list could certainly grow. And that wouldn't be a bad thing as far as Anthony's concerned. Much as the Knicks may be in store for improvement, Anthony may find a more established situation elsewhere. The Chicago Bulls already have Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The Houston Rockets already have James Harden and Dwight Howard.
New York still has to acquire that additional star piece or two, and there's no guarantee that it will—even with Phil Jackson around.