By the end of the month, Carmelo Anthony's future will be decided.
The high-scoring New York Knicks forward has until June 23 to make his plans clear, deciding whether or not he wants to opt out of the final year of his current contract with Phil Jackson's franchise. If he does, he could still return to the Knicks, though, so that decision wouldn't be a death knell for the team's hopes of retaining him.
However, the Zen Master wants him to just opt in and take his $23.3 million without making things more complicated, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein: "Sources told ESPN.com that Knicks president Phil Jackson is continuing to urge Anthony to exercise next season's $23.3 million player option and put off unrestricted free agency for one more year."
It's hard to find many benefits there.
Melo would be making quite a bit of moolah during the 2014-15 campaign, but he'd also be sacrificing his chance to earn a larger financial windfall for the future. The only positive is getting a year to evaluate his hometown team's plans rather than having to choose between blind commitment and signing a long-term deal elsewhere.
As Stein reports, he'll end up considering the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks should he become an unrestricted free agent, and there's no way he'd end up signing a one-year deal. The only way he's hitting the open market in 2015 is by opting in, which Jackson is strongly pushing him toward doing.
"We're planning on meeting with Carmelo (again) in the near future," the team's president of basketball operations said at the press conference introducing Derek Fisher as the new head coach, via Stein. "I want to express to him again I want to have him back on the team. We haven't heard one way or another about opt-in or opt-out. If he decides on free agency, he has a right to do that."
There were too many variables for Melo to make a decision in days past, but the hiring of Fisher could absolutely push him toward making a choice well before the deadline. After all, that shows the direction the team is heading in.
And while it's easy to assume that Fish is simply going to be a puppet for his former coach, letting Jackson mold him in his own image until he's ready to walk for himself, Bleacher Report's Howard Beck makes it quite clear that such a situation will not be taking place in Madison Square Garden:
The precise details of the Jackson-Fisher apprenticeship have yet to be worked out, but there is so much history and trust between them—nine seasons together, and five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers—that it's hard to imagine Jackson would do anything to overshadow his charge.
That's an interesting twist, as Fisher's appeal to Anthony is as yet unknown.
The synergistic harmony that will now exist between the front office and the coaching staff is a positive, but will a ring-seeking veteran really want to play under a first-year coach fresh off playing—yes, as a player—this past season?
We won't know until Melo tells us. But we can be sure Fisher wants him back, per Stein:
As far as Carmelo is concerned, we obviously believe Carmelo is one of the top players in the NBA and world. We want him to be here, but ultimately he has the choice. We'll do everything we can possibly do to give him confidence that we can get the job done and put a team together he can feel is a championship team.
That should be very difficult to do.
After all, the sales pitch still revolves around the financial flexibility that will be enjoyed during the 2015 offseason, which doesn't have much bearing on his current decision. Opting in or opting out, he'll still have to sign another contract with New York in order to enjoy the fruits of that inevitable spending spree.
Should Anthony opt out?
So why exactly would he not opt out and pursue other options now? As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Opting in just ties him to what's almost certain to be another disappointing campaign, after which he'll still be listening to the very same pitch about the 2015 offseason. More details would be known, but there are still no guarantees.
Remember, choosing to become a free agent is different than spurning the Knicks. For Anthony, it's just a smart decision, regardless of the advice he's receiving from the two men who could potentially be his direct superiors down the road.