The hiring of Derek Fisher as the next head coach of the New York Knicks did not come as a huge surprise to many NBA fans. Those who are aware of Phil Jackson’s executive tactics in the Association have known of the positive relationships that he has maintained with former players from his coaching days with the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls. After signing a 5-year/$60 million contract to become the next President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks this past March, many thought Phil Jackson could be the key to keeping New York’s most significant basketball superstar, Carmelo Anthony, in his home city. With Anthony’s ability to become a free agent coming to fruition sooner rather than later, the “Zen Master” knows that every move he makes will influence Carmelo Anthony’s future decisions moving forward.
Like all men of competence, Phil Jackson knows that with his great power comes a great responsibility. That responsibility is to keep the fans of the New York Knicks content, especially after coming off of a very disappointing 2013-2014 season in which they finished 37-45, failing to reach the playoffs. However, missing the playoffs is only part of a much bigger issue brewing in NYC. Even with an inefficient playoff record over the course of his career, Carmelo Anthony (like most, if not all, of professional athletes) has been hungry for his chance to legitimately compete for an NBA title. And it is unfortunate (for his sake) that his home state of New York probably is not the right place for Melo to earn his shot to add an NBA Championship to his resume.
What the Knicks organization has proven to Carmelo Anthony during his career at Madison Square Garden is that while the team offers him a great location to market himself and his brand of basketball, the front office has failed to adequately position Anthony and his teammates up for success both in winning games and avoiding financial issues regarding contracts. Regardless of how much money an owner is ultimately willing to pay for players despite the additions of potential luxury tax charges, odds are that the excessive amounts of money being poured into the players’ deals are not worth it if they cannot buy success for the franchise. Accounting for the expensive contracts of players such as Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani on the current New York roster, the Knicks front office personnel has put themselves in a spot far from comfortable in terms of achieving the goal of bringing an NBA title to the Big Apple.
While Carmelo Anthony owns the ability to recieve more money in the option of resigning with the Knicks, cash is probably not the number one task on his to-do list for his upcoming free agency period. With a career decorated by numerous All-Star game appearances, several All-NBA team selections, and even a scoring title in 2013, his lack of an NBA championship ring still sets him apart from some of the game’s most elite players both presently and historically.
Melo wants to win and win now. If his basketball priorities are in check, making a deep playoff push towards winning the title that has eluded him for so long should be the first and foremost thing on his mind. Not to say that Carmelo should not be looking to get paid a large sum in his next contract (as his personal statistics have given him the opportunity to do so), but he should be focused on winning more games instead of spending his early summer months on the golf course.
Although I endorse the idea that Derek Fisher will be an exceptional coach in the Association, it is still difficult to guarantee that his long-standing reputation as a great teammate who had a very successful career would be enough to keep Anthony in NYC. This is a similar case to the Brooklyn Nets last offseason when they signed Jason Kidd, who also had an efficient career in the NBA despite his status as a neophyte in the coaching profession. And while Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov relentlessly spent money to put together a team full of experienced basketball players, their inability to defeat the Miami Heat and advance towards the finals in the 2014 playoffs made Nets fans question whether or not their team was destined for success in the immediate future. A short playoff run, an expensive payroll, and a lack of future draft picks has put the Nets in an awkward state referencing their ability to achieve immediate success.
The New York Knicks are in the same spot as the Brooklyn Nets of last season – a new head coach and lingering issues about the franchise’s nearby future. At this point, many teams have expressed their interest in possibly acquiring Carmelo Anthony. Some of these organizations include the Chicago Bulls (who could propel themselves to being a title contender with Anthony, a healthy Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and company), the Boston Celtics (who could draw more interest among veterans looking to change scenery with the addition of Melo), the Los Angeles Lakers (who are looking for a star to pair with Kobe Bryant as his career comes to a historic close and eventually take over his reign in the Staples Center), and even the Miami Heat (who look to make winning an NBA title an even tougher objective for teams around the league).
The New York Knicks have some young talent in Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to entice Carmelo Anthony to stay. But the contracts of Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Andrea Bargnani have limited the Knicks organization to what they can do in terms of offering other veteran stars such as Kevin Love or even Kyrie Irving (both of whom are also destined for free agency) max-value contracts while also adequately paying Carmelo Anthony. The odds are certainly stacked against the Knicks right now; however, if proper attention is directed towards resolving the contractual conundrums accompanying the highly paid players on the Knicks roster who simply cannot equate their level of play with their monetary value, the Knicks could be in business to keep their valuable scoring weapon, their young pieces of rising talent, and potentially add another superstar to the team in the Concrete Jungle.
Given the New York Knicks recent reputation for making questionable transactions regarding the future, the likelihood that the front office takes the necessary measures to retain Melo and keep him satisfied at the same time seems fairly unlikely. Carmelo Anthony needs help to win an NBA title and the Knicks do not offer a complete package for him to accomplish that goal right now. Phil Jackson and company will need to pull out all the stops in order keep fans content with a competitive organization to root for. And while D-Fish is walking into a situation that he did not ensue whatsoever, it appears that with Melo’s priorities, even new head coach Derek Fisher cannot court Carmelo Anthony. Of course Fisher can make his sales pitch, but Anthony’s fate with the Knicks ultimately relies on whether or not the front office can sort out the mess that they have created.
Written by Alex Floch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I am currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Growing up in a sports family, I have formed a distinct love for the industry. I enjoy writing about sports in my free time and hope to one day be able to pursue it as a career.