The New York Knicks (21-34) are 4.5 games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the 8th and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. They have gone 1-2 since the all star break, and like many of their games this season squandered a lead late in the two losses.
In last night’s double overtime loss to the 13th place Orlando Magic Carmelo Anthony scored 44 points, had 11 rebounds and 4 assists in the loss. As has been the case in many games this season, Anthony’s teammates could not provide enough (29-67 field goals) to secure the victory after leading by 14 points in the 3rd quarter. ”We’re losing games the same way,” Anthony said.
Over the all star break, Anthony indicated that he would take less money to re-sign with the Knicks this offseason when he opts out of his current contract. The motivation would be to attract other free agents to New York, but Anthony also said that winning was his first priority and he would leave New York if necessary. This season has been a debacle, and has done little to convince Anthony the Knicks can win in the foreseeable future.
The leverage that the Knicks have is that they can offer Anthony a larger contract than potential suitors such as the Lakers and Bulls. If the Knicks do offer Anthony a max contract it will be in the range of five years, $129 million.
There is inherent risk for the Knicks by signing a player who will turn 30 in May to this type of deal. For as well as Anthony has played this season, he needs help to compete for a title. If Anthony is the highest paid player on a max deal into his 30s, the Knicks ability to surround him with talent will diminish.
Anthony could take less money to stay in New York, but would that be a smart decision for him? The Knicks organization has shown an inability to build a winning team and make smart basketball decisions. The Knicks are currently a lottery team that does not own a first round pick in the best draft since 2003 when Anthony came into the NBA.
It is far from a certainty that Melo will put his faith in the Knicks to build a team that can contend, especially when teams like the Bulls and the Lakers — who have championship pedigree — are calling.
Maybe Anthony will decide that the Knicks offer is too good to turn down, or he may even take less and have faith the Knicks can attract other players to New York. If Anthony does leave, the Knicks may come regret not tying to trade Anthony so that he does not walk for nothing in return. Only time will tell, but if the Knicks are able to re-sign Anthony I would say to both sides “caveat emptor” — buyer beware.