With a quarter of the NBA season already in the books, the New York Knicks and superstar Carmelo Anthony face the strong possibility of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
At 4-20 and with team friction flooding headlines in New York, this basketball season has been nearly a two-month nightmare for Knicks fans, with another four months to bear. Reports arose this week that Anthony and reserve swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. traded barbs in an on-court argument, during which Anthony reportedly assured that things would be settled off the court. The pair denied any kind of strained relationship, but the matter added to a string of misfortunes for Anthony stretching across his Knicks career. The seven-time All Star shook off last season’s 37-45 finish to re-sign with his hometown team in a five-year, $120 million deal this summer which included a no-trade clause—something that Anthony is rumored to be considering waiving. With a major roster rehab on the way in the coming offseason and his best years behind him, did Anthony make a mistake in re-signing with the New York Knicks? Perry Green and Stephen Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Green: From a financial perspective, Anthony made the right decision. No other team was in a position to pay him as much as the Knicks, and he would’ve forfeited roughly $24 million by signing elsewhere. From a basketball perspective, the jury is still out. Team president Phil Jackson is going to make some moves to change the team around, and until we see how those pieces will fall, it’s premature to criticize Anthony’s decision. New York still has a lot of trade assets that would mean more to other teams than they do collectively on this Knicks roster. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert would probably make more sense elsewhere, and even Amare Stoudemire’s once-unmovable contract will now be a trade option since it expires next summer. New York still has an opportunity to make some trades and piece together a respectable committee around Anthony, and there’s still a summer’s worth of free agency and drafting to go. I’m sure Anthony saw the big picture when he re-inked his name.
Riley: It seems like there’s always been a promise for the Knicks to be better next season, and it appears we’re falling into that trap again. The Knicks stink, but the franchise wants to sell fans and everyone else on them being “potentially” better next year with some magical moves and an unforeseen offseason. The goal is obviously to build around Anthony, but even he’s part of the problem. We’re talking about a volume shooter who rarely gets his teammates involved and has never been the top option on any team that has made a deep postseason run. Even on his 2008-2009 Denver Nuggets team that lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony was flanked by Chauncey Billups, Nene, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen. We have yet to see Anthony make a LeBron James or Allen Iverson impression and lift a completely miserable team up to new heights. Anthony did make a mistake in re-signing with the Knicks because New York will never be able to bring in another player to co-star on the roster. Chicago would’ve been the best fit for him, since the Bulls already possess several big names to help carry the load if needed.
Green: I’m sure Anthony could lead a contender, but he does need the pieces around him. New York finished 54-28 just a few seasons ago, before running into a buzzsaw by facing the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 playoffs. Anthony could’ve easily been in the MVP discussion last season if the Knicks weren’t so horrible. He made the right decision to re-sign. He’s the face of one of the most prestigious franchises in the NBA, and his team is controlled by one of the best former coaches in league history. Jackson and Anthony will figure things out, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Riley: Rome wasn’t built in a day, but several NBA franchises have turned things around in as few as two seasons. Jackson and Anthony don’t have much time, especially in a media monster like New York City. From their cap situation, to their rookie head coach Derek Fisher, to their aging superstars, it might be another three to four seasons before we view the Knicks as respectable again. There are just too many holes on the roster to expect a quick turnaround and Anthony may be approaching the downside of his career at age 30. Anthony may indeed have made the wrong decision in re-signing with a team that may not be able to climb out of this rut before he’s too old to enjoy it.