At 31 years old and coming off a knee procedure that ended the first season of his $124 million contract with the New York Knicks in premature fashion, Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have time to invest in a lengthy rebuilding process. But after a decade-plus of sacrificing long-term assets and coming up short in the desire to “win now,” the 69-year-old Phil Jackson has no interest in kowtowing to his superstar’s personal timeline at the expense of his club.
In other words, just one season after the marriage between Jackson and Anthony was consummated, the duo will now head forward under a cloud filled with uncertainties. After all of the talk leading into the free-agent process focused around what star New York could pair Melo with, Jackson revealed that he wasn’t interested in finding a quick fix (via Marc Berman of the New York Post):
“That’s what we’ve done over the years in New York. That’s not what I’m doing. We’re going after solid players who will step into vacuums, who will play ball. And if we have a system to play basketball with, that will work itself out.’’
Jackson rightly understands that the Knicks are more than just one move away from contending for anything worth winning. And despite the fact that New York has Anthony on a max contract, the team has to look beyond just the Melo era alone in order to set itself up for sustainable success — an idea that’s been as tangible as the unicorn in Madison Square Garden since the Jeff Van Gundy era.
The Knicks added shooting guard Arron Afflalo, center Robin Lopez, forward Derrick Williams and forward/center Kyle O’Quinn in free agency. New York also swiped Kristaps ‘The Zinger’ Porzingis at No. 4 overall in the draft and stole point guard Jerian Grant in a draft-day trade that sent Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Atlanta Hawks. While none of these moves registered the type of headline in the New York tabloids that some would have liked to see, there’s no questioning the immediate improvement at every position on this roster as a result of this offseason’s work when juxtaposed to what we saw last season.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that Anthony isn’t on board with the approach being taken.
According to a source close to Anthony, the 31-year-old All-Star is skeptical about the Knicks’ slow rebuilding plan, especially after believing Jackson would add a high-profile free agent. Last summer, Anthony repeatedly said he “believes in Phil” and indicated that Jackson would make the necessary moves to make the Knicks a contender.
Even if accurate, Anthony isn’t going to come out and say that publicly. He can’t afford to alienate himself to the fan base that’s had unconditional love for him since his arrival to The Big Apple. The best thing for Anthony to do is keep his mouth shut, let his play do the talking and prove that he remains a top 10 NBA player capable of being a long-term building block for a club in desperate need of one. But the longer he stays silent, the more the speculation will begin to fuel the idea that Anthony is unhappy and it’ll be just a matter of time until the five-letter word is uttered: Trade?
Remember, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Melo wasn’t pleased with the direction of his team this offseason. A source told Isola that Anthony called Hardaway after he was traded to “express his displeasure” with the deal, and another source told Berman “The bottom line is that sometimes Melo wonders if he belongs here — that’s all I can say.”
There isn’t this much smoke without at least a little bit of fire.
Dan Favale, writing for Bleacher Report, advocates the Knicks taking the long-term approach over the pacification of their superstar:
Only those still clinging to the outdated notion that team president Phil Jackson needed to rebuild through free agency and needed to do so right now think the Knicks’ offseason has been a failure. And to be absolutely fair, that lingering misconception is a manifestation of New York’s own precept.
As Favale detailed, there was an expectation among some that the Knicks rebuild would be immediate, filled with both splashy names and pursuits while taking nothing but large leaps to success in the process:
Anything less than landing another superstar to play alongside the 31-year-old Carmelo Anthony would be unacceptable. That was in part because the Knicks had long advertised as much but mostly because the idea of New York playing the long game and rebuilding conventionally through the draft and a series of positive yet low-key additions remained altogether unfathomable.
Phil Jackson’s blueprint to building the new New York Knicks has put that idea to bed.
And while Jackson, hand-selected coach Derek Fisher and the rest of the organization are finally valuing the long term — something their fans have been waiting for — the Knicks’ superstar player has to be left wondering how much longer he can delay his personal plans for the greater good of his franchise. Anthony’s path to a title isn’t getting any easier in the process.