The Knicks season has, both with mercy and shocking disappointment, come to an end. There is no crossroads for this team on the court, they have careened into a brick wall in a broken down vehicle driven by a blind man.
And yet in short order, the franchise will be at a crossroads. Carmelo Anthony will decide his future and the direction of the Knicks’ franchise for the next year. The story is written–Carmelo will either stay in New York and tie up the team’s salary cap with his preposterous paycheck as the Knicks seek another second star, or he will depart for far redder pastures and leave the team desolate and resigned to travel through yet another basketball desert on a voyage navigated by mad men.
There is only one option that provides a positive result for both Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks—he must utilize his unique, singularly timed leverage to force systemic change in the franchise.
The premise that Carmelo can create change and has the incentive do so has a series of suppositions:
- Jim Dolan will do anything and everything in his considerable power to keep Carmelo Anthony.
- Carmelo wants to win at least as much as he wants anything other than a considerable amount of money.
- Carmelo has determined that the Knicks as currently constituted cannot be competitive.
- Carmelo has at worst a moderate understanding of the way successful NBA teams are built and run.
To understand how Carmelo SHOULD and WOULD use his leverage, lets dispense with two potential arguments. He won’t take substantially less money, despite assertions to the contrary. Carmelo also isn’t Kobe Bryant, and he won’t throw his teammates under the bus in public or private. And he won’t endure a sustained rebuilding process for what remains of his prime. To quote Keifer Sutherland in A Few Good Men, these are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed.
That leaves Carmelo with one option: force an overhaul of the decision makers in the franchise (obviously those not named Jim Dolan). He should listen to smart and unbiased basketball people he respects—outside of his CAA agents who are motivated by the returns brought by hiring their limited stable of clients–to determine the human elements that create a winning team. He should in turn demand that the Knicks hire a proven, successful general manager with autonomy to run the franchise. Carmelo should set finding a smart, analytical head coach as a prerequisite to his resigning.
We understand that the Knicks have limited assets with which to rebuild their team. Presumably, Carmelo understands that as well. He’ll understand that the best-case scenario for him includes another poor season in 2014. He knows that in 2015, the Knicks have cap room, and that it must be used wisely. And thus, it is logical that he would believe the Knicks must have wise decision makers to accomplish the necessary roster changes when that time arrives.
Carmelo has a chance to not only have his cake and eat it too by receiving the most money in the place he by all accounts prefers to stay, but he can do a huge favor to New York by creating a five year reprieve from the awful management decisions that have plagued the franchise.
Independent of a gun to their head, MSG leadership won’t make fundamental changes to the way they do business. Carmelo should recognize that only using his leverage to create positive change in the front office and on the bench can salvage his prime and the Knicks.
He should do so. Or he should go.