Carmelo Anthony met with the Lakers in Los Angeles today, then he met with the Knicks. The Lakers reportedly offered Melo a max contract-- 4 years, $97 million. The Knicks-- as many reporters suggested they would-- followed up by offering their own max:
Hearing same as @Chris_Broussard. Phil Jackson and #Knicks have told Carmelo Anthony that he can have a max contract. 5 years, $129 million.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 4, 2014
Carmelo was always confident the Knocks would offer him the max. Which they have.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 4, 2014
The Knocks offered Melo the max, too, I guess.
So there's that. Phil Jackson has repeatedly and recently encouraged Melo to take a pay cut and help the Knicks build a team around him, but he hinted at a max offer, too, and here we are. There's also this notion, even with the max in the air:
If he re-signs with the #Knicks, I wouldn't be surprised if Carmelo Anthony ends up accepting less than the maximum contract he was offered.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 4, 2014
"I wouldn't be surprised" isn't a report, but it notes a reasonable possibility. Melo can earn a whole lot of money-- perhaps more than other teams' maximum-- by taking a cut below the Knicks' max. And I wouldn't rule out the possibility of New York leaking this offer to help Melo's image once he does end up taking less.
The question then is whether a pay cut would fall meaningfully below the max, or just a few million off for appearances. The line there is fuzzy, but everyone involved knows the difference. Melo can technically take a "pay cut," or he can practically pay some of his teammates' salary.
It is the Knicks' collectively bargained right to trump all offers with that mega-max, and it is Melo's collectively bargained right to take it. Still, an accepted five-year, $129 million offer (or something very close to it) would constitute an outcome both parties suggested they might avoid-- a mutual willingness to cement one foundational element at the expense of others. I reckon it's possible to build a great team around a maxed-out Melo, but it is inarguably easier to build around a sub-maxed-out Melo. It might even be easier to build without Melo.
We shall see. He's gonna think about it.