Phil Jackson has not wasted much time in making big moves since becoming president of the New York Knicks, and now he is taking a hard line with Carmelo Anthony; suggesting he take a pay cut to re-sign with the team. The possibility that just hinting at the idea could send Anthony, who is opting out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, running for the door does not seem to have had the slightest effect on his position.
“If it’s in the cards, we’re fortunate,” he said. “If it’s not in the cards, we’re still fortunate. “I’m all about moving forward and we’re going to move forward regardless.”
Jackson said the way the league is structured makes it difficult to put together a team with enough top talent without sacrifices being made financially. The sacrifice would be Anthony’s five-year, $129 million contract, which is the amount he could make re-signing with the Knicks. Signing with another team would mean a salary cut anyway, as the biggest contract he could land if he defected is $95.8 million for four years. The difference there, however, is leaving New York for any number of teams like Chicago or Houston and taking a pay cut would likely make that team an automatic title contender. Staying in New York and taking a pay cut would probably mean at least one more year of futility.
Jackson may be taking a hard and fast approach with Anthony, but his point is valid. When stars like Tim Duncan, he said, take less money to join or stay on with teams that are contenders, they are setting a precedent. “They’ve always been there,” he said about the San Antonio Spurs. “They’ve had a wonderful run through Tim’s tenure as a player there.” Jackson also pointed to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch, saying that the “Big Three” in Miami took less money to play together and contend for a championship, which is working out pretty well for them.
Anthony has mentioned that re-signing with the Knicks for less money is a possibility, but only if it would allow the team to sign top free-agent talent. Contending for a championship, he said, will be a priority in his upcoming free agency tour.
“Any chance I have at building a contender in New York,” Anthony said, “I would take. I tell people all the time if it means me taking a pay-cut I’ll be the first one on Mr. Dolan’s doorstep telling him to take my money so we can build something strong here.”
Although he’s just doing his best cut-throat executive in this situation, you have to figure Jackson calling Anthony out in the media like this might not be the best approach. The idea of less money makes a lot of sense, but when you throw in extra-large egos, the notion that Anthony might be feeling a bit bullied is probably not far off, which could mean the beginning of the end of his time in New York.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat