Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter
Jim Boeheim says Carmelo Anthony “always wanted to be in New York” and that new Knicks President Phil Jackson “brings a lot of credibility” and the ability to attract quality free agents around Anthony beginning in 2015.
“I think long term he’s always wanted to be in New York,” Boeheim told SNY.tv exclusively here in Buffalo where Syracuse will meet Dayton Saturday night in an NCAA Tournament South Region game. “He’s built for New York. He can handle New York. If [the fans] get on him or whatever, he still goes and plays. Some people can’t handle it. He can handle it. If they get on him, he’ll go play. I think he’s playing as well as he’s ever played.”
Anthony is poised to opt out and become a free agent this summer, but stands to make approximately $30 million by remaining with the Knicks.
“Will there be something better for him [in free agency] or not?” Boeheim asked. “I don’t know. Nobody knows that answer.”
Still, Boeheim thinks Anthony seems inclined to remain in New York, and hope that Jackson can build around him in 2015, when Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge becomes free agents and the salaries of Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books.
“They can’t do much this year under my understanding of the rules and everything so I think it’s a year away,” Boeheim said of the plan to focus on 2015.
The Syracuse coach believes Jackson is a huge addition to the Knicks front office, but must attract a “difference-maker” to help support Anthony, who will be 31 in 2015.
“I think Phil Jackson brings a lot of credibility to that organization, $12 million worth,” Boeheim said with a laugh. “Sixty [million over five years], that’s a lot. I’m sure he’s going to have the power to do things. It is a good place to play but it hinges so much on who can you really get to come there? Can you get a difference-maker? It’s a lot more stable when you have something like Indiana where they have a bunch of good players. But it’s how they figure this out.”
During his introductory press conference last week, Jackson said Anthony “is in the future plans” and that he “still has another level he can go to.”
The Zen Master also said that on the Olympic team, Anthony doesn’t have to do as much because he’s surrounded by stars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant and “that he can play a role if he has to play a role.”
Boeheim echoed those thoughts.
“He plays better on the Olympic team because he doens’t have to do as much,” he said. “He doesn’t have to work that hard. He has to work too hard here [with the Knicks]. It’s too much.
“He gets the ball in 1-on-1 situations with 10 seconds left and he has to go and make a play over a good defender with help. He’d be much better [with help]. On the Olympic team he shoots 55 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 because he’s getting good shots without having to go 1-on-1 all the time.
“He’d be much better with some guys like that. He can do more but he doesn’t have to on that [Olympic] team, but nobody does. Everybody plays 20 minutes. But he would be so good [with help on the Knicks].”
Boeheim, who watches a lot of Knicks games, believes injuries “derailed” the team this year and it will be hard for them to make the playoffs. Despite a seven-game winning streak, they remain three back of the No. 8 seed in the East with 13 to play.
“I think they would’ve been alright this year if they hadn’t had the injuries,” Boeheim said. “That just derailed them, the injuries. They’re back at full strength now.
“It’s gonna be hard [to make the playoffs]. They’d have to win every game probably.”
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.