Adam Zagoria, Team ReporterPhil Jackson is making $12 million a year — $60 million over five years — to turn the Knicks around and bring them back to prominence.
Yet he appears to be employing a risky strategy by assuming that Carmelo Anthony will stay true to his word and take less than max money to help the franchise compete for its first NBA title in more than 40 years.
“The way things have been structured now financially for teams is that it’s really hard to have one or two top stars or max players and to put together a team with enough talent you’ve got to have people making sacrifices financially so we hope that Carmelo is true to his word and we understand what it’s going to take and we will present that to him at that time,” Jackson said Wednesday when meeting with the media.
“Without a doubt,” Anthony told reporters in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend in February. “Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I’d do it. I told people all the time, always say, ‘If it takes me taking a pay cut, I’ll be the first one on [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan’s steps saying take my money and let’s build something strong over here.'”
That was Melo saying the right thing, knowing that he can make the most money from the Knicks in free agency — $129 million over five years as opposed to $96 million over four with another outfit once he opts out July 1.
But is Jackson going too strong by essentially assuming Melo will take less money?
When I asked if he plans to speak with Melo about it, Jackson said, “Yeah, sure.”
Jackson elaborated that a “precedent’ has been set around the NBA by elite players taking less money in order to achieve the greater good.
“There are some obvious examples that are out there that everybody can point to,” Jackson said. “Tim Duncan making the salary he’s making after being part of a dynasty — not a dynasty, I wouldn’t call San Antonio a dynasty — a force, a great force. They haven’t been able to win consecutive championships but they’ve always been there. San Antonio has had a wonderful run through Tim’s tenure there as a player. He’s agreed to take a salary cut so other players can play with him so they can be this good. And that’s the beginning of team play. The group down in Miami agreed to take less money to play together so that’s, I think, a precedent that’s been set.”
You have to wonder what Melo thinks about all this.
Will he agree with Jackson’s assessment, or will he be annoyed/upset that Phil now assumes he will take less money?
It’s no secret that the Chicago Bulls, who desperately lack a go-to scorer, are targeting Anthony either via a sign-and-trade or in free agency.
The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are also seen as potential landing spots for Anthony, who has said that his top priority going forward is to compete for a championship.
Melo may just figure that if he’s being asked to take less money in New York, he might as well go ahead and take less money elsewhere.
In Chicago, Houston or L.A.
And if that happens, Jackson seems OK with it, too.
While Jackson has 13 total NBA titles as a coach and a player, Melo has zero.
The new Knicks President will have $52 million in cap space in 2015 when the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler come off the books.
Jackson may just figure that it’s easier — and better — to go after two max free agents then (Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo anyone?) than to try to build around Melo.
Listen closely to Jackson as he sings the praises of the Triangle and it doesn’t exactly sound like Melo fits into the Zen Master’s ideal concept of a fully functioning basketball team.
“I like to see full involvment of players in an offensive format,” Jackson said of the Triangle. “As much as I think that there’s been a big change in the game with a lot of screen-and-rolls and guys standing out in the corner shooting 3’s, it’s not the way I like to see basketbal played. I like to see all the players involved in playmaking skills and operating in the offense itself with ball movement and player movement that’s done with a purpose and a lot of times we were a little bit more stagnant than that right now.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
Does Iso-Melo look like a team where “all the players [are] involved in playmaking skills and operating in the offense itself”?
If you said yes, I have a bridge to sell you that runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
In fact, they often look like the complete opposite of that description.
Jackson probably figures he can get Melo to succeed within the confines of Triangle under the new coach — potentially Steve Kerr — but that’s a lot of assumptions.
He seems to be figuring both that A) Melo will take less money; and B) that Melo will then succeed in the Triangle.
But he’s also prepared for life without Melo going forward.
“I’m all about moving forward,” Jackson said. “Just deal with what is and move forward. If [keeping Melo] is in the cards, man are we fortunate. If it’s not in the cards, man are we fortunate. We’re going forward anyway.”
Melo, the ball is in your court.
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.