On Tuesday, as Phil Jackson’s career officially came full circle, his introductory press conference soundtrack included “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi and “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen.
Once the offseason begins, the nearly $130 million question is if Anthony and Jackson will return New York to the glory days by performing a new duet called, “Who Says You Can’t Stay Home?”
“I’m a chess player, so that was a power move right there,” Anthony said after the Knicks defeated the Bucks on March 15.
According to one Eastern Conference general manager, adding Jackson may ultimately be the checkmate move in Anthony’s game of free agency chess.
“Phil is a big factor,” the general manager told SheridanHoops. “I don’t see Melo leaving.”
“I think it helps, but I doubt he’ll be the deciding factor,” one former teammate told SheridanHoops.
What are the other factors that will play into Anthony’s decision? “Money, playing in New York, winning and Phil,” the former teammate added.
“The deciding factor for Melo is going to be what is Phil’s plan and what are they going to do next year,” a league source told SheridanHoops. “He wants to win now. He doesn’t want to hear about two years from now. He needs to win it all within three years.”
Jackson gives Anthony 13 reasons – the combined number of championships he won as a player and coach – to consider re-signing a long-term contract with the Knicks this summer.
However, Jackson faces an uphill battle to turn the Knicks into contenders in the short term. He has no selections in the upcoming draft and virtually no salary cap flexibility to sign free agents this summer.
That handcuffs New York’s ability to improve quickly from a management perspective. Therefore, the only realistic options to improve rapidly are by trading expiring contracts this summer or riding out those contracts through the following season and chasing the top free agents in the summer of 2015.
As the Knicks previously experienced in 2010 when courting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others, it’s a risky proposition with no guarantees.
Yet, despite the challenges of the immediate future, both Jackson and Anthony have made positive remarks about each other and towards a possible long-term partnership.
“There’s no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league and maybe the best individual isolation player in the game,” Jackson said during his introductory press conference. “I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans. I think that there are a number of things I see Carmelo doing as he moves forward. And I think I was on record saying a year ago that I think Carmelo, as great a player as he is, still has another level he can go to. I hope together, with the team we create, he can get there.”
“It’s good to hear that,” Anthony said in response. “It’s a blessing and an honor to hear that. I was hoping that I would be part of the future plans. I never once said that I wanted to leave New York, anything like that. The only thing I said was I wanted to dabble and try the free agency out. I was going to opt out and become a free agent.”
As a free agent, there is considerable dabbling Anthony can do.
The Bulls can amnesty Carlos Boozer and make a run at Anthony by offering him a chance to be their primary scorer. Joakim Noah has become arguably the league’s best all-around center and fills a stat sheet by scoring, rebounding, passing, blocking shots and stealing entry passes to the post. A healthy Derrick Rose potentially provides Anthony with the best point guard he’s played alongside. Even if Rose isn’t the MVP he once was, he’s still better than all the point guards on New York’s roster combined.
The one possible drawback is Anthony’s lack of a relationship with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who demands maximum effort on defense with every possession and has a reputation for wearing down his players.