"There's no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, maybe the best individual isolation player in the game. I have no problem with committing to saying Carmelo is in the [Knicks’] future plans.”
Here’s Jackson, a little more than a month later, talking about the possibility of losing Anthony in free agency:
“I'm all about moving forward. Just deal with what is and move forward. If it's in the cards, man, are we fortunate. If it's not in the cards, man, are we fortunate. We're going forward anyway."
And, finally, here’s Jackson speaking late last month about Anthony’s on-court value:
"We recognize his talent and his skill is the kind of skill and talent that gets you through playoff games,” the Knicks president said. “Things get sticky, grind out and basketball becomes a force game, and suddenly you need to have a player who has the capabilities of scoring with someone hanging on them in a situation that’s critical. He’s one of those players, one of the few players who can do that."
We bring up that brief history lesson because in recent days there have been a few theories floating around about Jackson not being totally committed to re-signing Anthony.
On Monday morning, hours before Anthony officially opted out of the final year of his contract, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith addressed that theory on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show.
“One of the things that the Melo camp is suspicious about, others are suspicious about, is how much does Phil Jackson really, really want him?” Smith said.
We’ll get an answer to that question in the coming days, of course. One way to find out just how committed Jackson is to re-singing Anthony is to take a look at the contract he offers the seven-time All Star.
Anthony is eligible for a max contract of $129 million over five years from the Knicks. But it is unclear if Jackson is willing to offer a max deal to Anthony.
Both sides have talked about Anthony potentially taking a pay cut to give the Knicks more financial flexibility to chase free agents in the future.
Last month, Jackson made it sound as if he were ready to play hardball with Anthony over the pay-cut issue.
"I think [there is] a precedent that's been set," Jackson said of stars taking less money to join or remain with contending teams. "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."
Of course, Anthony himself first brought up the idea of taking a pay cut earlier in the season. So it’s not as if Phil’s comments caught Anthony by surprise.
But it’s worth noting that Jackson has hinted on more than one occasion that he believes the Knicks will be OK in the long run if Anthony walks.
Here’s why: If Anthony signs elsewhere without the Knicks executing a sign-and-trade, New York could have upward of $40 million in cap space to spend on free agents in 2015. So they may struggle in the coming season without Anthony, but Jackson will have a strong opportunity to rebuild in the summer of 2015. The Knicks also have a first-round pick in the 2015 draft.
Maybe that’s why Jackson hasn’t talked about Anthony signing with another team as a doomsday scenario for the Knicks.
“If so, we will survive,” he said.
Question: Do you think Phil Jackson is 100 percent committed to rebuilding around Carmelo? If you were Phil, would you be fully committed to Carmelo?
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