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Sunday, July 13, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Melo returns to Knicks

By Ian Begley

Carmelo Anthony will spend the prime years of his career with the New York Knicks. Anthony announced his decision to stay in New York on Sunday afternoon on his website.

Here is what Anthony's return means to the Knicks:

The wait is over: Anthony was having a tough time deciding between the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Knicks. Ultimately, it came down to a decision between Chicago and New York. The Bulls could offer Anthony only a four-year contract worth approximately $73 million. Chicago could have increased that offer in a sign-and-trade, but the Knicks were willing to engage in sign-and-trade talks only if Anthony informed them he wanted to leave New York.

The Knicks’ trump card was the offer of a max contract worth $129 million over five years. Phil Jackson talked about hoping Anthony would accept less than max money but ultimately made him a max offer. According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Anthony will accept a contract worth at least $122 million but less than the maximum of $129 million.

Anthony's pay cut won't help the Knicks this season as they are already over the salary cap. But the lower salary may help New York next summer, when it is expected to have at least $20 million to spend in free agency.

Prime talent: In Anthony, Jackson and the Knicks have secured one of the top offensive talents in the NBA. The seven-time All Star ranked second in the NBA in scoring last season (27.4 PPG) and led the league in scoring in 2012-13.

He has averaged 26.5 points per game since coming to New York in 2011. That's tied with Bernard King for the second-highest scoring average in Knicks history.

Since coming to New York in 2011, Anthony has scored 23 percent of the Knicks' points. Only two players (Kevin Durant and LeBron James) have scored a higher percentage of their team's points.

So there's no denying the man can score. It will be interesting to see how first-year coach Derek Fisher -- and, by extension, Jackson -- use Anthony in the triangle offense. Most scouts predict Anthony's outside shooting and ability to find open teammates via the pass will fit well in the triangle.

The finances and suitors: Jackson talked often in recent weeks about the importance of Anthony taking a pay cut to re-sign with the Knicks. Anthony first brought up the idea in February, and Jackson publicly challenged Anthony on it in the days leading up to free agency.

Anthony ended up accepting less than max money, but finances certainly played a role in his decision to choose the Knicks over other suitors such as the Lakers and Bulls. Anthony met with both teams as well as the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks last week.

The Lakers offered Anthony a maximum four-year, $97 million deal. To make a competitive offer for Anthony, Chicago would have had to execute a sign-and-trade with the Knicks.

In addition to money, another reason Anthony decided to return was the presence of Jackson.

Sources say Anthony received Jackson's message well during his meeting with the Zen Master in Los Angeles last week. Anthony has supported Jackson's decision to hire Fisher and trade Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler for a package featuring ex-Mavs point guard Jose Calderon.

Anthony was also hesitant to move his wife, La La, and 7-year-old son, Kiyan, out of New York.

What's next? The Knicks had hoped to lure Pau Gasol to New York to team with Anthony in the triangle. With Gasol agreeing to a deal with Chicago, New York will have to turn its sights elsewhere.

Jackson had been talking to teams about dealing Amar'e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani to try to clear cap space for Gasol. Those talks may be on hold for now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jackson reignited them with the hopes of landing another free agent.

The Knicks have only the $3.3 million taxpayer's exception to offer free agents. They have a guard-heavy roster, so you can expect them to target big men in free agency. They signed Cole Aldrich earlier this week. Kenyon Martin and Kris Humphries are also possibilities.

New York is projected to have at least $20 million to spend in free agency in 2015, when Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo and -- possibly -- Kevin Love are expected to test free agency.

Big win for Phil: Jackson had missed out on his first coaching candidate -- Steve Kerr. His first player acquisition, Lamar Odom, was released earlier this week. So it was important that Jackson, at least according to a vocal segment of the Knicks' fan base, land Anthony to prove himself as an executive.

The Zen Master maintained that the Knicks would be fine with or without Anthony. But now he has a superstar to build around and to attract free agents with. Also, Anthony's re-signing is the strongest indication possible that he is buying in to Jackson's vision for the team.

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