Commentary

For Melo, it's Gotham or South Beach

The only destination -- besides New York -- that makes sense for Anthony is Miami

Updated: July 8, 2014, 6:13 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

It should be down to two teams for Carmelo Anthony.

The Miami Heat or the New York Knicks.

LeBron and South Beach or a return to Gotham City.

Melo has not said that it's down to the Knicks or Heat. It's just logic. Any other decision would be foolish.

What comes close to staying put in the Big Apple except when the game's greatest player calls to say: It's time for you to stroll down to South Beach, bro! And by the way, there are no state income taxes here!

The league's second-leading scorer still has the Knicks twisting in the wind. As of Tuesday afternoon, Melo still hadn't made a decision to come back to New York. Or head to Houston. Or to Dallas. Or to Phoenix or to the Los Angeles Lakers. All we know at the moment is that Melo is still struggling over whether to take the $129 million the Knicks have on the table, or at least $34 million less from anyone else.

This is what happens when years of mediocrity put your franchise in the unenviable position of needing a 68-year-old novice executive -- even if it is the great Phil Jackson -- to come to the rescue. Just don't buy into the notion that any destination other than Miami is a remotely viable alternative to Melo remaining in New York.

The Lakers, devoid of much else other than the aging Kobe Bryant, can only sell their locale and cater to the Hollywood aspirations of Melo's wife, La La.

The Phoenix Suns, rife with young talent and an exceptional young coach, are just that -- young -- and in the desert, which is not exactly a marquee landing spot.

The same could be said about Houston, even though the Rockets are tougher to resist with both Dwight Howard and James Harden on the roster. Dallas didn't help its case by adding another $30 million to its coffers with Dirk Nowitzki's contract, or by acquiring Tyson Chandler, which Knicks insiders could easily argue ruined any chance the Mavs had at Melo, because Chandler turned Melo off last season with his petulance toward former coach Mike Woodson.

LeBron James doesn't have these issues. In fact, he has history on his side. After all, it was LeBron, with Dwyane Wade, who implored Melo in 2006 to add an opt-out clause to his contract -- which would've made Melo a part of the 2010 free-agent class -- only to watch the former Denver Nuggets star snatch $80 million in guaranteed money over five years for the security.

LeBron's success serves as a reminder to Melo of what life could've been. For all of Melo's financial success, there are still just two appearances beyond the first round of the playoffs in his 11-year career. At the same time, King James advanced to his fifth NBA Finals.

So it's perfectly understandable why Melo hasn't announced yet where he's going, and why he appears to be waiting on something else. With Houston's four-year, $88 million offer to Chris Bosh pending, it's obvious Bosh's departure would create a void the Miami Heat will anxiously look to fill.

Enter Melo.

Melo's a 6-foot-8, 240-pound scoring machine. From the perimeter. From 3-point range. In post-ups, drives to the basket, from the free throw line. The fact is, Melo is pretty close to unstoppable as an offensive player -- and that's when playing with subpar players, not a superstar like LeBron James.

Together, they would a dynamic duo that would eclipse what Bosh added to James. Plus, Melo would offset a depleted Wade while helping spell a fatigued LeBron, which no one on the Heat was capable of doing this past season.

Melo knows this. "This is what he's waiting for," one source close to Melo said Tuesday. "That's not to say he's leaving New York. He will not let this decision drag out much longer. That kind of drama gets on his nerves. But how can he just make a decision without seeing what Miami will do in the event that Bosh heads to Houston? Without [seeing] what kind of pitch Pat Riley and LeBron will make to get him to come to South Beach? He can't just ignore the possibility of playing with LeBron. Anyone should know that."

The Knicks certainly do.

It's why, as we sit here now, the Knicks are concerned. Contrary to reports, they're not overly worried about the Lakers. Chicago can't get past offering Melo $75 million -- more than $50 million short of the Knicks -- so it's safe to count out the Bulls, too. And because the Knicks are still working the phones, talking with Philadelphia about using their $30 million in cap space to take Amar'e Stoudemire off their hands, it only increases their appeal to Melo, which can't hurt.

But none of the out-of-town scenarios equate to Melo landing in Miami with friend LeBron.

An arrival in Miami puts Melo in the championship spotlight for the first time in his career. It elevates his brand beyond the basketball court, and beyond national borders, extending to the likes of China and beyond. And it spells more money.

"The bottom line is simple: there's no option out here that compares to staying with the Knicks outside of teaming with LeBron," another Melo insider explained. "It's probably the Knicks, in all likelihood. But there's a reason he hasn't made his decision."

Houston, L.A. and Chicago all sound pretty nice. But LeBron and Miami?

Sounds like the only reason to jeopardize tens of millions to me.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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