Melo’s future uncertain in Gotham
For all that’s made about the weakness of Melo’s supporting cast, what’s often forgotten is that Melo himself is partially to blame. The trade that brought Melo to the Garden was not one Denver wanted to make at the time. Anthony wanted out - the big market, the prodigal son back story, and the coup d’état the Miami Heat pulled in 2010 free agency were all factors in his decision. However, what cannot be overlooked is that the old collective bargaining agreement was expiring and Melo’s first priority was locking up a 3-year $65 million extension before salaries were scaled back in the current CBA. By forcing a trade in the middle of the season, Melo got shipped to a depleted Knick roster which was dispatched in the first round of playoffs with ease.
Had Anthony waited until free agency, he could have joined forces with the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton (minus the roundabout to Portland), and a healthy Amare Stoudemire. The players dealt didn't pan out into all-stars, but there is no doubt the team was better with Anthony AND all the pieces they ended up using to acquire him. The Knicks could have also saved a pair of first round picks (2014 goes to Denver, 2016 Denver has right to swap). Simply put, had Melo signed as a free agent, the Knicks would have had a much easier path back to relevancy. It is a fair point that Anthony’s MVP-caliber performance in the 2012 season makes up for this in a way, but as the roster’s current flaws are exposed, the need for talent around Anthony is no more glaring than right now.
Then again, Anthony’s insistence on his extension isn’t the only thing handcuffing the franchise. By far the biggest hindrance to the Knicks’ progress is Amare Stoudemire. After multiple knee surgeries, STAT is a shadow of his former uber-athletic self and playing on a minute limit on a nightly basis. His gargantuan contract ($45 million over this season and the next) is the biggest obstacle to the Knicks adding talent around Anthony. At this point, the best thing Stoudemire can do is medically retire to give the Knicks some salary relief.
If Anthony is the face of the franchise, Tyson Chandler is its heart and soul. He is still weeks away from recovering fully from leg fracture; the Knicks have sorely missed his rim protection and tap-backs on defense as well as his pick and roll prowess on offense. As Raff5600 has noted, Anthony’s production has dipped significantly when he and Chandler’s replacement Andrea Bargnani have shared the floor. JR Smith looks lost on offense and trade rumors are visibly rattling Iman Shumpert on both ends of the floor. If the team cannot regroup, is Anthony bolting from the team he forced a trade to only 2 ½ seasons ago?
Stephen A. Smith thinks Melo is as good as gone. On November 20th, Smith stated on ESPN’s First Take, “Right now if you ask me Carmelo Anthony is GONE. He's going to LA to play with Kobe Bryant”. As always is the case with pro sports, a lot can change in a few days. With Kobe signing a fresh two year, $48 million contract today, the prospects of Melo and Bryant hoisting the O’Brien Trophy in LA are slim at best. To be able to sign Melo without the Knicks’ assistance in a sign-and-trade, the Lakers would have to let go of all free agents at the end of the year (including Pau Gasol) and get rid of Steve Nash’s deal. The result would be enough room to sign Anthony and mid-level free agent, but that’s it. The rest of the roster would be rounded out with the mini-mid-level exception and minimum deals. Sound like enough for a title to you? The relationship between Melo and Laker head coach Mike D’antoni is another huge issue. Rumors swirled after D’antoni resigned as Knick coach, some saying Melo demanded he be fired while others claiming D'antoni wanted to trade Melo for Deron Williams. The grass probably isn’t greener on the other side.
So what should Melo do? No one would blame him for feeling frustrated and exasperated with the Knicks’ start to the season. His teammates are struggling and the fans are losing hope. If I could share some words with Melo, I envision it being similar to the exchange between Alfred and Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight when Wayne decides to stop being Batman in wake of the Joker’s violence. Wayne asks, “What would you have me do?” to which Alfred replies, “Endure, Master Wayne. Take it”. It’s a notion Knick fans are praying Anthony will accept. Otherwise, the final story between the Knicks and Melo will be the one told by Harvey Dent, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.