Carmelo Anthony has had a busy few days, writes Conor O’Mahony.
Coast to coast the free agent forward met with all manner of suitors in the first unrestricted go-round of his career, attempting to find a partner that both suits his needs as a guy that wants to play until June, and a guy that wants to take in copious amounts of cash.
On Tuesday he sampled the delights of The Windy City, where Bulls stalwarts Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson actively recruited him and Derrick Rose did not*. Chicago arguably offers Melo the best opportunity to be in contention to win a championship. They are in the East, which is historically weak right now.
The team is well balanced, has a defensive first mindset but lacks a pure scorer to rely on. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that Derrick Rose will ever gain hit the heights of his MVP season of 2011-2012. However, Melo will be considering Chicago as his end destination very seriously.
Joining the Bulls would give Melo the opportunity to lead the city back to the glory days of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The Bulls have not won a title since ‘His Airness’ did this to clinch the title in 1998.
The Melo show arrived in Texas on Wednesday taking in two teams, The Houston Rockets and The Dallas Mavericks. The higlight of this was the laughable billboard image of Anthony in a Rockets jersey wearing no.7.
Laughable you say? Anthony wore no.7 in New York,so superimposing him into a Rockets jersey wearing his previous number seems like a solid idea. Houston we have a problem. Jeremy Lin already lays claim to that number.
Lin responded to the development by tweeting a Bible verse Wednesday morning. Luke 6:29 – If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey replied to this fiasco in his own typically cold blooded manner by saying,
“Bottom line, if Carmelo comes Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have to be traded. It’s just math. It’s not personal. My job every day is to figure out how to win.”
All this pomposity does not disguise the fact that Anthony would be a terrible fit in Houston. James Harden’s ego would mean that he would demand the ball is in his hands every possession. Melo is also a volume shooter, albeit a very very good one, and that is not discounting the fact that Dwight Howard is partial to throwing a strop when he feels he is not getting enough touches on offense. Couple this with the fact that Kevin McHale has never shown the appetite or ability to put in place an offensive system, this writer can only see Melo crashing and burning in Houston.
The meetings were getting progressively shorter. After Anthony spent most of the day with the Bulls, his face-to-face meeting with Mark Cuban, the Mavericks’ owner, lasted only about two hours, according to various reports. The pitch took place in Cuban’s homestead and was attended by star forward Dirk Nowitzki, coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. After the glitz and glamour of Houston’s recruitment, the Mavericks chose to go for the meat and spuds pitch.
This emphasized the opportunity to contend immediately with an elite coach in Carlisle, a selfless star in Nowitzki and a quality supporting cast featuring high-scoring guard Monta Ellis and newly acquired defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler. Mark Cuban summed up the day with these words.
“What I can tell you is that we made this purely a business meeting. No tours. No banners. All basketball and business.”
This writer cannot have been the only one who found Cuban’s no frills approach amusing. Cuban himself has a propensity to be, well, let’s say flamboyant, as outlined by this video.
Los Angeles was the final stop on the tour. This writer cannot see this happening, and visiting the Lakers felt more like a nod to the past, or even courtesy call on Melo’s part.
Like the Knicks, the Lakers are rebuilding, and the pairing of two offensive-minded players like Bryant and Anthony would probably not solve their problems. Los Angeles is the only team besides The Knicks that can sign Anthony to what is technically a maximum contract, offering him four years and nearly $97 million to play alongside an aging Kobe Bryant, a retiring Steve Nash, and who knows whatever other band of brothers Laker general manager Mitch Kupchak can scrounge together to fill out that top-heavy payroll.
Essentially Melo would be moving from one big market to another, but not increasing his chance of winning, or increasing his pay check. It was telling that Kobe Bryant did not even bother to return from his holiday in Greece to assist in the attempted recruitment. Kobe knows the deal, and this writer is quite confident when he says that Melo will not be a Laker when the ball is thrown up for the first time this season.
New York City is “The Mecca” of basketball. The city embraces basketball culture and is home to legendary basketball playgrounds like Rucker Park, West 4th Gauchos Park among others. The Knicks are a sleeping giant, who have not won an NBA Championship since Clyde Frazier and company(including the gritty Phil Jackson) in 1973.
Someone, at some point, will end this biblical basketball drought in New York, and that man will be immortalised. This has to be a factor in Melo’s decision. Another factor is The Zen Master himself. For too long The Knicks have been the perfect antidote to the San Antonio Spurs, the “how not to run a franchise” manual if you will.
The James Dolan era has been typified by a lack of direction, poorly executed plans, and an apparent desire to appeal to the tabloids above the fan base From the outside looking in however, Phil Jackson does not appear ready to take his place in the pantheon of New York villains which already includes Isiah Thomas, Scott Layden and the aforementioned James Dolan.
It appears that Jackson is active and engaged and less inclined to be that distant figure on a California beach – counting James Dolan’s millions and sunning with fiancée Jeanie Buss — than some Knicks people feared he would be. The rookie team president has already improved the roster (if slightly) through a trade and the draft, and there will be enough salary-cap space next summer to sign a second star.
After indicating earlier in the week that he would not be pursuing a final meeting with Anthony, Phil Jackson had a change of heart, fearing that Melo was being wooed away.
Melo and Jackson met after Anthony concluded his discussions with The Lakers. Here Phil Jackson is reported to have offered Anthony the five-year $129 million max contract that no other team can match. Melo did not give the Knicks an answer or a timetable on his decision Thursday night.
He will take the weekend to think things through, according to multiple reports. Anthony was apparently impressed by Jackson’s final plea presented to him in their Thursday meeting. Multiple reports say he probed New York Knicks management on the franchise’s plan to restore a contending roster and left his final free-agency meeting largely aligned with president Phil Jackson’s vision. Anthony had direct questions for Jackson and coach Derek Fisher during a Thursday meeting in Los Angeles, and Anthony seems to be increasing confident with the Knicks’ direction.
We now wait, but know this; if Jackson has indeed sold Anthony on the future of the organization, it is only the first step in what could be a long road back to relevance. New York needs to show significant improvement next season, and then Jackson and Anthony – if he re-signs – will try to attract more talent a year from now.
Conor O’Mahony, Pundit Arena.
*It was reported at the time that Rose, after initially refusing to actively recruit Melo, had agreed to let Anthony watch him work out. It has since emerged that Rose just happened t0 be in the middle of his daily workout routine when Melo appeared unexpectedly. Rose broke up his workout to approach Anthony and said a brief hello, but that was the extent of his participation in the Bulls’ recruitment. “Derrick wasn’t bothered that he wasn’t a part of it,” a source close to the player said. “He was just kind of shocked, like ‘Man, I didn’t get the memo.'”
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