NEW YORK – Carmelo Anthony wanted New York, and the Knicks wanted him.
Now, a little more than three years after the trade that brought them together, Anthony could decide to leave.
The Knicks would like him to stay — at the right price — and have told their All-Star forward that. But they also realize he will have some appealing options elsewhere.
“As the head coach, I have to be prepared to coach the players that we ultimately have,” new coach Derek Fisher said last week. “I would love to have the opportunity to work closely with Carmelo. I’m looking forward to it and we’ll see if it can happen.”
Fisher, team President Phil Jackson and General Manager Steve Mills met with Anthony in Los Angeles on June 13, three days after the Knicks hired Fisher as coach. Jackson had already met with Anthony after the season ended, asking him to consider delaying free agency for a year.
However, Anthony is still expected to go through with his plan to opt out of the final year of his contract before the June 23 deadline. That would make him a free agent on July 1, and depending on what LeBron James decides, possibly the best one on the market.
Teams such as Chicago, Dallas and Houston have been linked to the two-time Olympic gold medalist, as have the Miami Heat, under a scenario where Anthony would go play with James.
Those were all playoff teams this season, and Anthony, who just turned 30, has said his priority is competing for championships. The Knicks, who went 37-45, have to make him think he can do that in New York, even without much flexibility to improve the roster this summer.
“We obviously firmly believe that here is that place for Carmelo,” Fisher said, “and we’ll do our best not to convince him or change his mind from maybe a decision that he’s already made, but really just help give him some confidence that with the personalities involved and our commitment to working hard to achieve a certain level of success, that this is the place that he can have what it is he wants.”
Anthony believed that a few years ago, pushing the Denver Nuggets to trade him to New York. The deal got done in February 2011 but at a heavy price for the Knicks, who not only dealt away promising young players such as Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov, but also their first-round pick in this year’s draft.
Jackson hopes Anthony would take less than a maximum salary to stay, making it easier to rebuild the roster. Or put off the decision by opting in for the last year of his deal, which would pay him $23.3 million. The Knicks would be in a much better position in the summer of 2015 to construct the type of roster Anthony wants — if he’s willing to wait.
“He’s great and he deserves that, and so that’s what we want to work to create with him and hopefully we can do it,” Fisher said.
(BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer)