LAS VEGAS -- Phil Jackson exited Cox Pavilion after the second day of the NBA Summer League still working on a deal to re-sign Carmelo Anthony. There were reports that suggested the seven-time All-Star had decided to return to the Knicks, but Jackson declined to comment on how close the sides were in completing the anticipated deal.
“We don't have anything yet to stack up, so rather than talk about it. I won't,” he said. “We'll wait. We'll be there."
Derek Fisher also was careful in reacting to the news. He would only say it was “exciting to hear that it’s still possible and it’s at least closer to being real.” But then he added, “I’ve been around a long time. So until it’s done and it’s real, we can’t assume that it’s a definitely thing.
“But it seems like, in the last few hours, that it’s coming closer to sounding like Carmelo will be rejoining our team. That’s obviously great news.”
The maximum contract the Knicks can offer Anthony is five years and $129 million. But Jackson revealed Thursday that the team had prepared “five different options” to offer Melo and his representation regarding finances that could assist with the team’s salary cap flexibility in the coming years.
Jackson also said that Melo’s side was “amenable to what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
The options, Jackson noted, involved percentages. Players can get up to 7.5 percent raises from year-to-year in their contracts. Jackson suggested that adjustments could be made in those raises to quell the annual cap hit.
“It’s about percentages,” he said. “Less than one percent that’s available in a series of dollars that grow over a period of five years. It’s not a big deal, it just gives us more flexibility, that’s all.”
Jackson on Draft night also hinted that would be the potential for increased revenue in the NBA, which would create a spike in the salary cap. That would alleviate some of the cap hit of a max, or near-max, contract in future years.
“I think there are going to be things that are going to be happening in the near future in the NBA that’s going to grow this league,” Jackson said, in perhaps a reference to a new national TV deal for the league, which would bring billions in revenue.
“And I think, monetarily, it’s going to end up being not an issue for us to do that.”
EARLY INDICATIONS ARE POSITIVE
Rookie Cleanthony Early has had a nice start to the summer league, averaging 12 points per game on 8-for-18 shooting (4-for-6 from three-point range). But where he has impressed the most isn’t in scoring or defense, but intelligence. Early, who put in four years of college (two at Wichita State), is now majoring in the Triangle Offense. And he told me he’s going to use every tool available to learn it.
“You just got to pay attention, honestly,” he said of the complicated system, which was installed during practice this week and being utilized in games.
“We go through it enough in practice where you should be picking it up. And on your off time, it’s not like you have to go to school or anything. So, you could just sit home and look at old film of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, those guys, doing it.
“You could read books. [Phil Jackson] has a lot of books out. So I try to do as much as possible to get myself up to speed. And I think that’s what it takes and I’m all for it.”
Later he said, “I want to know as much as possible. I’m trying to learn as much as possible from those guys.”
Seriously, could this kid be any more of a model student?
Tim Hardaway Jr. made note of Early’s relentless inquisitiveness.
“He’s asking a lot of questions, which is great,” Hardaway Jr. said. “We like to see that in a young player.”
[WATCH: Hardaway on Early & Second Year in the NBA]
Hardaway Jr., who was named first team All-Rookie last season, has willingly played the role of mentor to Early. The two, plus Shane Larkin, have stuck together throughout the time here.
That’s always great to see. What’s funny, though, is to hear Hardaway Jr., at 22, say “we like to see that in a young player” in reference to Early, who happens to be a year older.
- Rookie Thanasis Antetokounmpo has also had some attention-grabbing moments. While he remains a raw offensive player, he plays with an unbridled intensity that is infectious. Antetokounmpo is an aggressive defender who had the Mavericks' Ricky Ledo glaring at him a few times. He single-handedly drew an eight-second violation with full-court defense on the ball against the Trail Blazers. But he also picked up seven fouls in the first game (you are allowed 10 in Summer League play) and four in the second game, while averaging 14 minutes per game. The question in regards to Antetokounmpo is where he may play this season if he doesn’t make the NBA roster. He played last season in the D-League and the Knicks would probably prefer to send him to the Westchester Knicks, where they can work with him on a regular basis. There are new rules in place that allow teams to send an unsigned draft pick to their D-League team -- similarly to “stashing” him overseas -- without it costing an NBA roster spot. Antetokounmpo may prefer to go to Europe, where the money is much better, though the Knicks can’t be there to develop him.
- Hardaway Jr. has put on some added muscle in the offseason, which he said will help him keep defenders off him as he tries to create his shot. He has taken on the role of the primary scorer, so far, and is averaging 22.5 points per game on 12-of-31 shooting. He’s three-point shot has been a little rusty at 6-for-18 (33.3 percent) after two games.
- The Knicks were unable to attract Pau Gasol to New York, despite Jackson’s relationship with the 34-year-old Spaniard. He agreed to go to the Bulls, who will now have two excellent passing big men (Joakim Noah). But there is still some hope that the Knicks can lure Pau’s brother Marc next summer, when he becomes a free agent.
- Once Melo is in the fold, the Knicks will be over the salary cap, which means they have only three other means to sign/acquire players without even money trades: 1. The $3.2 million Taxpayer’s Mid-Level Exception; 2. The $3.6 million trade exception that came in the trade with the Mavericks; and 3. Veteran’s minimums.