Phil Jackson hasn’t been coy when it comes to discussing Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency, but I thought something he said Thursday night regarding the finances of re-signing Melo should not go overlooked. In fact, it came off as a pretty strong statement intended to clarify some revisionist history about Melo taking less than his max contract that has been perpetuated for public consumption.
“He’s the one that opened that up, that it wasn’t about the money,” Jackson said. “So I challenged him on that, because I wanted our fans to see that he’s a team player, that he was going to do what’s best for this team to get ahead farther and faster.”
It’s true, well before Jackson’s arrival, Carmelo responded to a reporter’s question about taking less money to help the team’s ability to sign free agents by saying he would if it would help.
“As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern,” Melo said during All-Star Weekend. “My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level.”
But since then, the suggestion has been that Jackson has been trying to convince Melo to take less, which has motivated other teams (Chicago, Dallas and Houston) to make moves to clear modest salary space to offer to him.
By CBA rules, no team in the league can offer Melo as much as the Knicks can. They can pay him a full maximum contract of five years and $129 million, while other teams can only offer a maximum of four years and $96 million. Jackson spoke with confidence that money won’t be an issue and, more importantly, that it won’t hurt the Knicks cap situation as much as people might think if he does re-sign for the max (or something close to it).
“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 of the salary cap, which is tied to league revenue. “And I think, monetarily, it’s going to end up being not an issue for us to do that.”
So the max contract isn’t off the table, it seems. But Jackson will, at least, appeal to Melo with a plan for a future with added cap space.
“The perception is that we want Carmelo,” Jackson said. “As interested in saying he’s competitive and wants to be on a competitive team. And also being able to demonstrate that, if push comes to shove, in a situation where he may have to take a little bit less if we’re more competitive to bring in another player to help.”
The Knicks expect to have enough cap space in 2015 to attract major free agents (and can also acquire potential free agents via trade before the February trade deadline). And while this summer, it would be a long-shot to clear enough space to make a major move, Jackson would not entirely rule it out.
“We have many handicaps, obviously, with our salary cap being what it is,” he said. “But, you know, there’s always a possibility. We’re not going to rule ourselves out of any gambit that could put us in the chance to really do something special.”