Michael Jordan. That’s the two word answer. Carmelo Anthony was always going to opt out of his deal with the Knicks, which he did this week to no one’s surprise. Because you explore your options in this day and age–and if New York City teaches a person anything, it’s to test the market and see if it will break in your direction. A first class scorer, Anthony is in the enviable position of being able to insouciantly ignore a guaranteed annual salary of more than $23 million next year with the Knicks. He may yet sign to play in Manhattan, but taking that deal would leave him in the unenviable position of still being a New York Knick, a well-paid but static position in a sort of hellish basketball purgatory. (The Knicks have not won an NBA championship in 41 years. Teams that don’t even exist anymore, like the Seattle Supersonics, have won in the interim.)
The Knicks have famously tried to end the disaster by putting the legend Phil Jackson in charge of their future–and as has happened everywhere else he’s gone, people were supposed to fall in line. (Hey if Kobe and Shaq can do it, Jordan and Kukoc…) But then coaching prospect Steve Kerr unexpectedly ditched the Knicks (and Jackson’s courting) for the sweeter climes of the Bay Area. And Phil also failed to use his much ballyhooed imagination to interview the most obvious choice–the local genius, IBM’s Watson–settling instead for rookie coach and human Derek Fisher. (Watson really was the perfect choice: infinitely patient, intelligent, unflappable, programmable–just what Jackson requires. Alas…) With Anthony’s opting out–despite alleged importuning from Jackson–the basketball guru with 11 championship rings suddenly looks like he needs to brush up on his Zen touch. But the popular idea that Anthony is spooked by Jackson’s famous team-oriented triangle system, or that he fears he may not fit into the new Knicks schema, is poppycock. Melo may want more money (don’t you?) and a more peaceful place to shoot 27 shots a game. But if he thinks there’s no room in Jackson’s world for a star, he should call Michael Jordan and ask him if he got on okay with Phil. Jackson didn’t get eleven rings by making Jordan pass to Will Perdue.