Carmelo Anthony's free agency plans still a mystery

Carmelo Anthony's free agency plans still a mystery
February 17, 2014, 5:00 pm
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Apparently, Bulls star Derrick Rose isn’t the only NBA player who has a tough time articulating his future plans.

Did you catch Carmelo Anthony’s comments over All-Star weekend?

He went out of his way to profess his love for the Knicks and the city of New York, and even volunteered to take a pay cut if it would help attract other star players to the organization. Sounds like a guy who is definitely planning on staying put, right?

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The problem is, even if Anthony agrees to play for the veteran’s minimum next season (which he won’t), the Knicks will remain the ill-fitting, overpaid misfits -- who currently stand 10th in a woefully-weak Eastern Conference -- for at least another season.

Just do the math. Adding the contracts of Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr. gets the Knicks right up against the projected NBA salary cap of around $62 million for next season.

So, even if Carmelo is willing to cut his salary in half -- to around $11 million for next season --  the Knicks will still be way over the cap, and only able to add a player with the mid-level exception, (and possibly just the taxpayers’ mini-mid level). And they don’t have a first-round draft pick. Does that sound like a strategy for making the improvements needed to get ‘Melo’ closer to his stated goal of winning an NBA title?

Sure, the Knicks are said to be active in trade talks right now, hoping to add Kyle Lowry or Jeff Teague, but it’s tough to make a deal without a first-round pick, and the Knicks can’t trade a future first rounder until 2018. Plus, acquiring Teague would cut into the Knicks’ cap flexibility in 2015 when they get Stoudemire, Chandler and Bargnani off the books and are planning to go after Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo in free agency.

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Anthony had a one-on-one meeting with Knicks owner James Dolan a couple weeks ago, and I’m sure Dolan tried to convince him of all the great additions coming in the summer of 2015. But does a player who is already in his 11th season in the league and approaching his 30th birthday really want to hear about some down-the-road promises from an organization that hasn’t had much success in free agency recently?

If ‘Melo’ really is sincere about his willingness to take a pay cut to achieve his dream of winning an NBA title, he should consider coming to the Bulls as a free agent this summer. Assuming the Bulls use the amnesty provision on the final season of Carlos Boozer’s deal, they should have about $10 to $11 million of cap room available. Trading Mike Dunleavy would free up another $3.2 million. So, if you are John Paxson and Gar Forman, you could offer Anthony a starting salary of $13 to $14 million to join forces with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson on a team that should be able to contend for titles for the next five years or so.

We’ve heard talk in NBA circles that ‘Melo’ is just a numbers guy, who cares more about individual accomplishments than team success. This summer will give him the chance to prove he truly wants to find the right situation to win a championship, rather than chasing every last dollar. And, when July 1 rolls around, I anticipate the Bulls will be ready to make their pitch to land one of the premier scorers in the game.