The idea that the Knicks “should explore” trades involving Carmelo Anthony is, of course, nonsense. There’s only one person who can decide whether or not ‘Melo will be dealt.
That person is Carmelo Anthony.
The situation is eerily similar to the last round of “Melo-drama,” when Anthony forced the trade that brought him to New York. He can opt out of his contract after this season. At that point, he can re-sign a max deal with the Knicks for five years and roughly $130 million, or sign with another team for four years and $95 million. If he’s traded, those options go with him – he’d have the option play out the last year of his contract, to hit the open market or to sign a longer, more lucrative deal with his new team.
The Knicks can trade Anthony to any team. But without some assurance that he’d be willing to re-sign, they probably wouldn’t get much in return. A blockbuster like the much-rumored Blake Griffin deal only makes sense if the Clippers have a reasonable expectation (or an under-the-table agreement) that they’ll be able to sign ‘Melo to a long-term deal.
Before the Knicks do anything, they need to get a sense of Anthony’s intentions. Does he really want to test free agency, as he’s suggested in at least one interview? If that’s the case, MSG’s options will be extremely limited. A trade would bring back pennies on the dollar. That would almost certainly signal the start of a real top-to-bottom rebuild – with no Anthony, they’d be wise to trade Chandler as well, to let the Stoudemire and Bargnani contracts expire after the 2014-15 season, and to start fresh.
If he says he wants to retire as a Knick – something he’s also said in interviews – MSG’s task becomes much clearer. Start laying the ground work for a long-term deal that will give the team enough flexibility to attract other top players when Chandler and Stoudemire and Bargnani come off the books.
And if he says he’d like to join the Clippers, or the Lakers, or the Bulls? Get on the horn with the general managers of those teams and try to make it happen. (Of course, that assumes Donald Sterling is willing to pay the luxury tax to keep a team with Chris Paul and Anthony together… which seems about as likely as Jerry Reinsdorf footing the bill for Anthony and Derrick Rose. But that’s another column.)
All three scenarios have one starting point in common. Carmelo must make his intentions clear. Maybe he doesn’t want to do that. Maybe he doesn’t know what he wants. Maybe he’s waiting to see signs of life from a team that has been sleepwalking through far too much of this season before he commits to anything. But he’s got about 35 million reasons to make up his mind… and fast.