Monday, July 14, 2014

Carmelo's Going To Do What He Wants, And He's Going To Get Paid

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So the next biggest free agent domino on the board, Carmelo Anthony, decided to take the max money to stay in New York and twiddle his thumbs for a year. The story is that Anthony believes that Phil Jackson can build the roster in 2015, when Amar'e Stoudarmire's ruinous deal comes off the books, and they can target Marc Gasol, Kevin Durant and heaven knows who else. And if you believe that, I believe that I have real estate you need to buy.

The choice seems to have come down to staying in New York as the only guy in town that casual fans can name, and Chicago, who seemed like the next best hope to stop LeBron James and whatever jersey he's wearing from going to the Finals as the lEastern representative. Especially now that they've got Pau Gasol to be a better big option than Carlos Boozer. I kind of love the Bulls now, with Joakim Noah joining Gasol to give them spectacular passing bigs, and the dreamer's chance that Derrick Rose won't explode in a stiff breeze. Toss the underrated Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson into the mix, and the always scheming Tom Thibodeau, and you've got some hope that Thibs will squander by not developing a bench. The East is special that way, really.

But to be honest, I always had a hard time imagining that Anthony was going to go to a defense-first team and smaller media market, along with uprooting his family and leaving an ancestral home where people don't, well, call him on loafing on defense and jacking up a ton of shots. If this man really cared about winning, you'd have to think that he'd have done more of it by now.

My biggest issue here is all of the happy horseflop about how this makes the Knicks a better destination for future FAs of note. There's one other thing that needs to be said here: if the Knicks are such a premier free agent destination, why is it that they don't really get them? LeBron James has had two chances to come to Manhattan, and never seriously considered it either time. Chris Bosh never had his name linked to the Knicks. No one's talked about how Anthony has been able to recruit guys to come here. You'd have to think that Pau Gasol would have taken a call from Phil Jackson, or that they would have had an interest in Dwight Howard a few years back, or Luol Deng, or Kevin Love, and so on, and so on.

The biggest names in the NBA want nothing to do with the Knicks, because, um, they aren't stupid. James Dolan is one of the bigger ownership minuses in the NBA, especially now that Donald Sterling is presumed gone, and the franchise's constant dalliance with Isiah Thomas, tabloid headlines and a coaching merry-go-round isn't going away just because some aging well-paid GM part-timer is on the scene to start a book club. This is still a cold place in the winter and an expensive one all year. Anthony took the cash and didn't run, and will live off the good will brought by this act of max cash loyalty to another jack-tastic year of not making anyone around him better.

Oh, and by the way? For all of the machinations back in the media-heavy East, San Antonio has lost no one in free agency. Tim Duncan didn't retire, Boris Diaw and Paddy Mills resigned, and Gregg Popovich decided to stick around. They just won the NBA Title going away, with historic beatdowns of Portland and Miami, and no one in the West has gotten drastically better in free agency to make their road to the Finals harder. So, short of age or injury or disinterest or Pops suddenly developing an unnatural love for Marco Belinelli, whoever wins in the East isn't going to win in the Finals, because the Spurs are really just too smart to pin their future championship hopes on overrated ball hogs.

But by all means, New York, keep telling yourself that every thing is going to be fine, and that the next crop of FAs is coming your way. It's more fun than the truth, which is that Jackson isn't cooking with gas any more, and that Anthony cares more about making money than winning championships.

Play me out, Tom...

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