City Sports Report

Melo Stays Put by Marc Rasbury

The New York Knicks released the 2014-2015 Schedule (Photo by Torrance White)

From the moment Carmelo Anthony proclaimed that he was going to opt out of the final year of his contract prior to the start of last season, most New York Knicks fans, at least the ones with common sense, feared the worst. The Knicks mortgaged the franchise a few years ago to bring the superstar to the Big Apple. With the threat of him leaving, there was a chance that the organization could have ended up empty-handed without Anthony or any championships to speak of.

Well, Blue and Orange fans relax. Melo and the Knicks agreed to a five-year deal worth $124 million on Monday. That ended a year-long anxiety period that had most basketball pundits in this area sweating profusely. This signing still doesn’t guarantee a ticket the NBA Finals, but it gives Phil Jackson and company a foundation on which to build upon.

We know Melo is not Lebron James but there are only a few individuals who can even be mentioned in the same breath as The Chosen One. Melo, However, is one of the top 10 overall players in the league and definitely one of the top scorers of his generation. The dude can flat out score. He can hit from long range. He can put the rock on floor. He can post up. And at 6’8’’ and strong as an ox, Melo can do it all.

He should thrive in the triangle offense as long as he buys into the concept. For most of his professional career, he has relied on his God-given gifts and court savvy to score almost at will. His critics will proclaim that he holds on to the ball too long, something that will not hold well with Head Coach Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson. But once he realizes that the game, and more importantly, his shots will come easier with more ball movement and movement without the ball, then the sky will be the limit for this young man. Once again the key will be Anthony buying into the offense that has made Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant champions.

It will be professionally irresponsible to mention MJ and Kobe without stating that they had help with the triangle offense. Jordan had Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, John Paxon, Horace Grant and Toni Kukoc.  Of course Kobe had Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox. Pippen and O’Neal will go down as two of the greatest players that have picked up a basketball, but what made the triangle offense so special in Jackson’s previous stops were the role players. Paxon, Harper, BJ Armstrong, Fox and Kukoc were solid players but they were not superstars. However, they thrived in that system because they knew their roles and delivered when called upon. 

Thus far in his brief tenure as Team President, Jackson is collecting similar role players like he had in Chicago and Los Angeles. He sent Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler packing and got back Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert and two draft picks, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early and Thanasis  Antetokounmpo . Calderon is tailor-made for the triangle offense with his outside shooting. Dalembert is a poor man’s Chandler so you do not lose too much there. Larkin  and Antetokounmpo have been impressive thus far in the Las Vegas Summer League. And I believe Early will be the steal of the draft.

Some, including yours truly, feel that Tim Hardaway Jr. should have a breakout year. Hopefully, Jackson and Fisher can get to Iman Shumpert and JR Smith, and if they cannot then they could be packaged with some of the expiring contracts that Jackson has at his disposal. Speaking of those expiring contracts, should Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani give Jackson anything on the court this season, things can get interesting around here. The one thing that Smith, Stoudemire, Barngani and Shumpert give Jackson is options. When is the last time anyone could say that the Knicks have tradeable commodities? Now they do. Perhaps Jackson can put something together to bring in that Robin-like player to match up with his secured Batman in Melo. And then next year if he still has the cap space, he can bring in another near max-like talent. It has been a while since the Knicks have had this much flexibility. Based on that alone, Jackson has earned his money thus far.  With Melo in place, the Knicks future looks bright. With another couple of moves, the Knicks could be thrust into the Eastern Conference Finals Mix. For once the Knicks future looks bright.

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