It is a big week for the New York Knicks. They are currently riding a season-high six-game winning streak, and they introduced Phil Jackson as the new president of basketball operations on Tuesday. Jackson held his press conference Tuesday afternoon, and during that press conference, he promised to make New York a winner again. With the recent wave of good luck, all things seem to be pointing up for the Knicks, right?
Despite the good vibes that have been surrounding the New York franchise as of late, the Knicks are still four games out of the playoffs, and Carmelo Anthony is still prepared to hit free agency this offseason. With Jackson now taking over the duties as head honcho in the Big Apple, Anthony will have a very intriguing decision to make when this year’s campaign is up.
So the question becomes: should Carmelo stay in New York with the Zen Master, or should he take his talents elsewhere in search of that all elusive title? Knicks fans might want to stop reading this now because all logical signs point to an exit out of NY come July. If Carmelo wants to win immediately, which he probably does considering he is about to hit 30, then he would be best served leaving the city that never sleeps for the windy city, Chicago, Illinois.
To start, the Chicago Bulls are one of the toughest teams in the league, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Without Derrick Rose for the majority of the past two seasons, they have managed to win a playoff series, and this season, they will in all likelihood secure one of the top four seeds in the East, leading to home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Led by a man who should get strong consideration in the MVP race in Joakim Noah, the Bulls are an extension of their head coach Tom Thibodeau out on the floor: tough, gritty, and full of fight. They are never out of a game, and even when all else fails, they are always competitive.
But the one thing that the Bulls have sorely missed with and without Rose, but especially in his absence, is a consistent scorer.
For his career, Carmelo Anthony is averaging more than 25.3 points per game. While his scoring has not translated into winning consistently, he gives the Bulls something that they struggled with even with a healthy Rose: easy buckets. Since coming into the league in 2003, Melo has been arguably the most versatile scorer in the league. With a 6’8”, 235-pound frame, Melo has the ability to score from the outside, but he also has the ability to make his way down to the paint and dominant smaller competition. Some of the league’s best defenders have constantly raved about Melo’s offensive game, calling him the most difficult matchup in all of the association.
In reality, Melo and the Bulls are a match made in heaven (that probably has something to do with why Noah reportedly tried to recruit the All Star a couple of weeks ago after a game between the Knicks and the Bulls). Melo and the Bulls provide something that they each need: another scorer for the Bulls and a winning situation for Melo.
Now some people will try to make the case that Melo should go to Los Angeles and join the “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant. But with Kobe’s years in the league numbered, one has to wonder if Kobe is going to change his ways for the sake of winning. Yes, Derrick Rose too has been a bit of a ball stopper in his career, but he has never really had a reliable wing man who could score just as easily, if not easier, than he can. And even though he’s not known as a “true” point guard, he is still averaging just under seven assists per game in his short career. Imagine his numbers if he had a bona fide scorer playing beside him.
Besides the fact that there is just one ball and both Melo and Kobe would both be jockeying for shots, the Lakers are not that much better off in the salary cap than Melo’s current team is. An old Kobe, an older Steve Nash, Melo, and a bunch of league minimum guys does not necessarily scream winning in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
And then there is the Knicks.
With a slew of big contracts, almost no financial flexibility and no draft picks in this summer’s loaded draft, the Knicks are probably going to be in the same scenario they’re in this season. Because of their current handicaps, the Knicks really won’t have the ability to make any major moves via free agency or the draft until next summer. If you’re Melo, why go through another hellacious year? Yes, Phil Jackson provides a face for the Knicks that could lure free agents, but the NBA is a win-now league, and Melo needs to start winning titles, or at least get close to a title, sooner than later. Eleven years into his career and Melo has only made it outside of the first round of the playoffs twice, and he has only made a conference finals once.
With no trips to an NBA Finals as of yet, Melo could at least reach a conference finals as soon as next season with the Bulls. The East is largely a two-team race between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, but the Bulls could emerge as that third threat with the addition of Melo. With Melo, a healthy Rose, Noah, and the rest of the players that the Bulls currently have, led by coach Thibs, the Bulls could be contenders immediately. All it takes is Melo making the decision to go to the Midwest.
Ultimately, a potential extra $30 million and a chance to work with one of the greatest winners in the history of sports will be hard to turn down. But a chance to play with a former league MVP, one of the most passionate players in the league, and one of the most competitive teams in the face of any circumstance, should be even harder to turn down.
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