Love may or may not conquer all, but the lure of bling can unequivocally make for strange bedfellows.
Translation? Phil and Carmelo are back conversing. Not only that, they’re holding clandestine, late night, clear-the-air rap sessions, desperately trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else they remain made for one another.
The two kings of New York City hoops recently convened at a five-star Manhattan steak house where the only thing surely on the menu had to be the matter of how best to resuscitate arguably the league’s most hapless franchise.
In some ways, each man has now come to embody what the other feels could most save them. Eleven years into his ringless NBA existence free-agent to-be Anthony has reached the point of wanting more, wanting what Jackson already has in spades in the form of 13 NBA titles and the rep as one of the game’s all-time winners.
And he wants it all on the league’s grandest stage, with all of Madison Ave. approvingly looking on as his Q-score rises as rapidly as his scoring average.
In striving to get the Knicks house in order, the Zen Master already has encountered more roadblocks than he could’ve envisioned. Two weeks into his new exercise—during with Jim Dolan reportedly tried to rescind Jackson’s decision to fire the entire coaching staff and head coach target Steve Kerr flat-out declined the job—a fellow top league exec described Jackson as looking like a “beaten man.”
It stands to reason that Phil Jackson has already deduced being the face of the New York Knicks isn’t what he thought it would be. Perhaps his only saving grace now lies in knowing that if Melo decides to stay, they’re in this mess together.
In the end, the pressure both men have to figure it out makes for an uneasy alliance. Simply put, Melo wanting to build his brand and Jackson longing to preserve his are no real basis for such a vested relationship.
The Zen Master was more than likely truly expressing his inner-most feelings when he pegged Melo a selfish ball-hog and later when he said Anthony should take a pay cut just for the chance of staying in New York. And Anthony spoke his when he all but labeled the Knicks eternal losers.
But the combination of Jackson’s triangle offense and Melo’s perimeter scoring ability and passing (when he’s willing) have to be intriguing enough to carry a dinner convo two hours. That’s true of a couple scenarios, though. In some ways Anthony seems tailor-made for a Chicago team in desperate need of scoring, but which has little cap space to convince him to join a frontline that already includes Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The Bulls will almost certainly need to say goodbye to Carlos Boozer to make any such arrangement financially possible and for sure there would be nights when Coach Tom Thibodeau will absolutely go bonkers watching Anthony struggle at the part of the game—defense—where he most hangs his hat.
But after four seasons of Boozer, at least it wouldn’t be anything Thibs hasn’t seen before, and the tradeoff of having Anthony’s scoring would finally give the Bulls a legitimate shot at rising to the next level. If Melo is at all true to his word that he now values winning more than anything else at this point in his career, Chi-Town seems like a valid choice and an easy out, even over Houston, where even the league’s No. 2 overall scorer might find it hard to get up shots some nights playing alongside the shot-happy duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Still, there has been clamoring that like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant before him, Anthony could also flourish in the triangle and thus the Knicks’ turnaround could come much sooner than later with him still in uniform. That thinking needs to be checked. Anthony has never been the slasher, cutter or the athlete that either of the aforementioned were at their height and thus won’t immediately be able to take advantage of the drives they did since he’s thrived in playing a largely isolation brand of hoops.
Following his postseason exit interview, Melo told reporters of Jackson, “I can sit down and listen to him all day long. He’s very philosophical. His message is something I can listen to all day.”
Each side has a history to get past and a future to prove. If they’re going to do it together, it’ll take a couple of those meetings of the minds to change both.