Carmelo Anthony has officially notified the New York Knicks that he will exercise the early termination option in his contract, forgoing the final year and $23.3 million on his current deal to become an unrestricted free agent come July 1. After a 37-45 Knicks season in which he missed the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career, Anthony said he values winning more than making the largest possible salary at this stage. But what else will factor into the seven-time All-Star's first true foray into free agency?
The folks at VICE Sports sat down with Anthony to find out, and the results were pretty interesting:
For one thing, Anthony told VICE, how the decision impacts his family — his wife, La La Vazquez, and their seven-year-old son, Kiyan — ranks alongside on-court fit and championship contention when it comes to significant factors:
The average person just sees opportunity to say that, "Oh, 'Melo should go here, 'Melo should go there, I think he should do this, I think he should do that." But they don’t take into consideration the family aspect of it — your livelihood, where you're going to be living at. Do you want your kids to grow up in that place, in that city? Do I want to spend the rest of my career in that situation, in that city? So all of that stuff comes into play.
My son goes to school. He loves it here [in New York]. To take him out and take him somewhere else, he'd have to learn that system all over again. He'd have to get new friends, and I know how hard it was for me when I moved from New York to Baltimore at a young age — like, having to work your way to try to make friends, and go actually try to make friends, and trying to fit in, and trying to figure out the culture in that area. As far as this goes — like, basketball goes — it’s hard to just say, "OK, I’m going to go here, I'm going to make this decision, I'm going to do that." Because everybody’s affected by that.
And the average person is looking at it as next year, like it’s just one year. ‘Next year, you'll win a championship if you go here.’ We’re looking at the big picture here, now. You're looking at the next six to eight years of your career — the end of your career, at that. So do you want to spend that much time in that place?
Take that all together — the fact that his family likes it in New York, that he's thinking less about next year (when the Knicks figure to be bad again, given extremely limited financial flexibility to augment their roster and few likely-to-improve assets on hand) and more about the next "six to eight years," etc. — and if you're a Knicks fan, you might feel pretty good about your team's chances of retaining Anthony. His comments about moving from a smaller market to a larger one earlier in his career don't hurt, either:
I came from a smaller market, in Denver. Not so much scrutiny — well, "scrutiny," there's tabloids and media everywhere, but not like the level of playing here in New York. Playing in a small market, you only could go so high as far as individual players go. You reach that max. There's only so much you can do at a point in your life that, you know, you've got to look for something else. A bigger stand, a bigger stage, a bigger market.
So when you go to places like New York, you're there, you're playing for two nights, and you feel the excitement. You feel the difference. The energy is different. The fans is different. The game is different, playing in New York. And then you go back home and you're like, "I want that."
There are valleys to go with those peaks, though, and after three years of having what he wanted — the opportunity to play in one of the nation's biggest markets for one of the sport's most watched, covered and, yes, scrutinized teams — Anthony has experienced the negative side of all that attention, especially when it comes to the Knickerbocker-obsessed fans who pack the stands at Madison Square Garden:
It's when you're here in New York, in the Garden, and you could be playing so well, and then you just have a breakdown throughout the course of the game. And then the boos will come. Now, that's when you're like, "What the hell is wrong with these people?"
(Speaking solely for myself — I wouldn't want to speak for the rest of Knicks fandom — I can only say, "Quite a bit, my man.")
Anthony also told VICE that he'd "love to be involved in" decisions on player personnel, "because at the end of the day, you're creating a family." (There's that word again.) It remains to be seen how much input Anthony would have on decision-making with any of his prospective suitors — the Phil Jackson-run Knicks, the Gar Forman/John Paxson-led Chicago Bulls, the Daryl Morey-run Houston Rockets, etc. But after watching expected star-level running buddies like Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, and needed role-playing contributors like J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert unable at different junctures to do their share for the Knicks, you could understand Anthony wanting to know that the guys with whom he's sharing the locker room are going to be able to handle their business.
"You can't create a bond with somebody that's not going to fit in with you or not going to be there when you need them the most, and don't understand the game and how to win, and situations in the game, and things like that," he said. "As much as it has to do with having the top guys on the team — superstars, per se — you need the rest of your soldiers. You need the guys that's going to go to out there and put their life on the line for you, because it's a war. It's a battle."
In the broader battle for the All-Star forward, the teams vying for Anthony's services now have at least some sense of the terms of engagement: big market, comfortable transition/living conditions for his family, and a roster of guys he believes can help make the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. Let's see who can make the most compelling case for one of the NBA's most dangerous offensive weapons.
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