Fred Kerber of the New York Post caught up with the $124 million man prior to a Monday workout, and the newly slimmed down Anthony said he's looking forward to a reversal of this past season's dismal fortune:
Anthony on Monday asserted his belief the Knicks “absolutely” will be back in the playoffs after missing out last season.
“Yeah, I think so for sure. Absolutely,” an impressively slimmed-down Anthony said of the Knicks’ playoff chances before entering a Midtown gym for a late morning-to-early afternoon workout with a group of NBA players.
Anthony snuffed an attempt to establish any goals for the revamped Knicks, who will enter their first full season under team president Phil Jackson and new coach Derek Fisher.
“I can’t wait to get started,” said Anthony, who missed the playoffs for the first time in his career when the Knicks stumbled to a 37-45 record last season. “No goals. Not setting any goals, but I just can’t wait to get it back on.”
(What, you expected him to say he was pretty sure the Knicks were going to suck again?)
Before we continue, here's a look at some footage from that NYC workout, which also featured Anthony's Knicks teammate J.R. Smith, Charlotte Hornets shooting guard Lance Stephenson, Golden State Warriors forward David Lee and more, thanks to the Yahoo Sports Minute:
Now, then: As I've written a few times this summer, even after retaining Anthony in free agency, the Knicks face a number of obstacles to bouncing back into playoff contention this season, with scheme, personnel and competition all presenting major issues to resolve.
New York will be implementing new systems on both ends of the court under new head coach Fisher. Anthony ought to work perfectly fine as the pinch-post focal point of the Triangle offense; new addition Jose Calderon, with his sharp 3-point shooting and heady distributing, should be a hand-in-glove fit; and a system that has long served big guards who can dribble, pass, move without the ball and catch-and-shoot could help get more out of the promising but uneven Iman Shumpert. Beyond them, though, questions abound, and it remains to be seen whether the new scheme's introduction will short-circuit an attack that ranked 11th in the NBA in points scored per possession last year — and fourth-best in the league after Andrea Bargnani went down for the season — even after a miserable start to the season.
The work should be even more daunting on the defensive end, where the first-time head coach will be tasked with not only improving a defense that finished 24th among 30 teams in points allowed per possession last year, but doing so after trading away Tyson Chandler, the lone really capable Knicks frontcourt defender, and replacing him with the intermittently interested Samuel Dalembert and the infrequently healthy Jason Smith.
Discarded point man Raymond Felton was a sieve, but Calderon's his match in that regard. With the possible exceptions of Shumpert and little-used center Cole Aldrich, this roster features no player who seem capable of being as anything better than slightly-above-average on defense. That's not the kind of foundation on which playoff teams are typically built. Even improving to something like the No. 20 defense in the league might be a hard sell for these Knicks, and if the offense takes any kind of step backward as it goes through Triangle growing pains, it's going to be tough to crack back into the top eight.
Yes, the Indiana Pacers could very well fall out of the bracket after losing Paul George and Lance Stephenson, and how the Brooklyn Nets fare without starters Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston figures to depend largely on how healthy Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are for new head coach Lionel Hollins, but the six other incumbent Eastern playoff squads look to have either gotten stronger or held fast, and as you might've heard, there's one 2013-14 lottery squad that made some pretty nice moves this summer. An awful lot will probably have to go right for the Knicks (and wrong for at least a couple of other teams) to get New York comfortably back into the East's top eight.
That, of course, is why Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim thinks 'Melo would've been better off turning down that $124 million deal and taking less green elsewhere to have a greater shot at winning a title elsewhere. As luck would have it, Anthony's famously opinionated old college coach had a particular destination in mind — the Chicago Bulls, where he'd have been coached by Boeheim's fellow Team USA assistant, Tom Thibodeau.
"Just from a basketball point of view it would have been better to go to Chicago because they've got better players," Boeheim, who coached Anthony on Syracuse's national championship team in 2003, said on Monday. "But he wanted to be in New York and he wants to see if they can turn it around there. I think that's a great thing." [...]
Boeheim's belief that the Bulls are currently a better team than the Knicks isn't unfounded. Chicago boasts a team featuring Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the newly signed Pau Gasol.
"I think anybody would agree with that. That’s not rocket science," Boeheim said after Team USA practiced at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
As tired as we sometimes get of hearing Boeheim rhapsodize about what his former players should and shouldn't do, it's difficult to disagree with him here; in fact, we've already agreed with him a couple of times this summer about how the presence of multiple top-flight defenders (Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson) and an established elite coach (Thibodeau), plus the potential pair-up with a returning megawatt star (Derrick Rose, looking quite fine, thanks) made Chicago the most attractive potential option for Anthony from a competitive on-court standpoint next season. Heck, Anthony himself agreed with his coach.
"I was flip-flopping," he recently told ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman. "It was hard. It was Chicago, but then after I met with L.A., it was L.A. But it came back to Chicago — and was pretty much always Chicago or New York. That's a situation where I could have walked in now to an opportunity to compete for the next however many years."
But despite fully understanding the higher likelihood of competing for titles both now and in the foreseeable future had he headed to Chicago, Anthony elected to stay in the Big Apple. Many of us think that's because only the Knicks could offer him an extra lucrative fifth year; Anthony says that's not it, and suggests his decision had more to do with New York being the place where he and his family want to stay for the long haul.
Beyond that, though, Anthony's choice continues to come back to two central tenets — his belief that legendary coach-turned-president of basketball operations Phil Jackson can and will build a competitive roster in New York, and that Jackson can and will build that roster around Anthony, who believes he belongs in the sort of rarefied air reserved for discussing the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and is reportedly going hard about the business of getting there. From Kerber:
And Anthony showed some of that desire Monday in the closed, high-caliber workout with assorted NBA players. One of the participants, who asked not to be named, said Anthony “clearly was the best player on the court. He didn’t take a lot of shots but he was very efficient. He looked like Melo. He looked like he had something to prove.”
After turning 30 and failing to make an All-NBA roster for the first time in three years, Anthony does have something to prove — that he can be the best player on a team that matters, that last year was an aberration and that he can lead even a lacking team to late-spring basketball. He's taken (a shade less than) top dollar to return to a 37-win team to prove it, and if he can, he won't have to divvy up the lion's share of the credit with a handful of other top-flight contributors. There's a downside to that, though — if he can' t, there won't be very many other folks to share the blame, either.
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