After weeks of rumor and speculation, all signs point to the fact that Carmelo Anthony will be playing next year for the same team with whom he has spent the last three full seasons: the New York Knicks. Although Anthony was linked to the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers during this frenzied free agent season, per reports by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Chris Broussard, Yahoo Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski, New York Daily News’s Frank Isola, and CBS Sports’s Ken Berger, he has elected on Saturday to return to the Knicks -- thus avoiding the hassles of moving and expectations that might arise from joining a new team where he might be considered the final piece to a championship puzzle --and accept a deal that will last five years and pay him more than $122 million, but less than the max offer of $129 million. Signing Anthony to a contract of that size will hamper the Knicks when it comes to salary cap flexibility, but the team would have been much worse off if they had failed to sign him and while Anthony’s continued tenure as a Knick in and of itself will not bring the organization any closer to a championship, it will give the franchise some legitimacy and also give first-year head coach Derek Fisher a star to build his coaching philosophy around.
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson repeatedly tried to convince Anthony to sign for less money so that the Knicks would find it easier to attract and then pay for complementary free agents, but while Anthony was slightly obliging in taking a little less money, he did not opt to be extensively underpaid. Some NBA stars might elect to take a lot less money than they could to make it easier on their teams to build championship-caliber rosters, but Anthony is not one of them nor should he be. Anthony knows – as everyone who is familiar with a salary cap also recognizes – that even the near-max contract he will sign is in no way reflective of his true market value and that the contract amount is being artificially depressed because of rich team owners who have gotten rich by avoiding paying labor fair wages; get past the gargantuan sums that professional athletes collect and it is easy to see that even they – like the vast majority of all non-management employees -- are getting exploited when you put in context what they earn in relation to the revenue that teams and the league make off of their labor.
Anthony was under no responsibility to play the good employee by sacrificing even more wages to the altar of team owners’ greed and then being forced to spit out the cliché that he is all about winning as if winning and getting paid in full for services rendered are mutually exclusive. Why should he give up money when the franchise and league he plays for refuses to pay him his true worth? Only someone who has been propagandized under a capitalistic society that seeks to marginalize the contributions of labor at every turn and profits from labor’s efforts would choose to gladly participate in his own exploitation by giving up even more money than has already been stolen from him through an imbalance of power between employer and employee. The New York Knicks are not a charitable organization so Anthony should not be expected to donate money to their cause.
Now that the Knicks have re-signed Anthony, the team is really back where it was last year: still mediocre and probably not good enough to make the playoffs next season. But don’t worry about the Knicks’ emotional state – at the risk of treating another corporation as if it is a person -- because the franchise is completely divorced from reality and living in a convoluted fantasy world in the year 2015 or 2016 where all the stars will align and they will be able to build a championship team because at least one of the biggest free agents that season will come flocking to play in Madison Square Garden. Never mind that putting too many of one’s eggs in the free agent acquisition basket while ignoring the more tried and true methods of roster building through the draft and trades is a recipe for continued mediocrity, in the minds of the Knicks organization, signing Anthony was just the first of many steps that will elevate them to the status of being a major player in the NBA landscape.
Whether or not Anthony is also participating in the Knicks’ delusion that they are currently traveling on the path that will lead to a championship being brought to Madison Square Garden for the first time in over 40 years is unclear. We require athletes to pay lip service to the importance of winning, but perhaps they are only telling fans what fans demand to be told. Anthony might truly thirst for a championship, but no doubt what one assumes he appreciates more is getting paid as close as possible to what he should be earning, and his new five-year deal achieves that aim for him.