The New York Knicks are currently in a salary-cap tailspin on top of their major on-court issues, and there doesn't seem to be an obvious solution looming on the horizon. It's why people close to the situation believe there's a great chance Carmelo Anthony will head for greener pastures when the time comes this summer.
Anthony's top priority at this stage of his career is winning and that's why he's likely to leave New York, an anonymous ex-teammate of the superstar told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
Carmelo Anthony's former teammate needed just a few seconds to ponder the question and deliver a definitive answer.
"I think he's leaving. I've played with Melo for a long time and he knows he can't win here. At this stage, all he wants to do is win. That's why he'll leave."
The Knicks begin the new year with the same old problems - an injury-depleted roster, underperforming players, a losing record and a cloud of uncertainty over Anthony's future with the club. That 2014 would start with a game against the San Antonio Spurs is appropriate because since the two teams met in the 1999 NBA Finals, one franchise has emerged as the gold standard in the NBA while the other is pure comic gold. Six weeks ago, Anthony called the Knicks a "laughingstock" and the joke is still on them.
The Knicks currently sit at 9-21, just 2.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for the worst record in the NBA. But in the amazingly awful Eastern Conference, New York remains only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Still, finishing the season with a winning record would be a highly unlikely achievement.
Anthony is expected to opt out of his contract on July 1, and the current state of the Knicks could impact the star's decision-making process, Isola reports. But New York will be able to offer him more money than any other team — by about $30 million — and money still talks in the NBA.
Still, there are other reasons Anthony is weary of what's going on, and he doesn't want to be viewed as the face of a losing era in New York.
Stephon Marbury was in Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day and sat four rows behind the New York bench, where the former Knicks point guard was heckled. Anthony does not want that to happen to him, Marc Berman reports in this New York Post article.
"He saw Marbury get heckled by some fans on Christmas,'' one source told The Post. "He doesn't want to be the next Marbury. He's very sensitive."
Anthony doesn't want to be a poster boy if the Knicks spiral into a losing era, and it could influence his thinking when he makes his decision come July. Though still undecided, there's part of him that may want to bail if he thinks the Knicks' ship completely sinks. He does not want to be the scapegoat.
Anthony wants to play for a winner, but desperately wants to play in a big market because of his business ventures - his Jordan Brand sneaker line, his PowerCoco energy drink, his watch deal.
It's going to be a very interesting remainder of the season for Anthony and the Knicks. Melo has said publicly in the past he wants to remain in and retire in New York, but if the team continues to flounder that may not be a possibility.
There will be an interesting crop of free agents that comes available during the summer of 2015, but whether the Knicks will be able to pitch Anthony as their resident superstar has become a real question.