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The story that has surrounded the Knicks all offseason has been Carmelo Anthony. Will he somehow stay with the Knicks or will he go to a contender? Most people believe a deal will eventually get done, either before the season or sometime during the season.
Anthony has made it pretty clear that he wants to go to the Houston Rockets. In fact, according to Frank Isola of the NY Daily News, Melo and his camp are "cautiously optimistic" a deal could get done before Monday. If not, next week could be a circus.
The issue will continue to be whether the Rockets are the right trade partner for the Knicks. If not, the dilemma becomes Anthony accepting going elsewhere, which seems like a lost cause right now.
Let's break down the scenarios for Anthony regarding his future as the Knicks prepare to begin training camp on Monday...
Staying and playing with the Knicks
If the Knicks can't get the right players back in a trade, why trade him for pennies on the dollar? On paper, the Knicks' roster with Anthony isn't that bad, and could be one that contends for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The East is pretty bad after the top four or five teams, and it's not insane to think if the Knicks stay healthy that they can grab the final spot with Anthony still on the team.
Also, if Anthony sticks around with the Knicks for at least a few months, he can prove to the Rockets as well as other championship contenders that he is still a star and that this drama-filled offseason hasn't gotten the best of him. His trade stock isn't very high at the moment, and a few good months of him balling like the All Star that he is could lead to the Knicks getting pieces they want in a deal.
There are also more players who can be included in trades around Christmas, due to contractual reasons. Most players who just signed new deals can not be traded until December.
The drama ends and the Knicks move on in another direction as Anthony contends for a title. This is the situation that he wants, and it's the situation the Knicks wouldn't have a problem with if they got assets in return. Ryan Anderson and his ludicrous three years, $60 million remaining would just be a disaster for the Knicks to take on. His and Joakim Noah's contract would haunt the Knicks until 2020. The Rockets could give in and maybe include Trevor Ariza or Eric Gordon and a couple of first-round picks. It's definitely not a great haul, but it's somewhat respectable.
The Rockets traded a bunch of pieces in the Chris Paul deal that could have been part of a deal for Anthony. They aren't left with a ton on the roster that can help the Knicks in the future, and their draft picks are going to be towards the end of the first round. Nene? Clint Capela? Luc Mbah a Moute? None of those players are leaving anyone thrilled.
Still, a trade would have the Knicks in the clear of Anthony's two years and $51 million remaining on his contract. And it would allow them to start a new chapter and maybe get the rebuilding process going.
Knicks playing hardball
This probably is the least likely scenario, but the Knicks could go the hardball route. They could keep Anthony and either bench him or perhaps play him in limited minutes. This has soap opera written all over it, but if Anthony isn't happy and it potentially shows on the court, you never know.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek didn't seem to have an outstanding relationship with his star players last season, and him limiting Anthony's minutes or not playing him at all wouldn't be too bizarre.
However, I just can't see this situation happening unless Anthony is moping around and not playing to his full potential. Anthony should want to play as well as he can if he wants to leave. He's getting paid a ton of money, and being a drama queen isn't going to help him in any way, shape, or form.
It's going to be intriguing to see what happens, especially in the coming days. If Melo is a Knick on Monday, fire up the Ringling Barnum & Bailey Circus again, because it's going to be a wild training camp.
Whatever happens, the Knicks shouldn't settle on a trade just to make Anthony happy. They hold the cards here. They are paying him $26.2 million this season. Buckle up.