Derek Fisher’s opening press conference as head coach would not have been complete without addressing the biggest topic on the Knicks hands — likely free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony.
The All-Star forward will likely opt out on July 1, making him an unrestricted free agent. And while Fisher, president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills all stated they want Anthony to return, the ball is in the player’s court.
The Knicks can offer nearly $30 million more in their deal since they hold his Bird Rights, but winning and a definitive plan going forward will also factor heavily into Anthony’s decision.
“As far as Carmelo, we feel he’s one of the top players in the world and we want him to be here, but ultimately it’s his choice,” Fisher said. “He’s never been a free agent, so perhaps he wants to go through that process. But that’s not an indictment against the franchise or the city. My reading isn’t good as to if he’ll stay or go, but we’ll be better served to gauge once Steve and Phil sit down with him. We’ll do whatever we can do to give him the confidence that we can get the job done and put together a team that he can feel proud of and contend in the NBA. ... It makes the job tough, but I accept the challenge.”
Jackson also refused to gauge the probability of Anthony staying, but did joke about having an idea as to Fisher’s strategy in helping recruit the star player.
“I’ll have Derek wear all five of his rings to show Carmelo the first time they talk,” Jackson joked. “They played enough ball against each other over the years — Lakers versus Denver — so he [Anthony] already has a feel for what Derek can offer. When Derek was the NBA’s players’ union president it showed what a great leader he is. And I’m sure he [Anthony] took note of that as well.”
Jackson said he and Mills will soon meet with Anthony and his reps: “Steve and I plan on meeting with Carmelo and his people in the near future and again we’ll express our desire to have him back. We haven’t a plan one way or another if he opts-in or opts-out because that’s his choice. It’s his right to do that.”
Fisher on Anthony: “He’s one of the great ones and in due time I’ll speak with all of our players, not just Carmelo. But there won’t be any hesitation to possibly work with him. I would love to work with Carmelo and we’ll see what happens.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.