NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony wanted to be a Knick a few years ago, and nothing has changed now.
Anthony is staying in New York, announcing his decision Sunday in a posting titled “My City, My Heart” on his website.
“This organization has supported me and in return, I want to stay and build here with this city and my team,” Anthony said.
He explained that he owed it to himself to explore all his options as a free agent, and thanked the teams he met with for their interest.
“Through it all, my heart never wavered,” he wrote.
The Knicks can pay the All-Star forward nearly $130 million over five years, though Anthony said he would be open to taking less than the maximum salary if it would help build a winning team — and team president Phil Jackson said Sunday, speaking after New York’s summer league practice in Las Vegas, that Anthony did exactly that.
“He did exactly what we kind of asked him to do — give us a break in the early part of his contract so that when we have some wiggle room next year, which will hopefully be big enough wiggle room, we can exploit it, provide a more competitive team for our group,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he and team officials have known longer than indicated Anthony would sign, but did not want to say anything until they could crunch the numbers and get to a figure everybody agreed upon.
“There were some issues about how to structure all the financial part of it,” Jackson said. “That’s still something you can’t jump the gun on, so we just held on to our information for a while. We’re all set.”
And now, the next step in rebuilding the Knicks can occur. Jackson is still cautioning that it will take time, but having Anthony is clearly a big piece of the puzzle.
Anthony decided four summers ago he wanted a trade from Denver to New York, and the Nuggets were finally able to accommodate him in February 2011. Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, wrote in his posting that at that time he had dreamed of coming back of New York.
But the 30-year-old forward also wants to compete for championships, and the Knicks don’t seem ready at the moment. They went 37-45 last season, the first time in Anthony’s 11-year career he missed the postseason.
Jackson’s arrival in March helped provide Anthony with the confidence to return, believing the organization can return to its glory days and contend for a title.
“We’re glad Carmelo is seeing that we have the vision, trusted us with what we anticipate,” said Jackson, who won 11 NBA titles as a coach — six with Chicago and five with the Los Angeles Lakers. “He implied and impressed upon us his desire to win and to be on a competitive team. And our message to him is we are going to be a competitive team.
“It may not be instantaneous, we may not be able to just drop in and win a championship,” Jackson said. “But it’s going to be something that we’re goal-oriented and that’s the direction we’re going. And so we’re really happy he came through and agreed to apply his talents with us.”
Anthony met with Chicago, Houston, Dallas and the Lakers after terminating the final year of his contract and becoming a free agent July 1. A few of those teams seem much closer to contending than the Knicks, but none could offer anywhere near the salary under NBA rules, which allow players to sign five-year deals with their current teams but only for four years with another.
“I am looking forward to continue my career in Orange & Blue and to work with Phil Jackson, a champion who builds championship teams,” Anthony wrote.
Jackson and the Knicks made it clear how much they wanted to keep the 2012-13 NBA scoring champion, telling him in a July 3 meeting in Los Angeles that they were willing to pay him the maximum allowable salary.
“There never was any tension in our conversations,” Jackson said. “I think it really went very well for us. All the conversations were relaxed, they were comfortable. You had the feeling that he really wanted to listen to what was offered and he really wanted us to hear him and we did.”
Anthony took another 10 days to announce his decision, though apparently the Knicks were his preference all along.
“I will always remember this chapter in my life,” he wrote. “In the end, I am a New York Knick at heart.”