Just a few years removed from seeing him turn his nose up at their overtures, the Houston Rockets today will finally have their date with Carmelo Anthony. They’ll get to make their pitch on their home-court and show him their newly renovated facilities. Anthony then will get on a plane and head to Dallas where Mark Cuban will do much of the same, except with a presumptuous look on his face. There won’t be any late-night dinner and soaking in of the Houston skyline (?) as there was last night in Chicago. But still, Houston will get the shot they hadn’t gotten before. They’re thin now and their acne has cleared up. They now hope to project that newfound confidence upon Anthony with Dwight Howard in the room.
There are those who believe that the timing of these meetings holds no significance, that it is merely a coincidence of geography. I tend to disagree. It means nothing that he visited Chicago first, with its proximity to New York. But that Anthony spent the entire day with the Bulls while only apportioning half-day meetings with the Rockets and Mavericks should give reason for pause. His heart is in Chicago: the glitz and glamour the big city has to offer, the same stuff to which he’s become accustomed over the past few years. The duration of these meetings should not be seen as insignificant. If all else were equal, I think Anthony would already be a Bull.
But all else isn’t equal as signing Anthony would require some cap gymnastics. It appears that even after trading highly valuable swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls could only offer Anthony a contract starting at around $17million. Giving Anthony something closer to his actual max would require the Knicks taking back Carlos Boozer in a sign&trade, something they, at the moment, appear unwilling to do.
Houston, on the other hand, from most indications, can free up close to $20million after unloading the contracts of Jeremy Lin, Donatas Motiejunas, and Isaiah Canaan. This ontop of the tax savings makes Houston the more preferable destination, financially.
This whole decision could be in Phil Jackson’s hands. We’ve beaten the merits of each destination firmly into the ground. Would Phil budge on taking back Boozer if Mirotic is included? Keeping Boozer altogether would put the Knicks in luxury tax hell, but they could look to trade him as an expiring later in the year. I don’t think ‘Melo can use the bluff of signing with Houston outright to bait Phil into a sign&trade: letting Anthony walk is preferable to taking Boozer. But what if Houston offers its own sign&trade package? Would a package featuring Jeremy Lin and the Pelicans pick convince Jackson to lend a hand? If Carmelo Anthony wants his money, this thing very well could come down to what package Phil Jackson is willing to take.
In any event, Houston will have its meeting with Anthony later today. It will go well and the Rockets will come out confident because that is how everyone in the history of meetings has described themselves to the media afterward.
-The other news yesterday was that Houston tried to smooth things over with former point guard Kyle Lowry. The team reportedly made an offer, which Lowry is mulling over, also approaching Toronto with a sign&trade. The whole scenario leads one to wonder what the hell is going on or whether some of these reports are inaccurate. Had Lowry committed to signing with the Rockets into their cap space, the Anthony dream would be over; had Lowry been acquired for Lin, the Anthony dream would be over; had Lowry been swapped for Chandler Parsons, well, this whole thing would be really awkward…Houston reportedly plans to make its pitch today to Anthony with Parsons’ presence on the roster as a part of the presentation.
You can bet money that Daryl Morey has drawn up several contingency plans upon which to act in the event of any number of preceding events. He’s been playing chess for some years now: he’s not exactly going to get caught with his pants down if striking out on Anthony and say, “f*** it, I’ll offer Jordan Hill 5 years at $50million.” The guy that would have done that is now enjoying a senior consulting role within the organization, very, very safely away from these decisions, please rest assured. My hunch is that the media has simply caught wind of various fragments of conversations, from different parties, and the result, manifested in these reports, is a scattered plan. Houston may very well strike out, and the odds lean in that favor. But they won’t panic and any move made will be rational.
-A final note, on Marcin Gortat, who just extracted $60million at 5 years. I think Omer Asik will command a higher annual figure. But more strangely, lately, I’ve been personalizing these contracts to a degree at which I never had before. Can you imagine the feeling of signing a contract that will guarantee you receive $60million? I simply can’t.
There will certainly be news today. Follow me on Twitter if you haven’t. I’ll rant about something.