Phil Jackson sounded like an executive who's ready to take a hard stance in negotiations with Carmelo Anthony.
The new Knicks president made two things clear about Carmelo in his end-of-season chat with reporters Wednesday:
1. He'd like to see Anthony take less than maximum money to re-sign with the Knicks.
2. He's not losing any sleep over the idea that the Knicks may lose Anthony to another suitor this summer.
"I’m all about moving forward," Jackson said. "Just deal with what is and move forward. If it’s in the cards, man, are we fortunate. If it’s not in the cards, man, are we fortunate. We’re going forward anyway."
On the subject of max money, Jackson didn't pull the idea of Anthony taking a pay cut out of thin air.
Anthony himself suggested in February that he'd be willing to sign with the Knicks at a discounted rate if it gave the team an opportunity to sign other big-name free agents.
"Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I'd do it," Anthony said. "I told people all the time, always say, if it takes me taking a pay cut, I'll be the first one on [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan's steps saying take my money, and let's build something strong over here."
Let's take a look at the math:
If Anthony re-signs with the Knicks, he can ink a five-year contract worth $129 million. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can earn is $95.8 million over four years.
Anthony has said his top priority in free agency is to put himself in a situation to contend for a championship.
Jackson astutely pointed out Wednesday that other stars have taken less money in pursuit of a title.
He mentioned Tim Duncan and the Big Three in Miami as examples.
"I think [there is] a precedent that's been set," Jackson said. "Because the way things have been structured now financially for teams is that it's really hard to have one or two top stars or max players, and to put together a team with enough talent, you've got to have people making sacrifices financially."
It sounded like a point Jackson may bring up when he, Anthony and Anthony's representatives sit down at the negotiating table in July.
"We hope that Carmelo is true to his word," Jackson added. "We understand what it's going to take, and we will present that to him at that time."
Here's the thing about Anthony taking less money: Unless he takes a huge pay cut in the first year of the contract, it won't really help the Knicks this summer.
But, as we explain here, an Anthony pay cut could give the Knicks extra space to pursue free agents in the summer of 2015. That summer, guys like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge are expected to be available. And, in 2016, Kevin Durant is expected to hit the market.
If Anthony walks, the Knicks would have even more cap space to pursue those high-end free agents in future summers.
But that is a topic for another time. This summer, it will be all about Anthony. And it sounds like Jackson is ready to play hardball.
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.