Carmelo Anthony should stay with Knicks

Carmelo Anthony deserves this time to be a free agent, to be wooed and recruited by grand cities like the Windy City, dear friends like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and ambitious organizations like the Houston Rockets.

But once Anthony goes through the type of recruiting tour every NBA star dreams of having in his prime, Melo should think long and hard.

And his final decision should be to stay in New York.

I totally understand why Melo could leave should he believe his odds of winning a title elsewhere are better. But by staying, Anthony has a chance to finish what he started with his trade from Denver. He can blaze his own trail by staying with the Knicks, letting Phil Jackson build around him and hopefully helping turn a basketball championship-starved city into winners again.

Understandably, it will be difficult for Melo to resist the urge to seek help elsewhere. But instead, why not work with Phil on bringing help to you in New York? Trust the Zen Master’s vision and follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Let Jackson show you how to go from incredible individual talent to title winner.

By all accounts, Anthony wants to win badly. He cares deeply about his legacy and missing the postseason for the first time this past season surely left a nasty taste in his mouth. No perennial All-Star with the competitive juices that fuel Anthony will be content to be in the Charles Barkley club -- all-time great talent who often didn’t have enough support to win a ring.

And saying yes to staying in New York likely comes with the disclaimer that the Knicks will not be able to add significant reinforcements until next summer. Sure, there’s a risk in playing for a first-time head coach in Derek Fisher and there are no guarantees Phil will succeed as a first-time executive and be able to lure stars to join the Knicks in 2015.

But there are risks everywhere else, as well.

The path to a title certainly seems quicker if Anthony leaves and joins Chicago, Houston or Miami. Perhaps some suitor out there like the Lakers or the Heat can find a way to make the dream pair of LeBron and Melo happen.

Chicago is tempting because Anthony can be coached by the great Tom Thibodeau and play alongside versatile All-Star Joakim Noah and former MVP Derrick Rose, which would be a formidable trio in the East. As a Jordan Brand client, the idea of bringing a title to Chicago like Jordan once did has to be exciting.

But the risk, of course, is Rose and his fragile body. And there’s been the reported friction between Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman, which could always impact the coach’s future.

Houston looks so enticing with Dwight Howard and James Harden. The Rockets also offer Anthony an avenue to expand his brand into China, where the Rockets are immensely popular. There’s also no state income tax in Texas and that would offset taking less money than in New York, which can offer Anthony a max contract of $129.1 million over five seasons. However, the Rockets reside in the Western Conference, where your path to the NBA Finals feels like going through a gauntlet.

James could very well come calling and try to convince Melo to join the South Beach craze of giving up big money for a possible Big Four, becoming a Pat Riley disciple and enjoying no state income tax, as well. Also, Kobe will try to sell the purple and gold, Hollywood and tons of cap space.

It will all be tempting. Melo loves the New York stage and he might have his heart set on returning to New York deep down. But once free agency and recruiting begins, all bets are off.

Still, Melo should remember what it felt like to take the Knicks to the playoffs and how intoxicating it can be to win and experience magical nights at the Garden, like his unforgettable 62-point explosion against Charlotte this past season.

While Anthony didn’t start and play his entire career in one city like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki did, the Knicks’ prolific scorer can still try to do what Duncan and Nowitzki have done. Both have long resisted the urge to join other stars elsewhere and were still able to win it all. They let their teams build around them.

Let Phil do the same with you here in New York. It will be a grind and a risk, no doubt. But blaze your own trail, Melo, finish what you started and do something nobody has been able to do since 1973 -- bring New York an NBA championship.