Melo deal allows Phil more 'wiggle room'

LAS VEGAS -- Carmelo Anthony is coming back to New York, as the Knicks announced Sunday afternoon, and for the first time, we know some of the more intimate details of the contract.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Saturday that the deal would be somewhere “north of $122 million.” Sunday, Phil Jackson insinuated the deal could pay Anthony less early in the contract.

“He did exactly what we kind of asked him to do,” Jackson explained. “Give us a break in the early part of his contract so that when we have some wiggle room next year, which is hopefully big enough wiggle room, we can exploit it.”

Like everything else, paying Anthony less in the first two years of the deal would be about providing flexibility for the 2015 offseason, when the Knicks have loads of money coming off the books.

Often, when signing a player Anthony’s age, you’ll see a team push for a contract that decreases in salary. By the time a five-year deal would run out, a 35-year-old Anthony will surely be less effective than he is today. Essentially, the Knicks would be paying more down the road for less production -- though with today’s medicine and Melo’s history of good health, a dip in Anthony’s production may not be all too extreme as his age advances to his mid-30s.

Still, it’s a calculated move to make, considering the Knicks' prioritizing of next offseason, and Jackson’s statement does shed a bit of light onto the financial mentality of a new regime.

“I want to be fiscally responsible,” he says. “We’ve been a taxpayer team for a little bit and we want to limit that.”

There’s a difference between being cheap and being frugal, intelligently spending when necessary. If a team isn’t going to be a championship contender, and Jackson has said time and time again the Knicks are far from that, then what would be the point of becoming a team that pays a repeater tax?

That’s why the Knicks, who still have the mini midlevel exception (which allows them to offer up to a $3.3 million contract), may not take advantage of all their assets. In Jackson’s words, “We’re not just going to foolishly throw money away because it’s available to us.”

The Knicks are preparing for a scenario to save some money, concerned most about their future.

Maybe, though, they do find someone who will take that $3.3 million exception on a short deal. After all, Jackson hardly denies they have weaknesses.

“We want to get aggressive with our big guys,” says the 11-time champ, providing some insight into the Knicks’ offseason strategy. “We want to provide some support back behind Melo. He carried a lot of minutes. We have a young guy in [Cleanthony] Early that’s looking good, but he’s still green. So, want to provide some support there. We need some rebounding.”

Anthony’s increasing deal wouldn’t be as burdensome as it might seem down the line, especially if the seven-time All-Star is still scoring and rebounding at all-world levels. Once the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2016, the salary cap is expected to skyrocket. That will help teams that have guys signed to the current max (or in Melo’s case, close to the current max).

Either way, with the return of Anthony, the Knicks finally have some glue to get other superstars to stick, and if everything truly is about the 2015 offseason, then that’s a necessary move.

You can follow Fred Katz on Twitter.