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NBA AM: Carmelo Anthony Still In Play

Despite the Knicks hiring of Phil Jackson as team president, Carmelo Anthony’s future in New York is still uncertain

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Phil Jackson is onboard in New York, but is Carmelo Anthony for the long term?

The New York Knicks haven’t won a NBA championship since 1973 and haven’t come close to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy since a trip to the Finals in 1999. After a decade filled with disappointment and  plenty of inconsistency, the Knicks named 13-time NBA champion Phil Jackson as team president on  Tuesday in an effort to create more structure within their basketball operations unit.

On the surface, bringing in Jackson, provides immediate credibility and stability to a franchise who has constantly been battling an unfavorable public perception in the media and within their fan base. While Jackson will essentially be a rookie learning the ropes in his new role, the league veteran commands attention and is still widely respected among players around the league overall.

One of Jackson’s first orders of business will be handling All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency. Anthony served notice at the beginning of the season that he would be exercising his early termination option for the 2015 campaign in order to test the free agency market.

Make sure to watch: Phil Jackson’s first moves with Knicks

The Knicks can offer the high scoring 29 year old more than any other team and north of $120 million on a long term deal. However, with New York currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs this season, speculation continues on which franchises are expected to line up for an opportunity to talk with Anthony once free agency begins.

According to a recent report by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets are two destinations which are rumored to intrigue Anthony at the moment.

The Rockets (45-22) are currently fourth in the Western Conference standings behind the play of All-Stars Dwight Howard and James Harden. There is a belief the Rockets can shed enough salary to offer a deal close to the max in order to secure Anthony.  The primary targets of any salary shedding in Houston will of course be Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, both of whom will combine to count roughly $16.8 million against the team’s cap for next season.

Over the past week, Anthony’s public comments have been extremely favorable about the organization bringing in Jackson. But while Tuesday was a day to rejoice for the Knicks’ faithful after bringing Jackson into the fold, the team’s biggest prize and leading scorer name still isn’t neatly autographed on a long term deal. There is plenty of time between now and July 1, when free agency begins, so Jackson still has some convincing to do in order to keep Anthony in town long term – especially if Houston makes a strong playoff run over the next two months.

Expect the Anthony sweepstakes to get even more interesting.

Brooklyn’s Shaun Livingston set to be a free agent player this summer

Most thought point guard Shaun Livingston’s career came to a crashing halt in 2007 after suffering a gruesome knee injury. It took years to regain the form which made him the fourth overall pick of the 2004 draft, but Livingston is arguably enjoying the best season of his professional career in Brooklyn.

But as the season comes to a close, the reality that Livingston will have to make a huge decision this summer comes clearer into focus.

The guard is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and will have to decide whether to take a smaller payout to remain in Brooklyn or potentially secure a more lucrative payday in another city.

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For Livingston, he understands that Brooklyn has put him in a position to thrive and rejuvenate his career, but also is cognizant of the fact due to his injury history that any play could be his last. Livingston plans to weigh both once free agency officially opens in July.

“(My enjoyment with Brooklyn and how I fit) definitely plays a factor,” Livingston told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “You have to weigh your situations, your options. The reason I’m in a situation where I can demand a contract is because I’m playing for this team, this coach, this system. I realize that and I’m not over my head. But at the same time, it’s a business. You have to look at it like (the next contract) could always be your last. Especially me.”

The Nets’ current payroll is $102 million but the team is expected to pay a total north of $180 million after you factor in luxury tax penalties. Next season the team already has $85 million in guaranteed salaries on the books with a free agency decision to make on Livingston and veteran forward Paul Pierce. Forwards Alan Anderson, Andray Blatche and Andrei Kirilenko have player options they can exercise which would push the payroll to close to $91 million.

Livingston is anticipating a different free agency experience than the one he experience in 2010 where he signed a two-year $7 million deal with Charlotte.

“(Free agency) will be different,” Livingston said. “I had one year where it was like, okay, a little bit (of hype), but it’s not the same as this. Not even close. I don’t even know what to expect. My thing has been no expectations.”

For the season Livingston 7.9 points, 3.1 assists and 3 rebounds per game in 64 appearances (42 starts). During the month of March Livingston is averaging 10.2 points on 51 percent shooting from the floor.

James Dolan Horrified By New York Knicks’ Slow Start

Last season the New York Knicks won 54 regular season games and advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000. This season the club is on pace to win just 33 games and are projected to miss the playoffs entirely.

To say the Knicks’ season hasn’t gone as planned would be an understatement for the ages.

The Knicks have saved a little face by hiring Phil Jackson as team president, a move which will bring credibility and respect to a much maligned executive staff. However, the harsh realities of this disappointing season still permeates the air.

Madison Square Garden chariman James Dolan was vocal in his disgust for the way things have played out this season and thought the club had title potential entering the campaign.

“I’m horrified,” Dolan told Michael Kay of ESPN Radio (NY) on how the Knicks’ season has developed. “None of us expected, including any of the players, to have a season like this. We were coming off of a 54 game winning season. We thought we made the team better. And to be honest, I think we did. If you look at what we did over the summer, I mean there was no keeping Jason Kidd obviously, but I thought that we did a fairly decent job. But basically it’s pretty much the same team as last year’s team. You wouldn’t expect a team with the same coach and relatively the same players that has a 54 game winning season to step out and do half of that the next season, unless there were serious injuries.

“We did have some injuries, and we did have some things to distract us but I don’t think that that completely explains it and to be honest I don’t have an explanation. It’s one of the reasons why I could have gone to the media, me and [general manager] Steve (Mills), and said we don’t have an explanation, but why don’t I think that you guys would have been real, I don’t think many people would be really sympathetic about that, we just appear inept and we couldn’t talk about what we were doing, so you know.”

The Knicks are currently four and a half games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have 15 games remaining on the schedule.

March Madness is Here

The 2014 NCAA Tournament is about to get underway, and Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth coverage of March Madness you’ll find:

Want a preview of every single NCAA Tournament game? Click here.

Check out a breakdown of the tournament field by clicking here.

Who are this year’s Cinderella teams to keep an eye on? Find out here.

Who needs to do well in the tourney to help their draft stock? Click here to find out.

Can Wichita State win it all after going undefeated? An interview with their star.

Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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