Carmelo Anthony's mixed message to Knicks: 'I want to come back, but I also want to win'

Carmelo Anthony speaks with the media at the

Carmelo Anthony speaks with the media at the Knicks training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Credit: Errol Anderson)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony wore a red baseball cap with the letters "NY" on the front and talked about wanting to remain a Knick. But he also sounded tormented about not being in the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career.

He called it "embarrassing" and "a failure," and said he wants to play for a contender next season.

That might not be with the Knicks unless new president Phil Jackson can wield some magic with a team that's over the salary cap and has few assets to trade and no draft picks this year.

"I want to come back," Anthony said Thursday afternoon. "But I also want to win. If we can put ourselves in position to at least compete at a high level over the course of whatever the contract would be, then I'm willing to stay here and I'm willing to ride or die for New York.

"I've never once said I wanted to leave. I always said that I wanted to explore my options. I wanted to see what's out there."

If Anthony re-signs with the Knicks in July, he can get a five-year deal for roughly $129 million. He would get about $34 million less if he went to another team.

But Anthony, 29, who played the last two weeks with a partially torn right labrum, said the money is mostly irrelevant. He said the most important thing is not just making the playoffs but advancing deep in the postseason -- consistently.

"At this point in my career, it's about winning," he said. "Nothing else even matters. That's going to be my No. 1 thing.

"I'm not concerned about the money. The contract will be the contract regardless. I'd like to consider myself financially stable. From that part of it, I'm not worried about it. To me, it's more of the day-to-day stuff of putting together a situation where I'm able to compete at a high level night in and night out, and when it comes down to it, having the chance to reach my ultimate goal, which is winning that championship."

The Knicks went 37-45, a 17-victory drop-off from last season's 54-win team that reached the second round of the playoffs.

There are expected to be changes, starting with the coach. Jackson and general manager Steve Mills met with players during Thursday's exit interviews. Mike Woodson wasn't involved. But Anthony's future is the team's most pressing issue.

The Bulls are a ready-made contender and could have the money, roster and coach to lure Anthony to Chicago. The Rockets, Lakers and Clippers also could try to land him.

There has been speculation that the Knicks might not want to do anything to their roster that impacts the salary-cap flexibility they're scheduled to have in 2015. But Anthony doesn't want to give away another season.

"We've got to keep moving forward," he said. "We have to build. Let's be quite frank about it, we have to get better.

"I don't know if I can afford to wait another season of losing. I really can't see that picture right now. As far as other teams that's out there, which quote unquote team will be the best situation? You never know. Sometimes the grass isn't always greener on the other side. This is stuff that I'm going to have to sit down with my family and really figure things out."

Anthony said he enjoyed the "wisdom" and "knowledge" that Jackson imparted to him during the exit interview. He said he could "sit down and listen all day long" to Jackson.

But Anthony also said he wants to "get away" and "decompress" and get "some clarity" after this physically and mentally taxing season.

"Not making the playoffs is definitely a failure for me," Anthony said. "This is definitely a chapter in my book that I would never, ever forget about . . . "

And now he could look to write a new chapter elsewhere.

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