Carmelo Anthony may do more than just opt out of his contract. He may be opting out of New York as well.
Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials in Los Angeles on Friday ended with Anthony’s future never more in doubt. In fact, he is reportedly leaning toward leaving the Knicks to join a championship contender with the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets emerging as top candidates according to Yahoo Sports.
The Daily News reported on Thursday that Anthony is sticking with his plan to opt out of his contract and test free agency this summer despite Phil Jackson’s public request that the seven-time All-Star wait until July 1, 2015, before becoming a free agent.
Jackson is hoping that Anthony would exercise patience and delay his free agency until next summer, when the Knicks will have added salary-cap flexibility once the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani expire. However, a person close to Anthony says the 30-year-old former Syracuse star, who has been to just one conference final, doesn’t want to give up another season without a legitimate shot at winning a title.
Yahoo reported that both Chicago and Houston would be open to sign-and-trade possibilities with the Knicks. Bulls GM John Paxson is very close with Jackson, his former coach, and it is conceivable that the two could negotiate a deal involving Anthony. The Knicks could take back a package featuring Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract plus a first-round draft pick.
The Rockets could include center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin in a deal that could result in a four-year, $90 million contract for Anthony. Asik and Lin are entering the final year of their respective contracts.
Miami remains an intriguing, albeit complicated, option as well. ESPN reported on Wednesday that the Heat is hoping to have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opt out of their current contracts and take less money in order for Miami to sign Anthony.
Anthony has maintained all along that his preference is to remain in New York. Jackson, the Knicks’ president, maintains that he’d like to keep Anthony and yet has also acknowledged that losing him wouldn’t compromise the club’s future plans.
“If it’s in the cards, man are we fortunate,” Jackson said in late April about re-signing Anthony. “If it’s not in the cards, man are we fortunate. We’re going forward anyway.”
Jackson’s plan is to dip into the free-agent market in 2015 and perhaps take a run at Kevin Durant in 2016. Durant and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher are former teammates with Oklahoma City.
It’s not an unrealistic plan but it’s hard to imagine Anthony being part of it. His camp has been upset with Jackson’s public comments regarding Anthony. Jackson has told the press that he’d like to see Anthony take less money and not opt out of his contract. Anthony, according to a source, sees that as Jackson trying to paint him into a corner.
There is also the James Dolan factor to take into consideration. Dolan was responsible for acquiring Anthony from Denver in a deal that cost the Knicks their 2014 first-round pick.
Dolan would have no qualms about signing Anthony to a “max” contract, which clearly isn’t Jackson’s preferred course of action. Dolan has said publicly that Jackson is in charge of the basketball operation. However, Dolan once claimed that then-Knicks president Donnie Walsh had full autonomy, and yet when it came to the Anthony negotiations, Dolan usurped Walsh’s power and took over the trade talks.
To add to the Melo drama, Dirk Nowitzki made a public plea for Anthony to consider joining him in Dallas.
“If Carmelo would really love to come here,’’ Nowitzki said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, “we’d love to have him.”
Anthony will become a free agent on July 1, and the Mavericks will have the salary-cap space to offer him a lucrative deal. Coincidentally, Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Dolan have a close relationship.
When asked if he and Anthony can co-exist, Nowitzki said: “Listen, I think I’ve showed over my 16 years that I can play with anybody.”
Anthony averaged 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds on 45% shooting for the Knicks this season. He also missed the playoffs for the first time in his career. Fisher would be the third head coach Anthony has played for in New York since coming to the Knicks in February of 2011.