Carmelo Anthony has an opt-out clause in his contract with the New York Knicks that could allow him to become a free agent on July 1, 2014. The Knicks must take all steps necessary during the upcoming season and beyond to make sure that their superstar's eyes do not wander.
Despite his unwillingness to address the subject, the Knicks star is almost certain to exercise the clause, even if he intends to remain in New York. Doing so will allow him to sign a new long-term deal.
Like most players, Anthony will consider three main factors when deciding where to sign: money, location and the opportunity to win a championship.
The first two work in the Knicks' favor. This will be Anthony's last maximum-salary deal and he wants to make the most of it. If he opts out, he can receive up to $95.90 million over four years from another team. The Knicks can offer a fifth year, totaling $129.14 million. It is difficult to imagine Melo leaving $33.24 million on the table, especially given his affinity for New York.
Anthony was born in Brooklyn and pushed the Denver Nuggets to trade him to his native city in 2011. His wife La La was also born and raised in New York’s most populated borough. The spotlight shining on the Big Apple is beneficial to Carmelo's brand and La La's acting career.
The only city that could provide the power couple with as much exposure as NYC is Los Angeles, and there have been reports that the Los Angeles Lakers plan to pursue Anthony and/or LeBron James next summer. However, the Lakers cannot match the Knicks’ offer, and the franchise has been heading in the wrong direction since Jerry Buss handed over the reins to his son Jim.
"Yeah, I'm not going no where" Anthony told Bloomberg TV Market Makers in September. But a lot can change in a year. The Syracuse University product could explore other options if the Knicks have a disappointing season.
Anthony knows that his legacy will be determined by the number of rings on his fingers. The six-time All-Star turns 30 in May and has admitted that his title window is closing.
Anthony and the Knicks won 54 games and the Atlantic Division title last season, but fell well short of their championship aspirations, losing to the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs. A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would be necessary to convince Anthony that this aging team is headed in the right direction.
That is a tall order in an improved Eastern Conference. The Pacers will be stronger with a healthy Danny Granger and revamped bench. Derrick Rose is expected to be at full strength for the Chicago Bulls, and the Miami Heat is returning the nucleus of its back-to-back championship teams.
The Knicks may not even be the best team in New York after the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce by their crosstown rival the Brooklyn Nets. New York will be hard-pressed to secure home court advantage in the first round, and a deep playoff run seems like a long shot.
If the Knicks fail to contend for a championship, it will be incumbent upon management to convince Anthony that they will acquire the pieces necessary to do so in the future. Owner James Dolan and general manager Glen Grunwald's sales pitch would center on the team's cap flexibility in the summer of 2015.
The Knicks need another superstar to play alongside Anthony, but do not have the salary cap space or assets to acquire one. The team is almost certain to be well above the salary cap again in 2014-15.
Amar’e Stoudemire’s albatross of a contract, as well as Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani's deals (about $49.5 million annually), come off the books in 2015, and the Knicks do not have any players guaranteed money for the 2015-16 season. New York can use that cap space to add another All-Star, plus a couple more second-tier talents to join Anthony and up-and-comer Iman Shumpert in the Knicks’ lineup.
Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love (player option for 2015-16), LaMarcus Aldridge and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol, are just some of the players who could hit the free-agent market in 2015. New York could also use its cap space to trade for a disgruntled All-Star.
Of course, Anthony would have to sign with the Knicks next summer on faith, a risky proposition given the propensity for stars to stay with their current teams under the new collective bargaining agreement. He could spend the remainder of his prime trying to drag a bunch of role players over the hump.
Yet, the possibility of adding a few key pieces in 2015, combined with the financial advantages and lifestyle that New York has to offer, should be enough to keep Carmelo Anthony in a Knicks uniform beyond next summer.