LeBron James has the free-agency cure-all for Carmelo Anthony: Do what makes you smile.
"You got to do whatever makes [you] happy at the end of the day," he said, via ESPN New York's Ian Begley. "If you’re happy, the game of basketball is going to be fun for you. Strive to be great every day, and you can live with whatever else happens."
James, who left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat in 2010, knows what he's talking about. Aware that he stood a better chance of winning in Miami, he abandoned the team that drafted him to chase championships alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Two titles and three NBA Finals appearances later, it's clear his decision paid off.
Anthony is in a slightly different situation. This will be the first time he has ever hit free agency, but he's much older than James was then and is already playing for the team of his choice. But the same methodology still applies—play where you're most happy.
At the moment, that may not be New York, where Anthony's Knicks—while winners of four straight—are eight games under .500. Realistically, they could be the first of his teams to ever miss the playoffs. Seems unlikely, given how awful the Eastern Conference is, but it's still possible.
Suffering yet another first- or even second-round exit might not sit well with Anthony, either. He's made it out of the first round just twice in 10 years, and out of the second round only once. Another poor playoff campaign will work against the Knicks, as will their financial outlook.
Barring an unforeseen series of salary dumps, the Knicks won't have cap space this summer. They can offer Anthony a five-year deal worth $129 million, but they don't have the financial wiggle room or necessary assets to land another star.
Unable to build around Anthony this offseason, ESPN's Brian Windhorst indicated the Knicks plan to sell 'Melo on summer 2015, when Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert, among others, could all be available.
Going on 30, though, Anthony may be turned off by the idea of waiting. It's exactly what he's been doing since he arrived in 2011. Asking him to remain patient could inspire him to leave.
Problem is, Anthony doesn't have a whole lot of options. We know he wants to play in a big market—hence his interest in New York roughly three years ago—limiting his potential destinations.
The Los Angeles Lakers figure to have cap space, but not enough to sign him and a talented supporting cast. Their Staples Center rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, are an interesting fit because of Chris Paul, but they won't have any cap space.
Signing with the Chicago Bulls is a possibility if they're able to dump a long-term contract—Taj Gibson, perhaps—and amnesty Carlos Boozer, but even they're a long shot. Who knows if Anthony will want to play alongside the injury-prone Derrick Rose after what he's gone through with Amar'e Stoudemire?
Which begs another question: Would Anthony accept less money to win?
James doesn't have the answer to that one.
"I recommend it to me. It fit me," James said of taking a pay cut, per Begley. "What I do don’t work for everybody."
If winning truly matters to Anthony, and he wants to increase his list of potential landing spots or give the Knicks added flexibility, what James did in 2010 may be what he needs to do this summer.
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