LeBron James: Carmelo Anthony's 'Number One Thing' in Free Agency Is to Win

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

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LeBron James knows something you most definitely know already too: Carmelo Anthony doesn't like losing.

Before leading his Miami Heat to a 106-91 slaying massacre victory over the New York Knicks, James was asked about Anthony's impending free agency. Those hoping he would come right out and say Anthony was prepared to accept the veteran's minimum to join the Heat were left crestfallen. He provided no such assurances, nor did he offer any potential destinations.

James did, however, offer a glimpse into Anthony's mindset.

"He loves to play basketball and just like the rest of us, we want to win. That’s the number one thing," James told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley. "When you do something your whole life, you want to win at it and you want to work at it. You don’t want it to be easy but you want to give yourself an opportunity to win."

Shocking, right? An NBA superstar who doesn't like not contending for championships? Weird.

Anthony wants to win, and the Knicks aren't winning.
Anthony wants to win, and the Knicks aren't winning.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Once Anthony exercises his early termination option this summer, his future with the Knicks will be in doubt. While he was previously considered a lock to re-sign, a season marred by losing and lack of options have infused unhealthy doses of uncertainty into his free-agency process.

Heading into their Monday night bout against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks are still one game behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

This season-long struggle comes from a team that was projected to finish in the top five of asupposedlytop-heavy East. The Knicks have been unable to meet expectations, though, leaving them at the will of Anthony's thirst for winning.

And make no mistake, Anthony is parched.

"That’s the only thing I care about," he told Begley earlier.

Anything else is irrelevant to me when it comes to basketball. Championship is the only thing that’s on my mind, is the only thing I want to accomplish, I want to achieve, and I’m going to do what I got to do to get that.

Does that mean Anthony is willing to accept less in his quest for a title? If he intends to leave the Knicks, he'll have to.

New York appears hellbent on not trading him, so the only way he can leave is via free agency, where interested teams can offer him four years and close to $96 million. That's not only significantly less than the five years and $129-plus million the Knicks can offer him, but there aren't a lot of big-market teams with that kind of spending power this summer.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers battle for positioning at Staples Center on December 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
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The Los Angeles Lakers have long been considered a threat to pry Anthony out of New York. Their history of fielding championship outfits and Anthony's friendship with Kobe Bryant certainly work in their favor.

However, it's unclear if Anthony is prepared to risk becoming known as the player who lost in both New York and Los Angeles. There's also Bryant's age (35) to consider.

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski previously intimated that Anthony was interested in the Chicago Bulls, writing that they "could create a maximum contract slot," allowing them to pair Anthony with Derrick Rose. There's a common misconception there, though.

Amnestying Carlos Boozer this summer won't get them there. For the Bulls to even have a shot at Anthony, they would have to dump Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson's contracts as well. Those are a lot of hoops to jump through just to maybe, quite possibly, if they're lucky, have a chance at landing Anthony.

Whether he wishes to remain with the Knicks or not, Anthonyfor want of better optionsmay be stuck in New York, forced to put his immediate championship hopes on hold. 

That is, unless he's willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

"That’s my motivating factor," Anthony said of winning a title. "Nothing else even motivates me anymore, just that."

The authenticity of Anthony's claims will not be measured until this summer, when he has the opportunity to put winning ahead of absolutely everything.


Salary information via ShamSports.