Updates from Monday, June 23
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News provides a statement from Carmelo Anthony's agent, Leon Rose, discussing Anthony's decision:
Anthony also sat down with Vice Sports to discuss his time in New York and what goes into making a decision in free agency:
Let the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes officially begin. As expected, Anthony will reportedly exercise his early termination option for the 2014-15 season, allowing the New York Knicks forward to hit unrestricted free agency July 1.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News first reported news of Anthony's decision:
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports confirmed Isola's report:
Howard Beck of Bleacher Report passed along more detail on Anthony's communication with the franchise:
Anthony, 30, was due a $23.33 million salary for next season. He has spent parts of each of the last four years with the Knicks after forcing a trade to the Big Apple midway through the 2010-11 campaign. New York finally satisfied the terms of that agreement by sending the No. 11 pick in this year's draft to the Denver Nuggets, and it eventually ended up with the Orlando Magic.
It would be a cruel twist of fate if that coincided with Anthony's departure.
A seven-time All-Star, Anthony is the crown jewel of this free-agent class. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can also hit free agency, but that's not expected at this time. Anthony will have his pick of numerous suitors, highlighted by the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls.
Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report broke down Anthony's options as he prepares to become one of the hottest commodities in the free agent market:
It certainly helps that Anthony hits free agency at the nadir of his Knicks tenure. An Eastern Conference semifinalist and 54-win team a year ago, New York scuffled to a miserable start and never recovered. The Knicks went just 37-45 thanks to a barrage of terrible offensive possessions, lackadaisical defensive efforts and the general rigidity of coach Mike Woodson.
The result was Anthony missing the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career. Knicks owner James Dolan went immediately to work as things went south, lavishing Phil Jackson with a $60 million offer to run basketball operations.
Jackson has zero experience commanding the day-to-day ins and outs, but his hiring was more about a cultural shift. With Jackson taking over and Dolan supposedly "willingly and gratefully" ceding power, the hope is to convince Anthony a new era has actually begun.
While Jackson has gone out of his way to say Anthony is part of the Knicks' plans, he's overall taken an interesting public tack. The two have met on multiple occasions since his hiring, and though it was a valid point, Jackson's insinuation that Anthony take a pay cut was mildly striking.
"I think [there is] a precedent that's been set," Jackson told reporters in April. "Because the way things have been structured now financially for teams is that it's really hard to have one or two top stars or max players, and to put together a team with enough talent, you've got to have people making sacrifices financially."
Under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, the Knicks can offer Anthony a five-year, $129 million contract. Other teams are limited to a four-year, $95.8 million deal—a difference of a little more than $33 million.
Anthony finds himself in a similar situation to Dwight Howard a year ago. Howard spent one miserable season with the Lakers, feuding with Kobe Bryant and Mike D'Antoni on a core going nowhere. He wound up leaving $30 million on the table to bolt for Houston, joining James Harden, Chandler Parsons and a front office led by Daryl Morey with a clear vision for the future.
It's unclear whether Anthony is willing to do the same. A source told Sporting News' Sean Deveney that Anthony wants the "Dwight Howard treatment" from teams, but that essentially means little more than a woo-fest. Anthony can take his visits, eat his free meals and watch his PowerPoint presentations and still return to New York.
The Rockets have the best core of talent available. Harden and Howard are the two best players at their positions, and though this roster has its flaws, a potential Big Three would rival any in the league. Houston also has roadblocks in the form of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin's onerous contracts, which are currently siphoning all its cap space.
The Bulls are one Carlos Boozer amnesty and some financial rejiggering away from having max money available. Signing in Chicago would involve Anthony banking on the health of Derrick Rose and the potential of Nikola Mirotic, a 23-year-old Spanish forward expected to come over next season. As well, Anthony and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau share a strong mutual respect.
"Thibs is a great coach. His system kind of reminds me of [Spurs coach] Gregg Popovich's system. You put anybody in that system and it's going to work. And that's what they’ve been doing," Anthony told reporters in April.
There is no shortage of intrigue here. Expect the four aforementioned teams to vie for Anthony's services tooth and nail—and don't be surprised if one or two dark horses join the mix as well.
Let's get to the wooing.
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