Despite the Zen Master's attempt to delay Melo's foray into free agency, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News says the All-Star forward's plan hasn't changed:
Carmelo Anthony hasn't wavered from his year-long intent to become a free agent on July 1st despite Phil Jackson's hopes to keep Anthony under contract through the 2014-15 season.
Barring a dramatic change of heart, Anthony will opt out of his contact and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, the Daily News has learned.
Sounds like it's time for plan B.
Sources previously told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Jackson was hoping Anthony would elect to finish out his current contract, take home the $23.3 million he's slated to earn next season and evaluate his options in 2015.
To be sure, reaching free agency doesn't mean Anthony plans on leaving the Knicks. They can still re-sign him, all while offering one year and tens of millions of dollars more than any other NBA team.
But while this isn't bad news, it's not good news either.
The Miami Heat's immediate focus remains overcoming a 2-1 NBA Finals deficit to the San Antonio Spurs, but discussions have begun within the organization about trying to grow their so-called Big Three into a Big Four, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that Heat officials and the team's leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.
Creating enough cap room to house a Big Four isn't especially difficult for Miami.
The Heat have just one player under guaranteed contract next season (Norris Cole) and two others who hold player options (Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen). If the Big Three opt out of their contracts, Riley can try to split Miami's available cap—which, in theory, would exceed $50 million—among LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Melo.
There's your problem.
Serious number-crunching is involved here, so if you want the full breakdown, yours truly already dissected this situation. The gist of this dilemma is that each superstar would have to accept an annual salary starting below $14 million, and that's being generous.
Signing with the Heat could wind up costing Anthony $70 million over the life of his contract, per ESPN New York's Ian Begley. It also means joining a team without any depth, as SB Nation's Mike Prada drove home:
Thus, next year's Heat will surely be a shallow team if they sign Anthony. The room exception will yield a useful contributor, and Miami could perhaps convince players like Allen and Andersen to take the minimum with the unspoken promise of rewarding them down the road. But there are so few mechanisms to acquire additional talent that the 2014-15 Heat may be even shallower beyond their stars than the 2010-11 edition that the Mavericks defeated in the Finals. Much like the first Heat's first cycle, it may take a couple years to find complimentary pieces to fill out the roster.
Will Anthony really leave that much scratch on the table to join three of his buddies in sunny Miami? The jury is still out on that one.
Bet on no.
Melo is more likely to field offers from other teams, such as the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks, among a few more. Pretty much every other option at his disposal poses more of a threat to his tenure in New York than Miami. Most interested clubs either have more money to offer him annually or more assets to broker a sign-and-trade.
Don't go writing Anthony's Big Apple eulogy just yet, though. He has until June 23 to decide if he'll opt out. Things can still change, though the Knicks must operate under the assumption they won't.
“I’m not losing sleep over it but I’m definitely concerned about the idea of a guy going into free agency,” Jackson said, via Isola. “It only takes one bidder out there that has the ability and can ruin your hopes and your chances."
All the slick maneuvering in the world won't make Riley's Heat the favorite to ruin New York's hopes and chances of retaining its superstar.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, there are more than a few other teams out there ready and wiling to fight for that honor if and when Melo becomes fair game.
*Salary information via Shamsports.