Report: Carmelo Anthony 'Leaning Toward' Leaving New York Knicks in Free Agency

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Report: Carmelo Anthony 'Leaning Toward' Leaving New York Knicks in Free Agency
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Carmelo Anthony wants to win, and it sounds like he's not sure that's a possibility with the New York Knicks.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Anthony is favoring the idea of a quicker road to relevance than the cash-strapped Knicks can offer:

New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is leaning toward leaving in pursuit of immediate championship contention, and awaits the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign him in free agency, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Anthony has until June 23 to inform the Knicks whether he'll exercise his $23.3 million player option for the 2014-15 season, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported.

He may not need that much time to decide. "Barring a dramatic change of heart, Anthony will opt out of his contract...and become an unrestricted free agent," Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported.

Anthony, who forced his way to the Knicks in 2011, appears intent on finding the team success that has largely alluded him throughout his career. He's been to the postseason 10 times in his 11-year career, but his team has won a total of three playoff series.

He missed out on the second season for the first time of his career in 2013-14. The Knicks finished a disappointing 37-45. With no draft pick or financial flexibility this summer, New York could field a very similar team for the 2014-15 season.

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The Knicks have made some changes. Phil Jackson took over as team president, and Derek Fisher grabbed the coaching reins. However, Anthony's real concern, according to Wojnarowski, "is a roster barren of assets and talent to move toward contention."

The Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets both claimed the No. 4 playoff seed in their respective conferences. There's potential for improvement with each team, as well.

Chicago spent all but 10 games without former MVP Derrick Rose. Houston will have a full offseason to better blend the talents of James Harden and Dwight Howard.

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The interest from Anthony's end is reportedly shared by the two franchises. "Chicago and Houston front-office executives are working diligently on contingencies to clear the space to sign Anthony outright – or engage sign-and-trade scenarios with New York," sources told Wojnarowski.

Anthony is also reportedly on the radar of the Miami Heat. Stein and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported Heat players and executives have "started to explore" options to fit Anthony into their financial books.

Doing so would require major economic sacrifices from Anthony and Miami's current Big Three, making the idea possible but perhaps not plausible.

The financial hit might not be as severe if he landed in Houston or Chicago. Both destinations could also offer him more immediate assistance than New York, which gave up quite a bit (prospects and picks) to bring Anthony on board:

The Knicks' financial situation will greatly improve next summer, but it sounds like the 30-year-old does not want to wait.

"His heart is in New York," a source told Wojnarowski, "but he wants a chance to win now."

Even the overstuffed jewelry boxes of Jackson and Fisher might not convince Anthony that he'll have that chance in New York. Not as soon as he would like, at least.

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