Nearing the first weekend of the NBA free-agency period, rumors are still rampant around the league about where the biggest stars will land.
Whether it's the final destination for Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or maybe one of the experienced veterans like Pau Gasol, franchises want to get their hands on the superstars. Anthony finished his whirlwind tour around the league on Thursday, but speculation about his final home continues.
As for James, his future seems uncertain following a meeting with the other two members of the Big Three for the Miami Heat. Then there's Gasol, who might potentially be tied to Anthony in the market if he lands with a specific franchise.
With several notable players still left to make their final decisions, here's a look at the latest rumors for the biggest names on the market.
James 'Unsure' About Future
After four years with the Miami Heat and two championships, James is now a free agent once again.
Though it likely won't come down to another live broadcast on ESPN that made him so endearing to fans, James has another "Decision" to make this summer. Chris Broussard of ESPN provides the latest on the Big Three's discussions:
The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.
James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.
Translation: If the Heat are getting James back, he won't come cheap.
That much we knew coming into free agency, but the indecision by James has to be upsetting for Miami fans. Following four seasons of massive jersey sales and aspirations for "Not one, not two, not three..." championships, they could be dealing with the loss of James like the Cleveland Cavaliers did years ago.
Just because he hasn't made up his mind to this point doesn't mean he won't be back. While he might not be in any particular rush to make it official, the Heat are still the best fit for James for the future.
The 10-time All-Star has clearly found a home in Miami and will likely be hashing out a contract later this summer with the Heat.
Prediction: James re-signs with Heat.
Lakers Optimistic About Anthony
Multiple teams have courted Anthony and came away with hope that the superstar would eventually sign with them this offseason.
As for the Lakers, they gave their pitch and shared the same sentiments about thinking they can lure him in. Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com pass along the most recent rumors from league sources:
The Lakers also made it clear to Anthony they'd offer him a maximum four-year, $95 million contract if chose to sign with them, according to sources.
... A person who was in the Lakers' pitch said they thought it went "really well" and added, "I don't know how big of a shot we have, but I think we have a shot." Another Lakers source described Anthony as "extremely attentive" throughout the meeting.
Following a season where the New York Knicks fell well short of expectations by missing out on the playoffs, Anthony would join a similar situation with the Lakers. While they still have the mystique of being the Lakers, it's tough to sell Anthony on the notion that things will turn around drastically next season.
As for the other suitors, Anthony made his way to the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks before visiting L.A. Then there's the Knicks, who still hold out hope that he will return despite the turmoil this past year.
After mulling over his options and figuring out exactly what he wants, the best option will likely be the Bulls. With a talented roster that already includes Joakim Noah and a potentially healthy Derrick Rose, Anthony would be a perfect fit and join a franchise ready to contend for championships.
Prediction: Anthony "takes his talents" to Chicago.
Gasol and Anthony Together in New York?
But wait just one second, apparently the Knicks still have a secret weapon during this free-agency frenzy.
While Phil Jackson has said in the past that he remains confident about Anthony returning to the Big Apple, a former player of his might be used to help lure him in. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports brings us the latest on the Knicks' summer plans:
A conversation that Carmelo Anthony had been pursuing in recent days, sources tell Yahoo: With Pau Gasol, about playing together w/ Knicks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014
Which is more likely?
Gasol would be an interesting piece for the Knicks, especially after trading away Tyson Chandler to the Mavericks. Following the acquisition of three young players in the draft, including Cleanthony Early, the move to bring in a veteran with championship experience might just be a great piece to bring Melo back.
Unfortunately, the Knicks aren't the only team going after Gasol, and they certainly aren't the closest to winning him another ring. With teams like the Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder, per Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN, the 7'0" center has many options to choose from.
At the end of the day, it will be the Thunder ultimately stealing him away from the Lakers and adding a veteran to their young core. With the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook joining up with Gasol for the foreseeable future, OKC would immediately look like the favorite in the Western Conference.
Prediction: Gasol bolts for the Thunder.
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