NBA Rumors: Latest on Free Agents Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and More

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NBA Rumors: Latest on Free Agents Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and More
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
Carmelo Anthony is assured of a max contract from some team, but Paul Pierce wants a cash-grab as well.

At some point in his cerebral wanderings, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has probably read the absurdist tragicomedy Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. In that play, Godot never shows up. Currently, New York's Zen Master is waiting as well, waiting for Melo.

In a free-agency period loaded with multiple max-contract talents, Carmelo Anthony could cash in with a five-year deal from the Knicks or bolt for sunnier options while leaving his hometown team bereft of scoring. Such are the vicissitudes of the NBA offseason. 

Beyond Melo, Paul Pierce no longer merits a max deal, but the veteran still seeks a bigger payday than the Brooklyn Nets want to provide. Beyond New York City, the reigning Eastern Conference champs have actually entertained the idea of adding skilled basket case Lance Stephenson. Amid a swirl of rumors, here are the latest updates on all the absurdist drama surrounding Melo, Pierce and Sir Lancelot.

 

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo claimed the NBA scoring title in 2012-13, besting Kevin Durant and proving the full breadth of his worth on the offensive end. In the 2013-14 season, with a diminished cast of players around him, Anthony essentially carried the team through the doldrums of a forgettable campaign, and were it not for him, the Knicks would have been very near the cellar in the East without even a draft pick to show for it. 

USA TODAY Sports

After such an abysmal season from his team, it made sense that Anthony opted out of his contract to test the free-agency waters. He told the Knicks he would render a decision following the Fourth of July weekend, but Melo seems to have extended that weekend slightly. Monday came, Monday went and the Knicks' franchise player did not announce his choice.

As reported by the New York Post's Marc Berman: "A growing belief within the organization is Anthony is waiting to make sure there is no possible way of hooking up with LeBron James in Miami or Los Angeles." Seemingly, James' own opt-out has brought free agency to a grinding halt, as teams maintain a holding pattern while the best player in the universe surveys his options. 

ESPN's Chris Broussard reported Monday that the Houston Rockets offered Chris Bosh a four-year deal worth $88 million. Were Bosh to bolt from the Heat, that would open the door for another top-quality player like Anthony to join James in Miami. It could also pave the way for LeBron to relocate and potentially bring an All-Star or two with him wherever he goes. 

However, LeBron's decision aside, the Knicks have stiff competition for Anthony from the Chicago Bulls. It's the most sensible landing spot for him by far. Melo would provide a bona fide scoring presence on a team that already boasts excellent defense, a top-notch head coach, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and the 2010-11 MVP.

As one source told Berman about Melo: "The Knicks truly believe he’s coming back but they know the Bulls really laid it out for him—their plan with the roster."

The Bulls play in the significantly weaker East, and they are constructed to compete for a title this season and beyond, which can hardly be said about Melo's other options in New York or L.A. The ball remains in his court for the time being, and until a decision comes through, the ever-stoic Jackson will have to teach the Knicks' fans and front office about the virtue of patience. 

 

Paul Pierce

Grantland's Zach Lowe recently delivered some horrible news to billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov: The Nets lost $144 million last season.

Lowe puts it in perspective: 

Next in line? The Wizards, with projected losses of about $13 million. That’s right: The Nets lost $131 million more than any other NBA team last season. This is what happens when you pay $90 million in luxury tax for an aging roster and play in a market so large you are ineligible to receive any revenue-sharing help.

The term "aging roster" is something of a code that primarily refers to the trade that brought Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to town in exchange for a handful of unremarkable players and the Nets' first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

In retrospect, that trade can be filed under "abject failure." The Nets barely survived the Toronto Raptors in seven games before the Miami Heat took care of them in five games. 

Now Pierce has hit free agency, and he's looking for a payday at the ripe age of 36. The problem is that the Nets already have over $70 million committed to Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Garnett, per Spotrac, plus they're scrambling to shed Marcus Thornton's expiring $8.6 million contract.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

According to Mike Mazzeo from ESPN New York: "The Nets would like to pay Pierce around $6-8 million per season on a short-term contract, sources say. Pierce, however, as first reported by Sports Illustrated and confirmed by ESPNNewYork.com, would like to be paid around $9-10 million."

While Pierce still managed to score 13.5 points per game for Brooklyn, that was the worst average per 36 minutes of his entire career, via Basketball-Reference. His erratic production rarely seemed to make a difference in the endgame, with players like Johnson and even Shaun Livingston having a more significant impact.

Proving the regular season was no fluke, Pierce also turned in the lowest scoring average of his playoff career per 36 minutes. Brooklyn needs significant retooling, and committing anything more than $8 million for one or two seasons would be tantamount to lunacy.

 

Lance Stephenson

Here's a crazy idea: What if the Boston Celtics targeted stout defender and last season's league leader in triple-doubles, Lance Stephenson, to form a backcourt tandem with Rajon Rondo? As noted by the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett: "No, according to a source connected with the marketplace, they have not contacted free agent Lance Stephenson or his representative."

OK, that would be something of a reach for a franchise looking to build a solid foundation for the long term. However, an even nuttier landing spot for Lance would be the Miami Heat, and yet the rumor mill has bound the two sides together once again. 

As first reported by ESPN's Dan Le Batard on his radio show, the Heat have shown interest in acquiring Stephenson for his scoring and gadfly defense. As Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick assessed it:

That report...may have surprised some, considering that James, Wade, Bosh and the rest of the Heat became weary of what Ray Allen labeled 'buffoonery' during the recent Eastern Conference finals. But it shouldn't, if you know how strongly James feels about simply adding talent that can assist his championship aspirations, even if it comes with some attitude.

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Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Heat have agreed to terms with Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts, the latter being the same guy who elbowed LeBron in the throat during the Charlotte Bobcats' plucky first-round playoff loss, so the team has shown a willingness to overlook past transgressions. 

However, after the NBA world watched Stephenson act like the east end of a westbound horse during the Eastern Conference Finals, it would defy logic for the Heat to potentially make him a teammate of LeBron's and create a position battle with Dwyane Wade.

However, shooting guards who can score and play defense have become increasingly rare around the league, and all the Heat care about is improving the team enough to win more titles. 

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