Carmelo Anthony’s eventual free agent destination may be contingent on where LeBron James decides to play next season, according to a report.
Anthony has yet to alert the New York Knicks as to whether he will re-sign with the franchise, which expected a decision from him by Monday. As the 30-year-old continues to delay his announcement, members of the Knicks organization believe that he’s waiting for James to declare his intentions to evaluate the possibility that the pair will be able to play together for the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat, the New York Post reports.
James plans to meet with representatives from several NBA franchises throughout the week, including Miami’s team president, Pat Riley. Besides the Heat, the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns have all emerged as legitimate contenders for his services.
In June, several reports suggested that Riley was exploring the possibility of signing Anthony, with an eye toward turning Miami’s “Big Three” -- James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- into a “Big Four.” James, Wade and Bosh are all free agents this offseason.
Miami has the cap space to re-sign all three (provided that Bosh and Wade would be willing to take slight pay cuts), but doing so would prevent them from adding Anthony. Riley himself referred to the idea of a “Big Four” as a “pipe dream.” Miami’s addition of free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger on Monday removed any “wiggle room” that the franchise may have had.
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The Houston Rockets offered Bosh a four-year, $96 million max contract on Monday, according to the Post. If Bosh were to accept that offer, or sign a similar contract with another franchise, the Heat could use the cap space that he would have occupied to sign Anthony.
James and Anthony could also unite in Los Angeles. The Lakers have expressed interest in both players and would be able to sign both to max contracts. Furthermore, a strong presentation by the team’s front office, bolstered by a last-minute recruiting pitch from superstar Kobe Bryant, placed the Lakers alongside the Knicks as Anthony’s preferred destinations.
For Anthony, the Chicago Bulls represent a third option. The Bulls have aggressively recruited Anthony this offseason but are hampered by the inability to sign him outright. To have room for Anthony’s max salary, the Bulls would likely have to work out a “sign-and-trade” deal with New York, a possibility that a source close to Knicks president Phil Jackson said would constitute a worst-case scenario, the Post reports.
If the Knicks believed that Anthony planned to sign with the Lakers, they could attempt to work out a sign-and-trade with the Bulls. Such a transaction would allow Jackson to receive compensation for Anthony’s departure, while the Knicks would lose him for nothing if he signs with the Lakers.
The Knicks have already made it clear to Anthony that they’ll offer him a five-year, $129 million max contract. However, Jackson reportedly told Anthony that a willingness to sign for less money would allow the Knicks to bolster their depleted roster. “The Knicks truly believe he’s coming back but they know the Bulls really laid it out for him -- their plan with the roster,” an NBA source told the Post.
Still, Anthony may decide that pairing with James in Miami or Los Angeles represents his best chance at winning his first NBA championship.