The biggest story throughout the NBA next season will not revolve around who wins the next championship, or what superstar is traded at the deadline. Every team, player, coach, and official will speculate behind closed doors as to whether a bevy of stars will opt-out of their existing contracts and form another super team.
Miami’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh can all test free agency in the summer of 2014, and so can New York Knick and reigning league scoring champion Carmelo Anthony.
According to the New York Daily News, Anthony “will almost certainly” opt-out of his contract next summer, siting financial and not basketball reasons.
Well aware that all of New York will dissect his every word, the career 25-point scorer was careful not to mention free agency while speaking to the media at a youth basketball camp in Queens.
“As far as ruling anything out, I haven’t even, to be honest with you, thought about anything past today,” Anthony said to the News on Saturday. “My mind is not even thinking about next season, next offseason right now. I’m just trying to do what I do this offseason to get right, work out, train and get right and prepare myself for this season. When that time comes, I’ll deal with that.”
Anthony is currently resting a torn labrum in his shoulder. He's reportedly chosen to avoid surgery and let the injury heal naturally.
To his credit, Anthony has long said that his only goal is to bring New York its first NBA title in 40 years. Even with Anthony's backing, the Knicks recent acquisition of Andrea Bargnani was seen as a desperation move, and avoided the club’s real problem: a bloated payroll. The Knicks still owe limited big man Amar’e Stoudemire $45 million for the next two years, and his history of knee injuries makes his contract virtually untradeable.
Some of the team's other moves this offseason were more patchwork than improvements. The Knicks re-signed Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith to a three-year, $18 million deal, but he's currently recovering from knee surgery that will keep him sidelined for two months. The Knicks also spent three years and $6 million on 36-year-old point guard Pablo Prigioni, and plucked inconsistent and aging Metta World Peace from the amnesty pile.
The 29-year-old Anthony has two years and just under $45 million remaining on the extension he signed with the Knicks as part of the mega-trade that brought him to New York in 2011. However, Anthony can instead forgo the $23 million he is due in the 2014-15 season, and test free agency. In theory, he can actually negotiate for more money per season, and it will assuredly be the last max-level contract of his career.
Since joining the Knicks, Anthony has guided the team as far as the conference semifinals this past season. However, they were expected to at least challenge Miami for the conference crown before falling to the much younger Indiana Pacers.
The Los Angeles Lakers could pose a serious threat to steal Anthony away. Coupled with their incredible championship history, L.A. will have more than $50 million in cap space in 2014. That’s enough to ink as many as three-max level players like Miami did in 2010.
L.A.’s cap space could be affected by the status of five-time champion Kobe Bryant, who has said he has a few more years left in his legs and won’t take a pay cut. He will make $30 million in the final year of his contract next season.
While sidestepping the question of free agency, Anthony did point out to TMZ last month that he and James have worked together before. The pair was part of two gold medal teams for Team USA in the last two Olympics, and Wade also played an integral role in the 2008 games.