Set to make his return after sitting out the last three games, New York Knick Carmelo Anthony continues to be at the center of trade rumors and speculation as the new year begins.
The 29-year-old has publicly stated his intentions for the upcoming summer when he can either opt-in or out of his current deal with Knicks, and test free agency. The Knicks have spiraled to the bottom of the Eastern Conference at the worst possible time, and several reports over the course of the season have indicated that Anthony is leaning towards leaving.
However according to a report from the New York Post, Anthony still wants to play in a big market like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, and is also afraid of becoming a “scapegoat” like Stephon Marbury in the mid-2000s.
Citing sources, the Post indicated that Anthony would be more open to playing with the Clippers and friend Chris Paul over the Lakers, but that a sign-and-trade deal that includes superstar Blake Griffin would be necessary under current league salary cap rules.
Anthony would also reportedly be open to the Bulls because he respects head coach Tom Thibodeau, which could have attributed to rumors the coach was line to replace Mike Woodson.
A former teammate also told the New York Daily News that he believes Anthony won't be in New York much longer.
“I think he’s leaving. I’ve played with Melo for a long time and he knows he can’t win here," the anonymous source said. "At this stage, all he wants to do is win. That’s why he’ll leave.”
The Knicks are obviously in a highly precarious situation, and might be inclined to consider Chicago’s biggest trade chip in Luol Deng should they be forced to move Anthony before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Though it’s been reported Chicago is hoping to re-sign Deng, whose $14 million contract expires at the conclusion of the season, the team has still been linked to several trades including one most recently for Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum.
Before the holiday ESPN said the Cavs had approached both the Bulls and Lakers about Bynum. Since helping the Lakers win back-to-back titles, Bynum missed all of the 2012-13 season while with Philadelphia, and signed a two-year, $24.7 million deal with Cleveland this past summer.
Bynum’s appeared in 24 games this season, starting 19, but was suspended on Dec. 28 for conduct detrimental to the team. As reported by Yahoo! Sports, Bynum apparently has no desire to play basketball anymore, but there has been no public statement detailing the center’s fall out with Cleveland.
Chicago’s interest in a Bynum for Deng deal likely begins and ends with salary cap relief. According to the Chicago Tribune, the second half of Bynum’s salary, roughly $12 million, can be waived before Jan.7. With both Bynum and Deng off the books, Chicago would free up about $20 million in cap space.
The Lakers could bring back Bynum for the same reasons, if they trade the expiring contract of Pau Gasol. Talks have apparently stalled between the two teams, as L.A. reportedly wants another asset on top of Bynum’s contract. According to ESPN the Lakers want a prospect or first-round pick, and waiving Bynum’s deal would put them below the luxury-tax threshold for the first time in seven years.