Report: ‘Melo Leaning Towards Leaving Knicks; Bulls & Rockets In The Mix

The ongoing saga surrounding Carmelo Anthony‘s possible free agency in July has dominated headlines even before his June 23 deadline to inform the Knicks of his intention to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent. Now sources tell Yahoo! Sports ‘Melo is leaning towards leaving the Knicks, with the Bulls and Rockets as possible destinations because he wants to win a title now, rather than wait for a rebuild under Phil Jackson in New York.

Via Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports, comes word ‘Melo will likely opt out despite another meeting with Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher in LA on Friday night because he wants to win a ring now, and the Knicks – at least as presently constructed — don’t provide him the best chance to go after a ring:

New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is leaning toward leaving in pursuit of immediate championship contention, and awaits the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign him in free agency, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender.

Chicago and Houston front-office executives are working diligently on contingencies to clear the space to sign Anthony outright – or engage sign-and-trade scenarios with New York, sources said.

“His heart is in New York,” one source familiar with Anthony’s thinking told Yahoo Sports, “but he wants a chance to win now.”

The Lakers and the Heat have been discussed as possible landing spots, but — at least for the former — they’re in worse shape to compete for a title now than even the Knicks, and the Heat have to figure out what they’re doing with their Big Three before they can even begin to discuss adding Anthony.

According to Wojnarowski’s league sources, Jackson has turned off Anthony with his talk of wanting him to take less to stay with the Knicks. Plus, there’s some debate about whether Phil even wants Anthony to re-sign for five years and $120 million if he opts out, and Jackson’s somewhat supercilious public declarations about wanting Anthony to stay have been noticed, Woj adds.

‘Melo might fit better in Chicago or Houston. Both the Bulls and Rockets would need to shed some salary to accommodate ‘Melo’s max-level requirements. While Anthony has said he would take less if it meant building a championship contender, he’s leery of Jackson’s asking him to do so with the Knicks because his salary concessions need to pay immediate dividends for the team, rather than the promise of signing players or acquiring them in trades in the summer of 2015 or 2016.

It also appears that Joakim Noah‘s alleged courting of ‘Melo from as far back as the all-star break in NOLA has paid off. According to Woj, Anthony is “intrigued with the chance to join the Bulls for several months, but Houston has gathered significant momentum as a preferred destination for him, league sources said.”

For Chi-Town, they would have to amensty Carlos Boozer, and unload popular sixth man Taj Gibson, as well as one other player to afford Anthony. Wojnarwoski adds that ‘Melo has a liking for defensive-oriented Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but he’d also need to weigh the future health of point guard Derrick Rose before arriving at a decision.

With Houston, Anthony could team with Dwight Howard and James Harden, both of whom are prepared to woo Anthony as the third star in a championship run. Houston would need to unload the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to clear space for Anthony’s max-level deal. Both Lin and Asik are coming up on the last year of their deals, the so-called poison pill year where both salaries jump, but because they’re both expiring next summer, they could entice New York to take both players off their hands in a sign-and-trade scenario for Anthony to get four years and $90 million (the same as Dwight).

Woj also notes the Rockets could offer sell Anthony a max deal in the range of $22 million-$23 million per year, or keep teammates Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones by accepting less money on the deal — something Anthony has alluded to in the past regarding New York.

Still, even with Houston’s starting five in place, the Rockets could still offer ‘Melo a starting annual salary of around $19 million.

‘Melo’s decision, combined with whatever the Timberwolves do with Kevin Love, could be the first dominos in a chain reaction of player movement this summer that will drastically re-alter the championship landscape heading into next season. July’s free agency period might be even more newsworthy than he freakin’ Finals.


Who has a better shot at signing ‘Melo: Houston or Chicago?

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