Why It’s Good News For Knicks Fans Carmelo Anthony Wants To Be A Free Agent

The summer of 2014 will feature one of the best draft classes in the last two decades, but also one of the most wide open free agency markets of the millennium. The Big 3 in Miami can all opt out, and so can Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has said he’s “not going anywhere,” but a recent piece in the New York Observer appears to say otherwise. This is actually a good thing.

The Observer’s sprawling treatise on Carmelo’s brand-building makeover follows his halcyon early days in the NBA — when he couldn’t quite leave his “stop snitching” Baltimore youth behind — to his current position as one of the most marketable athletes in the world.

The piece also delves into his future, which is still very much up in the air. Anthony can opt-out of his contract this summer, ostensibly to re-sign with the Knicks for even more money because the new CBA calls for yearly raises of 7.5 percent. With Kobe Bryant‘s contract expiring this summer, it’s conceivable — if Anthony opts out, which he almost certainly will — he’ll become the highest paid player in the league if he decides to re-sign with the Knicks since they hold his Bird rights.

But here’s the quote from the Observer piece that has so many Knicks fans worried:

“I want to be a free agent,” Anthony tells me, as our cigars burn close to the nub. “I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It’s like you have an evaluation period, you know. It’s like if I’m in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.”

Knicks watchers believe ‘Melo’s flip-flopping. Earlier this summer, he said he wasn’t going anywhere. Now he’s longing for the spoils of a possible free agency wining and dining next summer. Maybe ‘Melo is talking out of the side of his mouth, but I mean, come on: Melo’s free agency is a good thing!

First off, there’s a pretty convincing case to be made that maybe ‘Melo isn’t worth that 5-year designated franchise player max. If ‘Melo opts-out and re-signs for the 5-year deal, he’ll be making over $29 million when he’s 34 and entering the final year of the deal. Will a 34-year-old ‘Melo be worth it, or is tying up $129 million over the next five years too risky?

Carmelo is in his prime right now; he just won his first scoring title last season and posted a career high PER. Plus, he appears committed to playing defense for Mike Woodson.

But why are Knicks fans so bugged out about Anthony reveling in free agency? He’s always just signed the max extension, and so he’s never been courted as a free agent. Let him. When he was traded to New York in 2011, he immediately signed an extension. Plus, if Knicks fans are really worried, just remember the Knicks can offer 5 years and $129 million and all the other teams can only offer him 4 years and around $95 million.

So ‘Melo becomes a free agent, and if he wants to join Kobe in L.A., best of luck to him. He’s turning down an extra $34 million (not an insubstantial amount at this point in his career), and it would rid the Knicks of the possible long-term stagnancy a 5-year max deal for ‘Melo would incur.

Carmelo’s comments should be seen as a positive, or simply ignored. We’re obviously going with the former. Remember, we’ve still got a 2013-14 season to play before we find out what Carmelo will do, even though he can sign an extension with the Knicks starting in February. Now we know that’s a long shot — if that.

Let Carmelo try free agency for the first time in his career. The Knicks are still in the driver’s seat. They can offer the most money, and if he decides to follow Dwight’s path and sign with another team for less money, GREAT! The Knicks just avoided committing $130 million over the next 5 years to a score-first forward entering his 30’s with only a passive interest in defense.

What do you think?

Follow Spencer on Twitter at @countcenci.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.