In “news” that shouldn’t be news to anyone who understands anything about sports, money, and the human condition, Carmelo Anthony just about confirmed that he will opt out of his contract with the New York Knicks in the summer of 2014. Anthony, who is set to make over $23 million next season in the final year of his contract, has an early termination option on the last year of his deal, effectively a player option that will allow him to enter the open market as a free agent.
Or, more likely, mainly just re-up with the New York Knicks for a ridiculous amount of money. Anthony discussed as much in a very good feature in the New York Observer, as penned by Rafi Kohan:
“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.”
Take a breath, Knicks fans. That doesn’t mean he’s leaving.
“I came to New York for a reason,” Anthony adds. “I’ve been with you all my life, almost to a fault. I wanted to come here and take on the pressures of playing in New York. So one thing I would tell my fans: If you haven’t heard it from me, then it ain’t true.”
Read: Carmelo Anthony still wants his cake, and the ability to eat it too. And then some more cake. For the eatin'.
(And, as you probably recall, this comes just a few weeks after Anthony swore that “there's no need to even talk about that or address” his potential free agency “because it's not something I've been thinking about.")
If Anthony opts out of his contract, the Knicks can re-sign him to a new deal that will exceed the amount he’s due to make in 2014-15, a five-year contract that will allow New York to pay him more money and for one more year than any other suitor. And because Anthony was the one who forced a deal to New York in the first place back in 2011 (as opposed to riding out his time in Denver, and working with the Knicks to cobble together a sensible free agent setup as the Miami Heat did a year before), you know that Anthony probably isn’t really thinking along team-building terms.
Why else would he go this expected route? If Anthony signs for the max, he would be making nearly $30 million a year in his mid-30s, a figure that no championship-level team could possibly hope to build around.
And because the Knicks are the Knicks, and owner James Dolan thinks boffo move first and cogent team building 19,873rd, Anthony will likely get his money. It’s also possible that he won’t be playing for a contender, even as the massive deals of Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler fade away. The Knicks will have a fair bit of cap room in the summer of 2015 even with a re-signed Anthony on board, but they’ll also have over half a roster to fill, and the restricted free agency of Iman Shumpert to consider.
Also, before Knick fans become giddy at the thought of letting Anthony walk, and starting over? Understand that owner James Dolan, for better or worse (mostly worse) doesn’t do “starting over.” This is why he hired Steve Mills, and that supposed Rolodex full of contacts and high-end names, to take over as personnel chief. The reign of Donnie Walsh and Glen Grunwald was just too darn reasonable for Dolan.
Second in importance to the financial windfall to Anthony, through his own words, is the chance to be coveted on the open market. Carmelo signed a contract extension in 2006 with the Denver Nuggets, and an extension in 2011 with the Knicks. He’s never been a fully unrestricted free agent before, and don’t think he wasn’t paying attention when several teams (including his eventual Knicks) came calling to LeBron James’ door during LBJ’s free agent turn in 2010. It’s nice to be wanted, and it’s nice to feel as if you’re in charge.
Even if you’re Carmelo Anthony, and you’ve always been in charge. In charge of your various front offices, at least.
Anthony’s follow-up discussion with the media on Thursday relayed as much:
Melo, on whether he's opting out: "Yeah, absolutely. ... Its something I'm willing to explore. Does that mean I'm leaving NY? No."
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) October 17, 2013
Melo: "For the most part, I'm not really thinking abt leaving. It's just something I want to experience." — Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) October 17, 2013
Melo: "Me leaving never crossed my mind. [Free agency] is just an experience I'd like to experience."
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) October 17, 2013
So there you have it. Everything you’d expect from this player, this team, this owner, and the NBA’s financial setup. Unless, of course, the Knicks decide to throw us a curve, and try something new.
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