It appears that first major domino to fall in free agency won't be LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade, but rather the man whom they were rumored to be bringing in as part of a "Big Four" just last month. (Man, that feels like a lifetime ago, huh?) After concluding his free-agent tour, Carmelo Anthony has reportedly come to a decision as to where he'll ply his trade next season ... and according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, it's the city where he's spent the last 3 1/2 seasons.
After exercising his early termination option, entering free agency and visiting with a handful of teams, the seven-time All-Star has decided to stay in Manhattan and will announce Thursday that he plans to re-sign with the New York Knicks for "the deal on the table," a five-year contract worth a maximum $129 million, according to Isola:
A person close to Anthony told The News on Wednesday that barring a last minute change of heart Anthony will re-sign with the Knicks after "agonizing over this" for the past week.
"He will have something for everybody on Thursday," said the friend who was with Anthony before Anthony's scheduled workout with Kevin Durant and Kevin Love in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "He is really torn because this is the biggest decision of his career. But he wants to get it done in New York. He told me he believes in Phil [Jackson]."
Isola's report was followed by some brake-pumping from several other plugged-in types:
Re Melo: Source says "no decision yet." Teams pursuing him have not received definitive word. @FisolaNYDN reporting Melo is returning to NY.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) July 9, 2014
The Knicks have not yet been apprised that Carmelo Anthony has decided to re-sign with them, source says.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 9, 2014
Knicks have no reason to believe Anthony is going anywhere but New York, source says. Team just has not been told of decision.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 9, 2014
NBA.com's David Aldridge:
@FisolaNYDN reporting Melo is going back 2 NY. No one locked in more. But no teams have been told they're out & source says Melo still undecided. FWIW.
Carmelo Anthony's agent Leon Rose tells ESPN that "he hasn't made a decision yet" on Knicks/Lakers.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 9, 2014
Though it should be noted @FisolaNYDN is nails, and his report said there could be a last-minute change of heart.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 9, 2014
Source close to Carmelo Anthony insists "there is no decision yet." Adds "still up in the air."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) July 9, 2014
It's very well possible Melo stays w/ NY. Just reporting what I've been told about if it is definitive— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) July 9, 2014
FWIW, and obviously a fluid story, but Bulls haven't been told they're not getting Carmelo Anthony as of yet.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) July 9, 2014
So, let's not start putting Melo's face on the front of the Knicks' 2014-15 programs just yet.
Still, if Isola — one of the most plugged-in guys there is when it comes to the Knicks (despite the franchise's reported best efforts) — is correct, the Knicks will have beaten out a number of teams for Anthony's services, including the Los Angeles Lakers, who reportedly offered him a four-year max deal; the Houston Rockets, who apparently offered him Jeremy Lin's number (among other things) during a visit last week; the Dallas Mavericks, who made something of a long-shot, dark-horse pitch to Anthony; and the Chicago Bulls, who made their pitch (which, regrettably, appears not to have included R. Kelly) to Anthony on the first day of free agency.
The reason for that wouldn't be especially difficult to understand. The 2011 collective bargaining agreement allows the Knicks, the holders of Anthony's Bird rights, to sign him to an extension of up to five years and $129 million, while the most competitors could offer would be a four-year deal worth approximately $96 million; while state and local tax rates differ, Anthony would still be giving up between $11 million and $13 million by taking a deal outside the Big Apple, according to an analysis performed by Michael McCann and Robert Raiola for Sports Illustrated.
Yes, there have been reports that the first-year show-running combo of Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson and first-time head coach Derek Fisher have allayed Anthony's concerns about once again being forced to be a one-man army — as he often was during a 2013-14 season that might have been his best all-around turn as a pro but also saw him miss out on postseason play for the first time in his career. And yes, Anthony has been saying all year that he loved New York, wanted to stay in New York, wanted to retire in New York, and yes, Anthony recently told VICE Sports that the way his decision would impact his wife and son, who "loves it here," would be a major factor in his choice, and that he's thinking less about what move would win him a championship next year than "the big picture [...] the next six to eight years of your career."
Perhaps Anthony came to the conclusion that Isola's reporting because he's on-board with the Knicks' new regime, and because he believes in the possibility of the franchise taking a great leap forward with asset-acquiring trades like the one that imported Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin and a pair of draft picks, plus 2015 cap space, and because he doesn't want Kiyan to go through the experience of being uprooted, moved to a new school and forced to leave his friends behind.
Or perhaps, in an NBA environment where players are increasingly demonized for maximizing their earning power instead of "sacrificing" while owners continue to rake in profits hand over fist, Melo's call came down to recognition of a reality put succinctly last week by Michael Lee of The Washington Post:
The window for an elite athlete to get ridiculous sums of money is limited and only one team is allowed to win a championship each year. So, there are limitations to forfeiting the most riches, especially for players in their primes. [...] The only guarantee in the NBA is the money.
The rest — winning, moving, anything — can get figured out later, for Anthony, the Knicks and everyone else.
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