In a move that was widely expected, Carmelo Anthony has informed the New York Knicks that he will opt out of the final year of his contract so that he can be wooed in free agency, according to multiple reports.
The frontrunners for the high-scoring forward who averaged 27.4 points per game last season are believed to be the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets, though both teams would have to clear salary cap space to sign Anthony.
ESPN.com reported earlier this month that the Miami Heat has also explored the possibility of assembling a Big Four that includes Anthony, but such a move would require Heat stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to opt out of their current contracts and re-sign for steep discounts.
The Knicks still have considerable leverage in their bid to retain the unrestricted free agent. They can offer him a maximum five-year contract worth $129 million compared with other suitors who can dangle $96 million over four years.
But the Knicks may be at a considerable disadvantage in that they do not give Anthony the best shot at winning, particularly coming off a 37-45 season and with most of their salary-cap space already committed to the returning trio of Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler.
Chicago’s hopes to land Anthony and pair him with Derrick Rose would likely involve trading or amnestying Carlos Boozer. Houston would probably need to trade backup center Omer Asik and reserve point guard Jeremy Lin, which could be difficult considering each is owed starter money -- $14.8 million apiece -- in the final year of their contracts.
Knicks President Phil Jackson has said he was prepared to move forward regardless of whether Anthony decides to return to the franchise, with which he has spent the last 3 1/2 seasons. Anthony would have made $23.3 million next season had he opted in for the final year of his contract.