OKLAHOMA CITY — Towson Catholic product Carmelo Anthony, 34, plans to opt in and play for the $28 million he is due next season from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder traded for Anthony and Paul George to join Russell Westbrook before last season, moves that gave them high hopes of challenging the Warriors in the West. It didn’t work out as planned.
Anthony had to make a decision this weekend to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent, according to reports.
A headliner his entire career — he’s 19th in NBA history with 25,417 points — Anthony was more of a catch-and-shoot scorer last season instead of the isolation specialist he had always been. He averaged just 16.2 points a game and struggled at times in his new role.
His playing time dwindled in the playoffs and he wasn’t happy. In Game 6 of the first-round series against the Jazz that ended the Thunder’s season, he played fewer minutes than backup Jerami Grant.
But Anthony told The Baltimore Sun in January during a trip to Washington to face the Wizards that he was enjoying the more laid-back environment of Oklahoma City. It was quite a contrast to New York.
“It’s just that I can focus on basketball now,’’ Anthony said. “I can focus on being happy again and enjoying playing basketball. There’s pressure on our team as a whole, but it’s a different type of pressure. A different type of lifestyle. So I can just focus on playing basketball, getting better and going from there.”
Anthony became the 21st player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points last season. Only two other active players — LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki — are in that club.
It wasn’t clear if Anthony would opt in. After the season, he said he prefers to play with the ball in his hands more and said coming off the bench is “out of the question.
“So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game.”
The 10-time All-Star had career lows in scoring and field-goal percentage last season.
The New York Times first reported Anthony’s decision to bypass the chance to become a free agent. A person with knowledge of details confirmed Anthony’s choice to the Associated Press late Friday.