Knicks team president Phil Jackson asked Carmelo Anthony to opt in for next season, and the star forward told the Zen Master he’d think about it, as Jackson told reporters, including Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal (Twitter link). Anthony has said several times, since before the start of the season, that he intends to exercise his early termination option and hit free agency, but it appears he’s at least considering the idea of remaining on his deal for next year.
Opting in would be a more lucrative move for Anthony in the short term, since his contract calls for him to make more than $23.333MM in 2014/15 if he did so. The most he could get for next season in a new deal, from the Knicks or any other team, would be close to $22.5MM. Still, it would be a risky move for Anthony, who turned 30 this week, since his chances of scoring a max deal in free agency will lessen as he ages.
The Knicks would almost certainly end up in tax territory if Anthony opted in, and they’d pay the tax for a third straight year if they didn’t clear salary by the end of next season, triggering brutal repeat-offender penalties. Still, New York and owner James Dolan have never shown an aversion to spending, and the franchise has made retaining Anthony its top priority.
Jackson said today that he’s “not losing sleep” over the notion of Anthony leaving in free agency this summer, but added that he’s “definitely concerned” about the possibility, noting that “it only takes one bidder,” as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com and Frank Isola of the New York Daily News observe (Twitter links). Jackson has previously indicated the team is prepared to move forward no matter what happens with Anthony, and the first-time executive expressed hope that Anthony would be “true to his word” about a willingness to take less on his next deal to remain with the Knicks.
It would be a blow to teams looking to make a splash in free agency this year if Anthony were to opt in. The Bulls have appeared to be the strongest contender for his services outside of the Knicks, but the Mavs, Lakers and others seem to have doubts about the wisdom of giving Anthony a max deal. That would provide further motivation for Anthony to take the lucrative payday on his existing contract for next season and hope that a bounceback year for the Knicks will raise his free agent stock. Many teams are planning to eschew a heavy pursuit of free agents this summer in favor of next year’s more star-studded class, so while Anthony might have more competition from his peers, there may also be more bidders.