Reports: Carmelo Anthony Is Leaving NY Knicks in Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2014

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The New York Knicks are banking $60 million on Phil Jackson's magic touch, but Carmelo Anthony is reportedly unwilling to give the Zen Master his own vote of confidence.

That's the reality in the world of ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith's sources, at least.

During Monday's episode of First Take, Smith said all of the chatter around Anthony continues to point toward an exit in free agency over the offseason (h/t

I was told this last week, I was told a few days ago, I had it reiterated to me by somebody I trust yet again this morning, that Carmelo Anthony is gone, he is leaving New York city. There are those like myself who still hold up the possibility that that may not be true (...) but for what I'm being told, he is gone. And he is gone because he's at the mindset that in order to achieve any amount of success he would had to sacrifice not just this this year but next year as well, because of this current roster.

Where might Melo land? According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets have emerged as the most likely suitors for Anthony's services:

Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.

Anthony has already made his intention of testing the free-agent waters known. If When he opts out of his deal, he'll have the option of choosing his next destination—but he'll lose a contracted year and nearly $30 million if that franchise is anyone other than the Knicks.

It would take a sizable leap of faith to walk away from that type of cake, but not an unprecedented one.

Dwight Howard bolted from a similar situation last summer, throwing himself back in the championship race with the Rockets while the Los Angeles Lakers' tire fire has shown no signs of letting up.

Of course, Howard never handpicked the Lakers the way Anthony forced his way to the Knicks. Melo has more than just a financial attachment to the Empire State.


What he might not have, though, are championship pieces around him. The Knicks are currently riding a season-high six-game winning streak, but they still find themselves four games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

With no draft help or financial relief on the way this summer, it's that all-too-real possibility of another wasted season that has reportedly given Anthony cold feet.

"I’m hearing that Anthony’s camp is interested only in the summer of 2014," wrote Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. "They don’t want to hear about 2015. And they’re right. Anthony will be 31 with a lot of NBA miles on his legs before reinforcements arrive."

The Knicks made as big of a splash as they can luring Jackson into their president's chair. But it remains unclear what, if any, impact that will have on Anthony. Judging by his recent responses, he seems to be still processing the news.

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"I don’t think it’ll have any effect on me, just as far as what I’m thinking or my decision or anything like that," Anthony said earlier this month, via Peter Botte of the New York Daily News.

Yet, his tune seemed to change just a few days after that comment.

"The big picture, absolutely, for the big picture this is definitely more attractive," Anthony said, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post.

What we're hearing from Anthony are the gears grinding in his head.

By all accounts, he hasn't made his decision. He's nearly four months away from (potentially) reaching free agency and even further removed from putting his signature on the dotted line.

Jackson is a masterful personality manager, something that could help him through his first front-office foray. He's stumbled into a massive mess, but that ghastly picture cleans up quite well in the salary-shedding summer of 2015.

If he can sell Anthony on the image of superstar reinforcements coming to his side, then maybe Melo will be back in the orange and blue next season.

For now, that's a recruiting pitch that Jackson will need to fine-tune. Even amid the rattling cages from the next report claiming that Anthony has reached his decision.