Report: Carmelo Anthony has until June 23 to notify Knicks if he plans to opt out, become a free agent

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It’s been widely expected that Carmelo Anthony will exercise the early termination option on the final year of his contract, leaving $23 million on the table in order to sign a new max deal as an unrestricted free agent.

But ever since the Knicks hired Phil Jackson as president of basketball operations, that seems slightly less certain than it once was.

Jackson’s ideal plan for rebuilding in New York is centered around Carmelo Anthony opting in for next season, and waiting until the following one to sign that five-year max contract, which could give the Knicks some additional flexibility to pursue big names in the more loaded free agent class of 2015.

While that remains a long shot, Anthony must notify the team of his decision about a week before the free agency period begins.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Carmelo Anthony has until June 23, essentially one week before the start of free agency, to notify the New York Knicks if he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract, according to sources familiar with the terms of his deal.

Sources told ESPN.com that Knicks president Phil Jackson is continuing to urge Anthony to exercise next season’s $23.3 million player option and put off unrestricted free agency for one more year. …

Jackson’s pitch to Anthony — which sources say he has delivered more than once over the past month — is founded upon the notion that the Knicks will have increased financial flexibility in the summer of 2015 to bring in a marquee free agent to pair with a re-signed Anthony.

It’s likely that there’s far too much risk associated with not signing a max contract the moment that opportunity presents itself, and Anthony will be hard-pressed to wait a year to do so, even while collecting more than $23 million in salary for next season if that’s the choice that is made.

But what Jackson is ultimately advocating for here is something he mentioned soon after accepting his new position.

The Knicks ultimately want Anthony to sign his five-year deal for less money than the maximum, in order to give the team more salary cap dollars to expedite the rebuild of the franchise. It’s possible that Anthony could do that now with an eye toward 2015, but honestly, there isn’t any motivation for him to do so.

If Jackson can present one or two All-Star free agents that are ready to join the Knicks in 2015, however, it makes it more appealing for Anthony to agree to take less money at that point, when there is a concrete and legitimate reason.

Anthony would reportedly look closely at the Bulls, Rockets and Mavericks if he opts out and becomes a free agent this summer, and any of those decisions would mean foregoing more than $30 million that he could keep by re-signing a max deal with the Knicks.

Taking less money to play for a winner is an option Anthony will have whether he chooses to stay in New York or play somewhere else. But whatever he decides, the deadline is less than two weeks away.