When free agency began just six days ago, there were two teams that were believed to be the most likely to end up securing the services of Carmelo Anthony.
New York is where Anthony has played the last three-and-a-half seasons, and can offer him the most money on a five-year deal worth $129 million. Chicago would appear to be his best chance to play for a contender immediately should he choose to leave, but could only offer him a four-year deal for less than the max, and would still need to shed salary to do so.
Now that the meetings have been had and his decision is all that awaits, it’s still being reported as one that Anthony will make between two teams — but the Lakers have overtaken the Bulls as Anthony’s most likely non-Knicks destination.
There was a growing sense circulating through the league Sunday that Anthony is likely to choose between the Knicks and the Lakers, who are the only two teams that can offer him max money without needing to make roster moves first. New York can offer him a five-year deal worth $129 million, while Los Angeles can offer a four-year deal valued at $97 million.
But sources close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein said that, as of 6 p.m. Sunday, Anthony had not formally notified any of his suitors that they are out of contention. The 30-year-old had sitdowns this week with Chicago, Houston and Dallas before meetings with both the Lakers and Knicks on Thursday in L.A. Anthony then retreated from the spotlight to take the holiday weekend to make his decision.
The Lakers, with their strong Hollywood ties and their ability to offer the max deal that the Bulls cannot have apparently jumped to the top of Anthony’s list.
None of that solves the problem of playing for a title contender anytime soon, but should Kobe Bryant be able to return to somewhere close to his pre-injury form, and should Anthony’s potential arrival cause the team to have an easier time re-signing Pau Gasol, that’s not an entirely bad place to start.
Anthony could make his decision as early as Monday, which would set off plenty of action in free agency by the teams who missed out on one of the two biggest names available this summer.