LeBron turns up heat on Knicks, Melo

LeBron James' decision to opt out of his contract likely only makes life that much more difficult for the New York Knicks.

Let’s look at the ripple effects from LeBron’s decision Tuesday:

LeBron will have several teams jockeying for his services, including Miami, Chicago, Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers, and possibly the Clippers, Dallas and Cleveland.

They not only will try to create the necessary cap space to sign James (if they haven’t already) but also will want to create the most attractive situation for him. That means teams will be looking to add stars for LeBron to play with -- and that is where Carmelo Anthony comes in.

Because Melo has also opted out of his contract with the Knicks, another team might figure out a way to get both James and Anthony. Yes, it could be difficult to pull off. But Miami showed back in 2010 that it can be done.

And that makes Miami a bit scarier for the Knicks. Even though the Heat still have to wait to see what Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh do with their contract options, you just know that Heat president Pat Riley is busy scheming a way to make Miami a better team.

Yeah, Riley called the idea of bringing Melo to South Beach to team up with the Big Three a "pipe dream." But I wouldn’t underestimate him.

James and Anthony have been longtime friends. Surely if there is a way for them to team up, they’ll both explore it and see whether any team out there can accommodate them. James loves Miami, the coaching staff and Riley most of all. So the Heat likely have to be considered the favorites to keep James.

The Knicks? Getting LeBron to come to the Garden might be a fantasy compared to Riley’s “pipe dream” assessment in Miami. As our man Ian Begley points out, the Knicks likely would have to clear around $20 million in cap space to try to sign James first before re-signing Anthony.

I think Knicks president Phil Jackson will be able to make the Knicks better in the long run. But with just a week before free agency begins, it is unreasonable to think that Jackson can pull off something of a miracle and find somebody to take a couple of the fat contracts that belong to Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler and/or J.R. Smith.

Jackson would have to unload some combination of these contracts on a team that has the cap space to absorb them and take no contracts back, or hope Amar'e retires. (I don't see that happening.)

Jackson may be the Zen Master, but he’s no miracle worker.

What the Knicks probably need to hope for is that James re-signs with Miami on a one-year deal and then the Knicks can make a run at King James next offseason.

As for holding on to Melo, consider this: Some teams will try to get LeBron and fail. Should a team create space and a somewhat attractive situation to sign James but strike out, that team likely could turn its attention to Anthony. And Melo could find that place more attractive than New York.

James likely did the Knicks no favors by opting out. The Knicks have to hope that another team in the league doesn’t find a way to sign both James and Melo. Then they have to hope Melo finds the money and New York too hard to turn down. Keeping Melo appears to have gotten harder.