Melo raises stakes with talk of free agency

Carmelo Anthony finally made his thoughts known regarding free agency on Wednesday. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Carmelo Anthony sure sounds like a guy who wants to be courted, and that could be bad news for the Knicks.

Here's what Anthony told the New York Observer in a recent interview:

I want to be a free agent. I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It's like you have an evaluation period, you know. It's like if I'm in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.

Anthony, as you know, will have the opportunity to experience the open market this summer.

He can opt out of the final year of his contract with the Knicks and test free agency.

Economically, it would make sense for Anthony to opt out and stay in New York. If he signs a max contract this summer, he can earn $33 million more with the Knicks than he could from another team.

Despite that financial advantage, some members of the Knicks' front office have probably become a bit queasy after reading Carmelo's comments. If Carmelo gets to the point where he's being courted by other teams, anything can happen.

That's why I think Carmelo's quote to the Observer raises the stakes a bit for Knicks president/GM Steve Mills and the rest of New York's front office.

Mills' chief task is to build the Knicks into a championship contender, and retaining Anthony goes hand-in-hand with that goal. So it's on Mills and the rest of the Knicks' decision-makers to convince Melo they can surround him with enough talent to win a title going into the 2015 season, if not before.

The Knicks could have as much as $22 million dollars to spend on free agents in the summer of 2015, depending on the cap level at that time. So they'll have the money to ink another star player. But will it be enough to keep Anthony around?

At this point, it sounds like the Knicks will just have to wait and see. Because when it comes to free agency, the are no certainties. Especially when players start talking to other teams and, more importantly, other star players. Just look at recent history.

The situations each player faces is unique, but Dwight Howard decided in July to take less money and join the Houston Rockets.

Also, Jason Kidd was one of the prized free agents in the summer of 2003. As my colleague Ohm Youngmisuk pointed out recently, Kidd was almost certain that he'd return to the Nets until he took a recruiting trip to San Antonio. He came back from Texas torn between re-signing with New Jersey and teaming up with Tim Duncan.

Of course, Kidd ended up signing with the Nets, but it wasn't an easy decision. And the same situation could play out with Carmelo.

If he hits the open market, plenty of teams will be interested in Anthony, who led the league in scoring last season. Most notably, the Lakers will have the requisite cap space to woo him. They also happen to employ one of his closest friends in the NBA, Kobe Bryant. How will a recruiting pitch from Kobe affect Carmelo's decision? It's too early to say right now. But one thing's certain: Anthony will be willing to listen.

QUESTION: What's your reaction to the news that Carmelo Anthony wants to be a free agent?

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