The Carmelo Anthony situation at Madison Square Garden is finally coming to a head. After months of increasing tension between the star forward and the Knicks front office, Anthony sat down with team owner James Dolan over the weekend to discuss his future with the team, sources tell Hoops Inq. Both the team and Anthony’s camp are now exploring the possibility of a contract buyout that would release Anthony from the Knicks’ roster. The team has looked into the option of releasing Anthony via a stretch provision, which would allow the team to spread the salary cap hit they would take on by waiving him over the course of a number of years.
At this point, the Knicks organization would prefer to trade Anthony rather than buy him out of the remaining two years of his contract. Knicks team president Phil Jackson, a publicly vocal advocate of trading Anthony, wants to get something in return for the star forward. Dolan, for his part, is uninterested in spending extra money just to get Anthony off the team. A buyout would be expensive for the team owner. Anthony has an Early Termination clause for the last year of his contract. That clause is automatically opted in in the case of a buyout, meaning the team would owe him a whopping $55 million dollars rather than the approximately $26 million he would be owed if he terminated his contract after playing his next season with the Knicks.
Still, a trade seems unlikely at this point, as Anthony has no desire to be traded and the no-trade clause in his contract stipulates that he must approve of any potential trade. The size of his contract and the trade kicker that would be incurred by the team receiving Anthony via trade appear to have further cooled the market for the embattled player.
Anthony’s current preference is to stay in New York where his wife and son reside. The desire to be close to his family is his primary motivator at this point, and proximity to his family will heavily influence his decisions regarding potential trades or his destination on the buyout market. Anthony’s first option in the case of trade or buyout would be the Washington Wizards, per a Hoops Inq. source. The Knicks previously made a trade call to the Wizards, but their proposal of Anthony for wing Kelly Oubre and restricted free agent Otto Porter, Jr. [via sign-and-trade] was quickly shot down. ESPN has reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be Anthony’s first-choice destination, but Hoops Inq. sources indicate that they are, in fact, his second preference.
Washington would be an ideal destination due to its proximity to NYC and his son, in addition to his Baltimore roots. However, a pursuit of a ring and longtime friend, Chauncey Billups, taking over the Cavaliers' front office make Cleveland an interesting destination. Despite his desire to remain in New York, people within Anthony's camp say he remains indecisive as to whether or not he'd be up for a change of scenery.
If both sides agree to terms, Anthony could be bought out of his contract as early as next week, a team source says. At this point, however, the two sides appear to be at an impasse. If neither side chooses to make some concessions, it is very possible that this situation could drag out over the off-season. If it does, Anthony could very well begin the 2017-18 season the same way he has the last six: in orange and blue under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.