Carmelo must decide by June 23
MIAMI -- 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.
Miami's LeBron James, provided he also decides to opt in later this month and put off free agency for a year, is among the targets the Knicks are telling Anthony they intend to pursue in the summer of 2015.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said on his ESPN New York radio show Tuesday and in subsequent interviews that Anthony and James, members of the NBA's ballyhooed 2003 draft class and longtime USA Basketball teammates, have expressed the mutual desire to play together before their careers end and will look into teaming up if both wind up on the open market in July 2015.
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have until the end of June, sources say, to notify the Heat whether they intend to opt into the final years of their respective current contracts or become free agents July 1.
At a news conference Tuesday to introduce Derek Fisher as the Knicks' new coach, Jackson said: "We're planning on meeting with Carmelo (again) in the near future. I want to express to him again I want to have him back on the team. We haven't heard one way or another about opt-in or opt-out. If he decides on free agency, he has a right to do that."
Added Fisher: "As far as Carmelo is concerned, we obviously believe Carmelo is one of the top players in the NBA and world. We want him to be here, but ultimately he has the choice. We'll do everything we can possibly do to give him confidence that we can get the job done and put a team together he can feel is a championship team."
After a 37-45 season under the ousted Mike Woodson that left them as the East's No. 9 team this season, the Knicks have no first-round pick in the June 26 draft and no salary-cap space until the summer of 2015 as Jackson looks to remake New York's roster around Anthony.
The Knicks, sources say, expect to be a contender for Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant when he is projected to become a free agent in July 2016 and believe their chances will be enhanced by the presence of Fisher, one of Durant's favorite teammates with the Thunder.