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NEW YORK -- New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said in a recent interview that he wants to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer and test free agency.
"I want to be a free agent," Anthony told the New York Observer. "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."
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.” -- Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony
Anthony said Thursday that he will test free agency. However, he said not to make any assumptions about him leaving the Knicks.
"Does that mean I'm not coming back to New York?" Anthony said. "Not at all."
Anthony did repeat that he'd like to be "pursued.""Guys would like to have that situation and just see what it's about," he said. "It doesn't mean that just because somebody wants to be that, that they're going to leave. Me leaving never came across in my mind. [Free agency is] just an experience that I thought would be an experience I'd want to experience."
Count coach Mike Woodson among those who think Anthony will be back with the Knicks.
"I don't see him leaving. That's just my thought," Woodson said.
Anthony has two years remaining on his contract but can opt out of the final season, worth $23.3 million.
If he decides to opt out, Anthony can make more money if he re-signs with the Knicks instead of another suitor. With the Knicks, he could ink a a five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can earn is $95,897,372 over four years, according to calculations by ESPN salary-cap expert Larry Coon. Those numbers are based on the assumption Anthony, one of the top scorers in the NBA, will sign a max contract.
Anthony hasn't said anything publicly about his plans beyond this summer. But in the Observer story he noted that he's grown comfortable with the high expectations that come with playing in New York.
"I came to New York for a reason," he said. "I've been with you all my life, almost to a fault. I wanted to come here and take on the pressures of playing in New York. So one thing I would tell my fans: If you haven't heard it from me, then it ain't true."
Knicks president and general manager Steve Mills said late last month that New York has "every intention" of keeping Anthony beyond this season.
The Knicks can begin negotiations with Anthony on an extension in February. But if Anthony decides to opt out, New York will likely have plenty of competition for his services.
ESPN.com reported over the summer that the Los Angeles Lakers would target Anthony and LeBron James in the summer of 2014 if both stars decide to explore free agency.
Other teams with the requisite cap space would surely target Anthony as well. The 10-year veteran led the NBA in scoring last season with 28.7 points per game.
Some have speculated that Anthony would consider leaving New York after this season if the Knicks failed to make it out of the second round of the playoffs in 2013-14. In Anthony's first year in New York, following the blockbuster 2011 trade that brought him to the Big Apple, the Knicks were swept in the first round.
Last season, Anthony led the Knicks to their first postseason series win in 13 years. New York lost to Indiana.
Thus far, Anthony has declined to elaborate on how the team's performance this season may impact his decision.
He was asked late last month how he would define a "successful" season for the Knicks.
"I'm not going to put that pressure on myself or our guys to say that it's championship or bust," Anthony said. "I don't want to put a cap on what's a successful season or what's a failure [of a] season for us."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.