Woodson to Melo: Focus on season

Updated: October 18, 2013, 7:36 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

BALTIMORE -- Knicks coach Mike Woodson wants Carmelo Anthony to focus on the team this season, not on his pending free agency.

"If he's going to test it, he's got to test it. That's on him," Woodson said Thursday. "But at this point, he's got to worry about this season and this season only, because that's what's staring him in the face." 

Anthony has indicated he will opt out of the final season of his contract with the Knicks and test free agency next summer.

He said earlier that he wouldn't discuss his plans for the summer. But he addressed the topic Thursday after a New York Observer story quoted Anthony as saying he wants to be a free agent.

"It's definitely an opportunity that I'm willing to explore and experience," Anthony said Thursday. "That not whatsoever means that I'm not coming back to New York or I don't want to be here in New York. So I don't want nobody to get that impression."

Woodson said he doesn't expect the situation to be a distraction or affect Anthony's performance on the court.

"It shouldn't weigh on him," Woodson said. "Melo's going to be fine. He's put himself in a great position.

"We're expecting big things from Melo. It's been that way since I've been here, and it's not going to change. He's a major centerpiece of what we've done here the last few years. That's important. [His performance] weighs heavily on this season."

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 -- a five-year contract worth $129.1 million -- instead of another suitor. With another team, the maximum he could earn is $95.9 million 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.

The Knicks can begin negotiations with Anthony on an extension in February, but if he opts out, they can expect plenty of competition for his services.

ESPN.com reported during the summer that the Los Angeles Lakers would target Anthony and LeBron James in summer 2014 if both decided to explore free agency.

Some have speculated that Anthony -- 10-year veteran who led the NBA in scoring last season with 28.7 points per game -- would consider leaving if the Knicks failed to make it out of the second round of the playoffs. In Anthony's first year with 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. They lost to Indiana in the next round.

Thus far, Anthony has declined to elaborate on how the team's performance this season might affect 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.

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