It appears the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes are over, and the Bulls have been left out.
Just a matter of hours until Carmelo Anthony informs the Knicks of his return on a five-year deal, as @FisolaNYDN reported this week.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 12, 2014
The Knicks are expected to offer Anthony a max five-year, $129 million deal.
UPDATE: New York Daily News' Frank Isola reports that Anthony has informed all other teams of his decision:
Carmelo has notified all teams, including the Bulls, that he is returning to the Knicks.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 12, 2014
Isola first reported that Anthony was headed to the Knicks on Wednesday. According to Isola, one of Anthony's friends told him the seven-time All-Star has been "agonizing over" his free agency decision the past week after meeting in-person with the Bulls, Mavericks, Rockets, Lakers and Knicks. His decision reportedly came down to New York and Chicago, where he believed the Bulls gave him the best shot at a championship. He previously had been considering the Lakers but narrowed his choices down earlier in the week to just two teams.
But according to Isola, his familiarity in New York, where he has spent the last 3 1/2 seasons with his wife and son, combined with the belief that Jackson can return New York to basketball prominence was too much to pass up.
In an interview with Vice Sports that was released after Anthony opted out of his deal, he said there was more than just money or championships riding on his decision.
"The average person just sees (an) opportunity to say that, 'Oh, Melo should go here, Melo should go there; Melo should do this, Melo should do that.' But they don't take into consideration the family aspect of it," Anthony said. "Your livelihood, where you're going to be living at. Do you want your kids growing up in that place and that city? Do I want to spend the rest of my career in that situation, in that city? So all of that stuff comes into play."
[FREE AGENCY: Jimmy Butler says Bulls getting 'a winner' in Pau Gasol]
The expected contract north of $120 million over five years probably was too much to pass up, as well. The Knicks were able to offer Anthony more years and money than any team, and that fifth season will earn Anthony around $29 million at age 34; considering this likely will be Anthony's last big payday it's not surprising he took the most lucrative contract. The Bulls would have had to maneuver a sign-and-trade deal to get Anthony just north of $70 million over four years.
While Anthony was in Los Angeles over the weekend, he reportedly also received an endorsement of Knicks head coach Derek Fisher via Kevin Durant. Fisher and Durant were teammates in Oklahoma City the last three years, and Durant noted in his MVP speech that Fisher's professionalism had impressed him.
With Anthony all but signed back on in New York, the onus is put on Jackson to create a championship roster. That won't happen in 2014-15, as the salary cap-strapped Knicks will have a similar roster to the one that tallied just 37 victories a year ago.
But next summer they'll have seven players' contracts coming off the books (including Amare Stoudemire's and Andrea Bargnani's) and will begin the rebuilding project, potentially with a star in Rajon Rondo or Kevin Love. That extra salary cap space, combined with a 2015 first-round draft pick and young talents in Cleanthony Early, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. give some hope that the Knicks could turn things around relatively quickly.