It appears Carmelo Anthony is taking the money and running.
According to a report filed by New York Daily News' Frank Isola, Anthony is on board with Phil Jackson's long-term plan and will sign with the Knicks tomorrow, barring a last minute change of heart.
Carmelo told a friend within hour "I believe in Phil." Thursday is decision day & it looks like Melo's coming home http://t.co/Z2BiBcxUmf— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 9, 2014
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, Los Angeles and Chicago, where he was intrigued by the possibility of playing alongside Kobe Bryant out west and believed the Bulls gave him the best shot at a championship.
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."
The expected $129 million contract 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 Lakers would have been able to pay Anthony a $98 million max deal over four years, while 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.
If Anthony does indeed sign 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. However, there are reports that the Knicks may go after free agent Pau Gasol, who is good friends with the Knicks new point guard Jose Calderon (the two have competed together on Spain's national team).
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.
It's worth noting that Isola and the Daily News are the only outlet reporting Anthony's apparent decision. Other outlets insist that Anthony has not decided and that his future is still up in the air.