Expected: Carmelo Anthony reportedly has decided to opt out of his contract with the New York Knicks, which would make him an unrestricted free agent when the signing period begins July 1.
Unexpected: Anthony reportedly has already begun inquiring about the Bulls and city of Chicago, including asking a "high-profile person who lives in Chicago" about what it's like to be a superstar in the Windy City, according to league sources.
It's yet another chapter in the ongoing offseason of Anthony who, despite technically not even being a free agent has already created more storylines and reports on his next destination than any other player.
Anthony has made it known for some time that he desired to enter the 2014 offseason as a free agent. He still has one year remaining on the three-year, $64.17 million extension he signed with the Knicks in 2012, and if Anthony were to opt in, he'd earn more than $23 million next season.
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But with the Knicks in no position to contend in the near future — they don't have a first-round pick in next week's draft, they have few young assets with which to build around with Anthony and couldn't do much else in free agency if Anthony returned — the seven-time All-Star is likely headed elsewhere (though the Knicks haven't been ruled out as a possible landing spot).
What the Knicks do have going for them is money. The Knicks may sign Anthony to a five-year, $125 million deal, while other teams — the Bulls and Rockets have been listed as front runners — may only offer him a four-year, $90 million and would need to clear significant cap space to make it happen.
Still, multiple outlets have reported that the idea of playing for a contender is high on Anthony's priority list. The Knicks won just 37 games last year and missed the playoffs, while both the Bulls and Rockets have championship-caliber cores that Anthony could turn into true contenders in their respective conferences.
And just as Anthony reportedly has begun his homework on the Bulls, they're doing the same on him. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Tom Thibodeau has been in contact with a few of Anthony's former coaches to ask about the type of player he is, while Joakim Noah admitted during All-Star weekend that he had conversations with Anthony about potentially playing in Chicago the following season.
And while the Kevin Love to Chicago rumors have been quiet — the Warriors, if they're willing to part with shooting guard Klay Thompson appear to be the front runners — Anthony is not the only player the Bulls are pursuing. According to a report yesterday, the Bulls have also been in contact with the Orlando Magic about trading for guard Arron Afflalo. Coming off a career year, Afflalo, who is set to make $7.5 million next season and has a $7.5 million player option in 2015, would significantly help a Bulls offense that finished last in the NBA in scoring. Or, Afflalo could be used as part of a trade for Anthony.