The Thunder want to help Carmelo Anthony find a new home. To that end, the team is reportedly allowing the veteran forward to speak with other teams ahead of his expected departure from Oklahoma City.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, those teams include the Rockets and Heat. He reported Tuesday that among the Houston officials who met with Anthony was coach Mike D’Antoni, who has said in the past that the forward undermined him when they were both with the Knicks.
However, The Post reported Monday that, according to multiple sources, D’Antoni “would be fine with Anthony coming to Houston.” Anthony has a close friend on the Rockets in Chris Paul, as he does with the Heat, in Dwyane Wade. In addition, another potential suitor for Anthony, the Lakers, also features the lure of playing alongside a close friend in LeBron James.
First, though, Anthony must be moved off the Thunder, either by trade or by being released. The latter option could be exercised by Oklahoma City if it decides to stretch the remainder of his contract, one season at $27.9 million, over the next three years, thereby gaining some short-term salary-cap relief.
That could be enticing, considering the Rockets are over the cap and staring at a massive luxury-tax bill from the NBA. However, they may also opt to swap Anthony for players on longer deals who they deem more useful, with a trading partner possibly eyeing the cap space his contract expiration would offer in 2019, when there could be several big-name free agents on the market.
While Anthony has a no-trade clause, he waived it to be dealt from the Knicks to the Thunder last summer, and The Oklahoman reported Tuesday that he is set to again waive it to facilitate a move elsewhere. However, Anthony will do so with “the understanding that if he’s not sent to a team he approves, it’ll buy him out and make him a free agent,” the newspaper wrote.
In that scenario, once Anthony is available, the Rockets would reportedly be ready to pounce. Houston, which has lost forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, is “determined” to sign Anthony if and when he hits the market, Wojnarowski tweeted Monday.
Anthony, 34, offers almost none of the defensive skills Ariza and Mbah a Moute brought to the table, but even on the downslope of his career, the 10-time All-Star promises greater scoring punch. In his lone season in Oklahoma City, Anthony averaged 16.2 points and set a career high with 169 3-point field goals on .357 shooting beyond the arc. And in a positive sign for what would be his likely role in the Rockets’ offense, he shot .372 on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts (per NBA.com).
The role assigned to Anthony last season, which became increasingly limited as the Thunder wound through a first-round playoff loss to the Jazz, was not taken by him as a positive development. Claiming afterward that he had no interest in “sacrificing” for a “bench role,” Anthony said, “I think everybody knows that I’ve sacrificed kind of damn near everything.”
“Family, moving here by myself, sacrificed my game for the sake of the team, and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order for this situation to work out,” he continued at the time. “So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball.”
D’Antoni had previously clashed with Anthony over his role with the Knicks, as the coach wanted him to shift from small forward to power forward. Anthony won that power struggle, only to eventually embrace the position change as the entire league, with the Warriors leading the way, emphasized small-ball lineups.
The new outlook on his fit should help smooth the way for a new relationship between D’Antoni and Anthony, should the latter wind up in Houston. Wojnarowski wrote Tuesday that, in their meeting, “D’Antoni made it clear to Anthony that he thinks the circumstances together would be far different in Houston, and welcomed the idea of coaching Anthony again.”
It remains to be seen if that happens or how well it works out, but it’s evident that all sides are welcoming the idea of Anthony spending this season on a team other than the Thunder.