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Why is Carmelo dragging out his decision?!?

NBA Free Agency officially opened on July 1st. Carmelo Anthony scheduled and completed meetings with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and LA Lakers all in the first three days. Since taking those meetings, he’s also met with Phil Jackson and heard his pitch on why Melo should stay in New York. Anthony reportedly wanted to make a decision by the end of the (Fourth of July) holiday weekend. Social media has been constantly buzzing with rumors about who impressed him most and which team is most likely to sign the star.

Here’s what we (think we) know:

  • Anthony has a max offer from the Knicks for 5 years, $129 million and the Lakers for 4 years, $96 million.
  • Anthony has a less than max offer from the Bulls in the 4 year, $72 million range.
  • Returning to the Knicks is most likely, followed by leaving for the Lakers and leaving for the Bulls.
  • Phil Jackson is not willing to help Carmelo leave by agreeing to a Sign & Trade (S&T), especially if it means taking back Carlos Boozer and his expiring (albatross) contract.
  • Houston and Dallas, though not officially informed, have been eliminated from consideration.

That’s not the question though. The question is why the fuck are we still waiting on a decision? DISCLAIMER: Everything that follows is speculation based on everything I’m hearing/reading and my understanding of the NBA landscape.

Scenario 1: Carmelo Anthony still doesn’t know what he wants. I have a hard time believing this, but some people do struggle making big decisions. Melo has lots of factors to weigh and the chance to compete for a title isn’t the only consideration outside of money. Where does he want to live? What about his family? What opportunities exist outside of basketball? I don’t think this scenario is what’s causing the delay. He’s had months to think about what he wants and more than a week in most cases to consider what teams have offered. I’m confident that he already has a first, second, and third choice in mind.

Scenario 2: If Carmelo already has a first choice, why hasn’t he made it known? It’s because he’s not looking at this as simply taking the money in NY or LA vs chasing a Ring in Chicago. Twitter driven news certainly makes it seem that simple, but that’s far from the case. I believe that Carmelo’s first few choices actually still have moving parts. In no particular order, here is what I believe he’s considering:

  • Resign with the Knicks IF they can add additional help. Phil Jackson already added much needed help at PG by dealing for Jose Calderon. That’s a big improvement over Raymond Felton, but far from enough to make Anthony think the Knicks can compete this year. I’m not sure it even improves them enough to make the playoffs in the weak East. What if Jackson convinces Pau Gasol to take a huge pay cut to join the Knicks? Or maybe he can pull off a S&T deal with the Lakers to acquire Gasol. Both seem hugely unlikely since he’d be leaving about $8 million per year on the table to sign with the Knicks and the Knicks have no real assets to interest the Lakers in a S&T. There is a good chance this is Melo’s first choice, but I don’t see how it’s possible.
  • Sign with the Bulls IF they can work out a S&T. Most of the sports media is reporting that the Bulls can only pay Carmelo about $17 million per year, but they leave out the more complex S&T option because, well because it’s complicated. The super simple version is that Carmelo can get his max deal (or at least closer to it) by forcing a S&T to Chicago because it allows the Bulls go over the salary cap, which they cannot do if they sign him outright. We’ve all looked at the contract numbers floating around; nobody wants to walk away from $57 million dollars. Melo no doubt can see that Chicago is best chance to compete for a title in the next few years; but that’s a lot of money to leave. I believe the delays and interest in LA are both tactics to push Phil Jackson to start working out potential S&T deals with Chicago.
  • Sign with the Lakers IF they can bring back Pau Gasol. This scenario doesn’t get Melo all that close to completing for a ring. In fact, I wouldn’t project a team with Kobe, Melo, and Pau to even earn home court advantage in the first round. Still, LA has a lot of side benefits that must look good. Melo already has a house in LA, it’s the best place for his wife’s career, less change for his son, and the weather blows NY and Chicago out of the water. If he weighs those benefits heavily, he might look at LA as a solid comprise. That team is probably better than anything the Knicks can cobble together this year. Still, the Lakers are in the West an short of signing for almost nothing to join the Spurs or Thunder nothing about going West gets him closer to a Ring.
  • Carmelo wants to join forces with his good friend, LeBron James. LBJ has been totally silent for the last 9 days. His planned meeting with Pat Riley today is the first meeting he’s attended himself. We think he might be headed back to Cleveland. That’s a fun story line, but Knicks, Lakers, and Bulls fans should be more interested in Chris Bosh. We know that Bosh wants to stay in Miami, but thats really only if LeBron also stays. If Bosh gets uneasy and bolts for Houston (a better basketball fit in my opinion, and likely more money) then a potential Big 3 of LeBron, Wade, and Melo all of sudden becomes possible. There’s been little mention of it, but a team like the Phoenix Suns with huge cap space could potentially tell LeBron we have the max for you and we’ve also set aside the max for any other free agent of your choice. This scenario has a lot of “ifs” involved; I don’t see Bosh pulling the trigger until LeBron acts. LeBron is also good friends with Bosh, so I don’t thing he’s trying to replace him with Melo.

I’m not sure which of these scenarios is actually his first choice, but it’s possible that the wheels are in motion for one or more. It’s likely we are only a day or two away from finding out for sure, but I’m confident that the unexpected delay is not because Carmelo Anthony can’t make up his mind. It’s because his first choice involves moving pieces and he does not need to make a decision until he sees where those pieces land.

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