Ahead of an expected split with Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder granted the forward permission to meet with prospective suitors, including the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat, in Las Vegas this week, according to an ESPN report Tuesday.
Anthony and his representatives met with officials from both teams in recent days, per the report, in Vegas during summer league action. The report adds that Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni — who had a contentious relationship with Anthony when both were with the New York Knicks from 2011 to 2012 — told Anthony he expects things to go much more smoothly if the pair were to reunite.
A New York Times report on Tuesday called Houston the “unquestioned frontrunner” for the forward’s services, adding “it would be a full-fledged surprise” if Anthony does not wind up there.
ESPN reported Monday that the Rockets are determined to sign Anthony after losing small forwards Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza in free agency this month. Both players played major roles on the team that reached the Western Conference finals last season, playing both forward positions and switching defensively in small lineups.
Though still a member of the Thunder, Anthony and the team are reportedly working together on parting ways, whether through trade, a buyout or waiving via the stretch provision. Anthony’s contract, which has one year and $27.9 million remaining, will make a trade more difficult, but he is likely to become a free agent even if he is traded, as any team that acquires him would likely waive him.
A trade would save the Thunder around $107 million in salary and luxury tax, while waiving and stretching Anthony would save them about $90 million.
Multiple reports on Sunday said Houston guard Chris Paul wants Anthony, a good friend of his, to join the Rockets, while Anthony is also believed to have interest in joining LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat have regularly been reported to have interest in Anthony, with particular interest coming from head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Anthony, 34, was acquired by Oklahoma City in September from the New York Knicks in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick.
As the team’s third offensive option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Anthony posted career lows in points (16.2), shot attempts (15.0) assists (1.3) and minutes (32.1) in 78 games (all starts) while playing primarily power forward instead of small forward.
He failed to earn an All-Star nod for the first time since 2008-09, though his 169 3-pointers made set a new career high.
–Field Level Media