Rockets gain “significant momentum” as preferred destination for Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls have emerged as the “clear frontrunners” to acquire Carmelo Anthony, according to a story published on Saturday by Yahoo! Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

“Anthony, 30, has been intrigued with [joining] the Bulls for several months, but Houston has gathered significant momentum as a preferred destination for him,” Wojnarowski wrote, citing league sources.

“Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden prepared to recruit Anthony as the third star in a championship chase,” he added.

Both Houston and Chicago front-office executives are said to be “working diligently” on scenarios to clear the cap space to sign Anthony outright, or engage New York on sign-and-trade scenarios, according to the report. In Houston’s case, that would mean shedding the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, at a minimum. But with both of those players entering the final year of their contracts, Wojnarowski writes that a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony is indeed possible.

“Because those players are moving into the expiring year of their contracts, they could potentially appeal to New York in sign-and-trade scenarios that would deliver Anthony his full max contract of four years, $90 million-plus,” Wojnarowski wrote.

“In trade talks, New York has told teams it doesn’t want to take on contracts beyond the summer of 2015 although Asik, a center, could ultimately be a player the Knicks would want to sign long-term,” he added. “There’s a market for Asik to be traded into salary-cap space elsewhere for draft considerations, but Houston may have to package a draft pick to move Lin.”

The full max for Anthony would involve a contract starting at over $22 million per year, but citing league sources, Wojnarowski writes that Anthony would take less than that if “he can be shown how his financial concessions can result in the immediate acquisition or retention of talent”.

In Houston’s case, Wojnarowski writes that most scenarios that would hold the Rockets’ nucleus together — including Chandler ParsonsPatrick Beverley and Terrence Jones — would involve Anthony getting a starting salary near $19 million.

Meanwhile, should Chicago amnesty the contract of Carlos Boozer and trade the contract of Taj Gibson and at least one other player, the Bulls as an Eastern Conference team could offer Anthony a theoretically easier route to the NBA Finals than the Rockets. Additionally, Anthony is said to “have an affinity” for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Wojnarowski writes, before cautioning that Anthony must also weigh the future health of Derrick Rose in his decision.

The Knicks, of course, can still offer the most money to Anthony and have still expressed interest in retaining him. To that end, a delegation consisting of Phil Jackson and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher met Anthony on Friday night in Los Angeles. However, the option of re-signing with the Knicks appears to be becoming less likely.

“Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender,” Wojnarowski wrote.

Wojnarowski also noted that Jackson has “turned off” Anthony with public proclamations of wanting Anthony to take less money to stay with the Knicks.

“Jackson has been somewhat cavalier in his public declarations of wanting Anthony to stay, and it’s been noticed,” the report says.

The next significant development in the Anthony sweepstakes should come within the next 10 days. The New York forward, who averaged 27.4 points per game on 45% shooting last season, has until June 23 to notify the Knicks if he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract.

If Anthony opts out and becomes a free agent, as several reports indicate he is likely to do, outside teams such as Houston and Chicago could begin courting him on July 1.

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