LAS VEGAS — In advance of an inevitable — if not imminent — parting, the Oklahoma City Thunder granted Carmelo Anthony permission to meet with prospective teams, including the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat, league sources told ESPN.
Anthony and his representatives met with Rockets and Heat officials at the site of the NBA Summer League in recent days, league sources told ESPN.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports, have been working cooperatively to expedite a separation from the Thunder.
The Rockets meeting included coach Mike D’Antoni, who had a turbulent relationship with Anthony as New York Knicks coach. 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, league sources said.
The Rockets lost forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, clearing the way for a greater opportunity for Anthony to impact the Rockets. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has been a strong advocate of signing Anthony, who could play a major role for the Heat at power forward.
The Thunder are working on trade scenarios in which Anthony, 34, would be moved as an expiring contract and waived, becoming a free agent once his $27.9 million 2017-18 salary clears waivers. Oklahoma City needs Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, which he has done to facilitate his exit, league sources said.
Anthony’s contract makes trade possibilities less likely than simply executing the NBA’s waive and stretch provision on his contract, which would save the Thunder $107 million in luxury tax and salary. That would spread his salary-cap hit equally at $9.3 million over three years.
Once Anthony opted into the final year of his contract, he lost some control on his future. Oklahoma City reached agreement to keep forward Jerami Grant on a three-year, $27 million deal, holding onto a developing 24-year old talent who the organization believes allow them to play faster on offense, and better on defense.
After being acquired from the Knicks before training camp opened last season, Anthony accepted a new role with OKC that featured changing positions from small forward to power forward. It took time for Anthony to adapt and never completely found comfort playing as a catch-and-shoot stretch 4.
Anthony hit a career-high 169 3-pointers last season and was credited by the coaching staff for helping provide space for teammates. Though his scoring average (16.2) was a career low, he provided the Thunder a stable and consistent third scorer behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
It came to a head during the Thunder’s postseason series against the Jazz with Anthony’s role being reduced throughout the series. In Game 6, Anthony played only 26 minutes, including just three in the fourth quarter. Anthony averaged 11.8 points in the series, shooting just .375 from the field and .214 from 3-point range.
Anthony expressed frustration with his role following the season, setting the stage for what is now an inevitable departure.
“I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player,” Anthony said. “I think I was willing to accept that challenge in that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I still can do as a basketball player.”
Anthony also made it clear he would not be accepting of a bench role.
Despite Anthony’s comments after the season, both Presti and coach Billy Donovan praised Anthony throughout the season for his professionalism and attempt at a reinvention.
“I think he’s being very candid and very honest. I respect that. I respect the fact he’s being open about that,” Presti said. “Now, we have the same responsibility. We have to be candid and honest with him. One of the things I really like about Carmelo is he’s a mature person. You can talk to him. He listens.
“He’s been professional with us within the building. I’m sure there are nights he was frustrated because it’s a big transition that he’s trying to make, was trying to make, this season. We have to figure out, again, we don’t know exactly how our team is going to look.”
Prior to Anthony not exercising his early termination option late in June, the Thunder communicated with Anthony and his representatives about possible plans for next season, which could include an even lesser role.
Anthony waived his no-trade clause to join the Thunder last season with an understanding he’d be playing a new position and a different role, but struggled to find consistency. As the Thunder refocus to build around the core of Westbrook, George and Steven Adams, with his hefty salary and implications that come with it, Anthony will now depart.
“I think for me, my focus would be on kind of figuring out what I want out of the rest of my career, what I want in my future, what am I willing to accept, if I’m willing to accept that at all,” Anthony said in April. “I think everybody knows that I’ve sacrificed kind of damned 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.
“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.”
Information from ESPN’s Royce Young was used in this report.