Carmelo Anthony Is Not Planning to Opt Out of His Thunder Contract

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Carmelo Anthony does not intend to opt out of his current contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to a person familiar with Anthony’s decision.

Anthony has until Saturday at midnight (Eastern) to exercise the option that would make him a free agent July 1 — provided he were willing to walk away from the $27.9 million he is owed next season. But he is planning to let the deadline pass quietly and keep his current contract in effect, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Letting the deadline pass will lock in Anthony’s full salary for next season but doesn’t guarantee that he will continue his career in Oklahoma City. Anthony announced after the Thunder’s first-round exit last season that he could not stomach returning in 2018-19 in the same limited role, which raises the possibility that the sides could pursue buyout negotiations this off-season.

The Thunder could also try to trade Anthony, 34, once his salary for next season is in effect. But the market for such a move is expected to be virtually nonexistent given Anthony’s high salary-cap number and his struggles in a complementary role last season alongside the All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

Oklahoma City’s top priority this summer is trying to re-sign George, but success in that quest would create a separate problem in terms of luxury tax. Thanks to the hefty contracts already possessed by Westbrook, Anthony and the center Steven Adams, the Thunder’s tax bill could approach the $80 million range if George were to be brought back on a new deal expected to start at a maximum salary of $30.3 million.

Because of that looming money crunch, Oklahoma City and Anthony could be candidates for a separation before the start of next season — even if Anthony sticks to his plan to bypass Saturday’s pricey opportunity to become a free agent of his own accord.

Thunder General Manager Sam Presti met with local reporters after Thursday’s draft and said of Anthony: “We’ve had several conversations with his representation and that’s pretty normal course. I wish I could tell you a whole lot has changed since the end of the season. We’re still in June and the season doesn’t start until October, so we’ll continue to have that dialogue moving forward.”

After losing to Utah in last postseason’s first round, Anthony spoke about staying with the Thunder and mentioned his diminished role in the playoffs: “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.”

The Thunder acquired Anthony from the Knicks in September 2017 with the expectation that the former All-Star forward would play out the final two seasons of his contract. Anthony averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 2017-18 but shot a career-worst 40.4 percent from the field.

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