Carmelo Anthony will be joining the New York Knicks.
The free agent small forward who was considering the Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks has decided Saturday to sign a five-year contract with the Knicks, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. After 11 seasons that have included seven All-Star appearances, 10 playoff appearances, one scoring title and zero championships, his title pursuit will continue alongside first-year Knicks President Phil Jackson.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because contracts cannot be signed until Thursday, when the NBA's free agency moratorium lifts.
Anthony, 30, had never been a free agent before, so he did what first-time free agent superstars so often do. He made the recruiting rounds, starting in Chicago on Tuesday to see the Bulls before visiting the Rockets and Mavericks on Wednesday and the Lakers and Knicks in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Knicks always had the financial edge, as their five-year, $130 million, maximum-contract offer was more than $30 million more than any other team could offer. But Anthony had made it all about the money before, when he forced his way out of Denver and the Knicks had to send Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and a first-round pick to the Nuggets to make it happen. Anthony had landed his three-year, $65 million extension, but the Knicks ultimately paid a steep price for discarding all that talent to get him there.
More than before, that meant their pitch had to be about business and basketball. So they traded for point guard Jose Calderon in a recent deal with the Mavericks, upgrading at a spot — previously held by Felton, who returned before last season — where Anthony was known to have serious concerns. Jackson sold Anthony on his own championship resume, emphasizing the role he'd played in helping Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant take their games to new levels en route to winning so many rings.
The most pressing question was whether Anthony had any patience left to see Jackson's plan through. After three consecutive playoff appearances and a second-round loss to the Indiana Pacers in 2013, the Knicks fell apart. Their 37-45 record — which few blamed Anthony for as he averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game — left them out of the playoff race. It left Anthony's future in doubt, too.
The Bulls had an advantage of a very different kind, as Anthony had wanted to play for the Bulls since those days when he was plotting his exit out of Denver. With Anthony, they would instantly be Eastern Conference favorites and give him the title shot he'd wanted for so long: former MVP Derrick Rose running the show, current Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah down low and so many stellar pieces all around.
At the start of the process, the Rockets seemed to be on Anthony's short list as well. Center Dwight Howard had made the surprising decision to leave Los Angeles last summer, joining James Harden and putting Houston just one piece away from having its own Big Three. The Mavericks had attempted to pull of a pre-free agency pitch as well, trading for the Knicks' Felton and Tyson Chandler in a move the certainly made them more appealing. The Felton hurdle was cleared by re-signing point guard Devin Harris (who agreed on a three-year, $9 million deal with Dallas on Saturday), and the group that also included Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki would have been worthy of title-contender status with Anthony as well.
The Lakers, meanwhile, offered a fascinating balance of personal and professional appeal. Anthony, who had said recently that the comfort level of his wife, La La, and 7-year-old son would come into play, has an offseason home in Los Angeles. What's more, he had the chance to do what Howard chose not to: take the torch from Bryant on the tail-end of the future Hall of Famer's career, but not before trying to help him win his sixth championship first. And they could offer the maximum contract that the Bulls, Rockets and Mavericks could not: of $97 million over four years.