Bulls Favored Over Knicks to Sign Anthony as Free Agent

Carmelo Anthony has a better chance of joining the Chicago Bulls as a free agent than staying with the New York Knicks, according to oddsmakers.

Anthony, 30, said throughout the 2013-14 season he intends to opt out of the final year of his National Basketball Association contract and test the free agent market this summer. Free agency begins July 1 and the New York Daily News reported last night that Anthony informed the Knicks he’ll use his opt-out clause, citing an unidentified person in the league.

Anthony has to make his decision official by today and the Bulls are now listed as 2-3 favorites to sign the seven-time All-Star, who has averaged 25.3 points a game for his career, according to online sportsbook Bovada.lv. The Bulls, who are led by center Joakim Noah and point guard Derrick Rose, have made the playoffs nine of the past 10 years, yet have reached the Eastern Conference finals only once.

“With the recent rumors coming up more and more about Melo tied to the Bulls, we had to drop his odds from 3/2 to 2/3,” Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley said. “Whether these rumors hold true or not, we often see an influx of money from our bettors regardless in these type of situations.”

The Knicks, who have won one playoff series in the past 14 years, are given 2-1 odds by Bovada of bringing back Anthony.

The Houston Rockets are the third-favorite to land Anthony at 15-2 odds, followed by the four-time Eastern Conference-champion Miami Heat with 9-1 odds. They’re followed by the Los Angeles Lakers at 12-1.

Pay Cut

Anthony, who averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists a game this past season, can get a five-year contract from the Knicks worth about $129 million. He’d take a pay cut by playing elsewhere, as the maximum he could get from another team is $95.8 million over four seasons. The Knicks would have to agree to a sign-and-trade deal for Anthony to get maximum money from another franchise.

Anthony is coming off a season in which he missed the playoffs for the first time in his 10-year career. He said in August that he knows his “window is closing” to bring a championship to the Knicks, who this offseason brought in former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson as team president and hired Derek Fisher after firing Mike Woodson.

“We recognize his talent and skill is the kind of skill and talent that gets you through playoff games where things get sticky,” Jackson said of Anthony in May.

Jackson, who won a record 11 titles as a coach, has said he’s asked Anthony to consider not opting out of his contract and delay becoming a free agent until 2015. Anthony, who was in Paris over the weekend, was set to make $23.3 million in the final year of his deal in New York.

While the Bulls are oddsmakers’ favorites, Anthony might be courted by both Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and LeBron James in Miami. The Rockets could also team Anthony with a pair of All-Stars in center Dwight Howard and guard James Harden.

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