Report: Anthony, Thunder to part ways this summer

`Carmelo Anthony

(Reuters) Whether via trade, the stretch provision or a buyout, the Oklahoma City Thunder and forward Carmelo Anthony will part ways this summer, according to an ESPN report Friday.

Anthony exercised his $27.9 million option for 2018-19 last month, a major burden to a Thunder tax bill that swelled further with the re-signings of Paul George and Jerami Grant, and the addition of Nerlens Noel. Rather than paying a historic amount of $310 million between payroll and luxury tax, Oklahoma City could cut more than $100 million off of that total by parting with Anthony.

Per the report, the mutual understanding of a scaled-back role for Anthony also factored into the decision to part ways, and general manager Sam Presti is expected to work with Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports, to facilitate his departure. That could come via trade, the stretch provision — allowing the Thunder to stretch the remainder of his salary over three seasons — or a combination of a buyout and stretch.

The report adds that the Thunder will first explore trade possibilities, which would save them $107 million, with any deal likely leading to Anthony being waived by his new team. The stretch provision would lead to a savings of $90 million.

According to the New York Times, the Houston Rockets are one of the teams watching Anthony’s roster status closely. However, the Rockets, who lost Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns in free agency, don’t plan to make a trade offer for Anthony.

Anthony, 34, was acquired in September from the New York Knicks in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick.

As the team’s third offensive option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Anthony posted career lows in points (16.2), shot attempts (15.0) assists (1.3) and minutes (32.1) in 78 games (all starts) while playing primarily power forward instead of small forward. He failed to earn an All-Star nod for the first time since 2008-09, though his 169 3-pointers made set a new career high.

Anthony’s role was scaled back further in the postseason, as he averaged 11.8 points in 32.3 minutes per game during the Thunder’s first-round series loss to the Utah Jazz. After playing just 26 minutes, and three in the fourth quarter, of a series-ending Game 6 loss, he voiced his frustration with his role.

“As far as being effective as that type of player, 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 made $26.2 million last season, the fourth year of a five-year, $124 million deal he signed with the Knicks in July of 2014. The 15-year veteran spent the first seven-plus seasons of his career with the Denver Nuggets before forcing a trade to the Knicks, where he played six-plus campaigns.

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