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NBA

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Knicks star opts for free agency

– Carmelo Anthony “loves being a Knick” but is headed for free agency because he wants to explore his options, his agent said.

Anthony had a Monday deadline to terminate the final year of his contract and had already informed the team he would do so. He will be able to negotiate with teams starting July 1.

“Carmelo loves being a Knick, he loves the city and the fans,” Leon Rose said. “At this stage of his career he just wants to explore his options.”

The best one financially would be to return to New York, which can offer him an extra year and around $25 million more than any team under NBA rules.

But Anthony has said his priority at this stage of his career is to contend for championships, and the Knicks are coming off a 37-45 season and have little ability to upgrade the roster this summer because of salary cap rules.

Teams such as Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Miami have all been mentioned as teams that could be interested in the All-Star forward, and all are playoff teams with established stars already on the roster.

Anthony would have earned $23.3 million next season had he chosen to play out the final year of his deal. Knicks president Phil Jackson had told Anthony it may be a good idea to consider that, but Anthony had repeatedly said his preference was to become a free agent this summer, and he reiterated that to Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and new coach Derek Fisher during a recent meeting.

Anthony averaged 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds last season. Jackson and Fisher hope the two-time Olympic gold medalist stays, but will be prepared if he doesn’t.

“I’m not losing sleep over it, but I’m definitely concerned about the idea of a guy going into free agency. It only takes one bidder out there that has the ability and can ruin your hopes and your chances,” Jackson said recently. “We will survive it. That’s what I’ve said and we’ll go forward. But this is a guy we recognize his talent and his skill is the kind of skill and talent that gets you through playoff games where things get sticky, grind out and basketball becomes a force game and suddenly you need to have a player who has the capabilities of scoring with someone hanging on them in a situation that’s critical. He’s one of those players, one of the few players who can do that.”

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