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NBA: Anthony a free agent after opting out of Knicks’ deal

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Carmelo Anthony officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks on Monday, according to his agent, Leon Rose.

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Anthony will become a free agent on July 1.

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

Anthony would have been paid $23.5 million for his final year with the Knicks.

Anthony has been doing research on the city of Chicago, according to ESPNNewYork.com. Anthony has reportedly spoken to at least one high-profile person who lives in Chicago about what it is like to be famous there.

Likewise, the Bulls have reportedly conducted their own research of Anthony recently. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has contacted some of Anthony’s former coaches to ask about him, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

ESPN reported in March that Anthony spoke to Bulls center Joakim Noah during All Star weekend about what it is like playing for Thibodeau. Noah reportedly used the conversation as a recruiting pitch to Anthony.

Anthony is also reportedly considering the Rockets and Mavericks as possible free agency destinations. In addition, the Heat are exploring options to see if they might pursue the seven-time All-Star.

In recent weeks, Knicks president Phil Jackson has met with Anthony to try to persuade him to play out the final year of his contract and put off free agency for a year.

Anthony could re-sign with the Knicks for $129 million over five years. If he signs with another team, his maximum deal would be worth $96 million over four years.

The 30-year-old Anthony played for the Denver Nuggets from 2003-2011 until he was traded to the Knicks in a three-team deal that also involved the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 6-foot 8-inch, 230-pound forward has averaged 25.3 points per game during his 12-year career.

As the perennial All-Star begins to test the waters, the Knicks’ most famous fan and sideline season ticket holder is hoping Melo finds his way back to the Garden.

“We need him, because here’s the thing: You’re not going to get a great player as a free agent if — the only time it happened, basically, was when Amare [Stoudemire] came here,” said Spike Lee in an interview with TheWrap on Monday. “But no one like LeBron, Durant, all these guys coming up for free agency, they’re not coming to New York if no one else is there. We need a superstar to attract a superstar. If Miami doesn’t have Wade, LeBron and Bosh aren’t going there.”

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