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Carmelo Anthony must consider leaving New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony’s decision to see what free agency has to offer is not a surprise.

Anthony, 30, has never been a free agent, and this his chance to sign with a the team he thinks has the best chance of winning a championship in the next four or five seasons. It’s also likely this is the last super lucrative contract he signs.

Anthony will terminate the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks and become a free agent on July 1, a person familiar with Anthony’s decision told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.

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Anthony’s move doesn’t really alter free agency. Though Knicks President Phil Jackson wanted Anthony to stay in the final year of the contract, league executives had been planning for Anthony’s availability this summer.

Anthony, who was due to make $23.3 million next season, will have suitors lined up for his services — potentially the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, maybe some others and of course, the Knicks.

Teams can began talking to free agents on July 1 and agree to terms, but a deal cannot be officially signed until July 10.

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The Knicks can offer Anthony the longest contract and most money — five years, $130 million from New York compared to four years and about $96 million from others. But it’s not a guarantee the Knicks want to pay him the max.

The Knicks don’t have many options in free agency. As long as Amar’e Stoudmire doesn’t opt out of his $23.4 million deal, the Knicks will still be over the salary cap if Anthony leaves. New York also does not have a pick in this week’s draft.

While Jackson would like Anthony back and possibly at less than the maximum, he’s not fretting Anthony’s loss. The summer of 2015 is when Jackson can really make a big impact. That’s when the contracts of Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler expire.

For now, it puts the Knicks in a holding pattern until Anthony makes a decision, and if Anthony signs with another team, they would entertain a sign-and-trade with that team. That would be a way for the Knicks to recoup some assets.

Even though in 2011 Anthony wanted to return closer to his New York and Baltimore roots, the Knicks have not advanced past the Eastern Conference semifinals in his three-plus seasons in New York. The Knicks failed to make the playoffs this season, leading to massive changes.

Knicks owner James Dolan hired Jackson to bring a championship to New York. Jackson, who played for the last Knicks championship team in 1972-73, fired Mike Woodson as coach and recently hired Derek Fisher as the replacement.

Anthony may end believing in Jackson’s long-term plan and stay with the Knicks. But Anthony needs to listen to other plans.

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