There’s a lot more to free agency than just the big names. Often, the smaller signings that don’t stand out as much turn out to be much more important. But the upcoming free agency period is going to be about whether or not LeBron James and Camrelo Anthony opt out of their deals with the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, and start one of the biggest bidding bonanzas we’ve seen in the history of the league.
Anthony has indicated more than once that he is intending to opt out of his deal. Not because he is unhappy with the New York Knicks or playing in the city, but he A) wants to try out what free agency feels like for the first time in his career and B) deep down inside knows that the current Knicks team isn’t going anywhere or winning anything. There’s more money to be made if he stays in New York, but if there’s a real burn in him to win a championship and do it now, the Knicks aren’t the team that will help satisfy that inner hunger.
LeBron James is in a different place – different than the one he was in four years ago when he made The Decision into a career turning point, when the hate started flowing in his direction from more than just Boston players and fans. He is a two-time champion, a living legend in NBA standards, and simply a wiser, older player. Like Anthony, in terms of money, James can make more if he sticks with the Heat, but he needs to opt out of his deal for that.
But James isn’t making a decision just for himself. He sees himself, Wade and Bosh as the same unit, although the demand for each and every one of them is completely different. They’re all on the same deal give or take a few thousand dollars, and all of them can opt out of their deals now. Either to go play somewhere else, together or not, or in order to take a pay cut that will enable the Miami Heat to bring in more quality players to an evidently decaying squad that is dispersing everywhere this offseason.
Anthony won’t take a pay cut, or at least not with the Knicks. Why? Because no matter how much he is paid next season – even a veteran’s minimum, and the Knicks are still going to be in luxury tax land because of the deals with Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. Anthony might be willing to lose some money in order to go play for the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls or even the Miami Heat, but staying in New York is going to keep him as one of the highest paid players in the NBA.
And as in all offseasons, teams wait for the decisions of the big players to decide what to do next. Like with Dwight Howard last season, only after they make their decisions, the rest of the league starts reacting accordingly. Both James and Anthony aren’t even free agents at the moment and have a week or two to make up their minds, but everyone in the NBA is waiting to hear what they have to say.