OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony plans to opt in and take the $28 million he is due next season.
The New York Times first reported the 34-year-old Anthony’s decision to bypass the chance to become a free agent. A person with knowledge of details confirmed Anthony’s choice to The Associated Press on Friday night. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
The Thunder traded for Anthony and Paul George to join Russell Westbrook before last season, moves that gave them high hopes of challenging Golden State in the West. It didn’t work out as planned.
The 34-year-old Anthony had been the headliner his entire career — he’s 19th in NBA history with 25,417 points — but he was more of a catch-and-shoot scorer last season instead of the isolation specialist he had always been. He averaged 16.2 points per game, but struggled at times in his new role. His playing time dwindled in the playoffs and he wasn’t happy. In Game 6 of the first-round playoff series against Utah that ended Oklahoma City’s season, he played fewer minutes than backup Jerami Grant.
It wasn’t entirely clear if Anthony would opt in. After the season, he said he prefers to play with the ball in his hands more and said coming off the bench is “out of the question.”
“So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball,” he said.
Despite his confidence, the 10-time All-Star posted career lows in scoring average and field goal percentage last season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at the end of the season that he doesn’t expect Anthony’s role to change.
“I give him an enormous amount of credit for the fact that he put both feet in,” Presti said. “I personally think he did an excellent job in his first year transitioning his game, working to becoming more of an off-the-ballplayer, being more reliant on other people to generate his offense, and sacrificing a lot. At the same time, I think every player is entitled to take a step back after the season, reflect on the year they had, and in his case have to make a determination about whether or not this is a role that he wants to continue to be functioning in.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.