By SAM SPIEGELMAN
Carmelo Anthony wants to win, and he wants to win now.
Anthony is expected to opt of his current contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. With aspirations of contending for an NBA championship being his top priority, the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls have surfaced as the favorites to land the All-Star forward.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets and Bulls have become "the clear frontrunners" to acquire Anthony. Anthony is leaning toward leaving the New York Knicks and is awaiting either Houston or Chicago to clear enough salary cap space to sign him as a free agent.
Via Adrian Wojnarowski:
As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Chicago and Houston front-office executives are working diligently on contingencies to clear the space to sign Anthony outright – or engage sign-and-trade scenarios with New York, sources said.
"His heart is in New York," one source familiar with Anthony's thinking told Yahoo Sports, "but he wants a chance to win now."
Anthony met with Knicks brass, including team president Phil Jackson, in Los Angeles on Friday night. But according to the report, the meeting had little impact on Anthony's mindset. Anthony has concerns about the Knicks' ability to put together a championship-caliber roster and compete for a championship in 2014.
The Bulls have long been expected to be in the race for Anthony. The team will need to amnesty Carlos Boozer and trade Taj Gibson and another player. Signing Anthony all but surely rules out Chicago re-signing Jimmy Butler. And Anthony is then investing his championship hopes on a healthy Derrick Rose returning to the backcourt.
The Rockets, too, have been mentioned as a suitor for Anthony. All-Stars Dwight Howard and James Harden are expected to court 'Melo to be the third leg of their Big Three. But first, Houston needs to find another team to take on Omer Asik's and Jeremy Lin's bloated deals.
In a potential sign-and-trade scenario, the Knicks could bring Asik and Lin, and either re-sign Asik to a long-term deal or use him as trade bait. Because of a rise in salary cap for 2014, Houston can then sign 'Melo to a deal worth $22 to $23 million annually.
Yahoo Sports also reported that there is hesitance on the part of Jackson to hand 'Melo a five-year, $120-plus million deal. Anthony's final year of his current deal would've been worth $23 million.
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