Carmelo Anthony is planning to sign with the Houston Rockets upon clearing waivers in coming days, according to two people with knowledge of his plans.
Anthony is unlikely to become a free agent before next week, at the earliest, because his pending trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks could take several days to be officially completed, according to the people, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the trade publicly.
But the three-way deal, which also includes the Philadelphia 76ers, has been agreed to and is expected to take place after Philadelphia makes another roster move. The sharpshooter Kyle Korver of the Cleveland Cavaliers is among the players Philadelphia is known to be pursuing via trade before completing the three-way deal with Oklahoma City and Atlanta.
The Anthony trade involves the Thunder sending the high-scoring former All-Star and a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick to the Hawks in exchange for guard Dennis Schroder. The transaction also calls for the 76ers to end up with Atlanta forward Mike Muscala and send out two players: Justin Anderson to Atlanta and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot to Oklahoma City.
The Hawks have pledged to release Anthony once the trade is complete, according to the people. That will allow him to earn $27.9 million salary next season — as stipulated by the original five-year contract he signed with the Knicks in the summer of 2014 — and then sign with Houston upon clearing waivers. He is expected to receive a one-year deal from the Rockets at the league’s veteran minimum salary of $2.4 million.
Anthony will clear waivers 48 hours after Atlanta formally lets him go, enabling him to sign with the team of his choice. Rockets officials have been operating under the belief that Anthony will soon be Houston-bound since meeting with him face-to-face during summer-league play in Las Vegas this month.
The New York Times first reported July 10 that the Rockets had emerged as the front-runner to sign Anthony once he becomes a free agent.
Houston has been pursuing Anthony since last summer, when the Rockets acquired his good friend Chris Paul in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. A year later, Houston’s need for frontcourt reinforcements is even more pronounced after the departures of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency.
The Rockets’ star guard James Harden, at a community appearance Friday, told The Houston Chronicle that Anthony would be “a great acquisition for us.”
“Melo’s a proven vet,” Harden told the newspaper. “He just wants to win at this point, so it would be great for him to be on our team.”
After its one-year experiment with Anthony did not pan out as hoped, Oklahoma City is projected to save nearly $75 million in luxury-tax payments by shipping out Anthony and bringing in Schroder to serve as an understudy and occasional backcourt sidekick to the All-Star Russell Westbrook.
When he joins the Rockets, Anthony, 34, will be reunited with Houston Coach Mike D’Antoni after the two struggled badly to mesh in New York, which ultimately led to D’Antoni’s resignation as Knicks coach. But the parties are committed to trying to forge a more successful partnership this time, with Paul’s presence believed to be crucial.