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The Melo Problem


A year ago, things looked a lot different for OKC.

They came off a relatively rough season, with Russ basically carrying the team to respectability. Still, the summer appeared to make everything better, with the Thunder acquiring both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George for what seemed like nothing at the time.

Obviously, with three stars, a respected coach, and classy front-office, the Thunder set their hopes high for the 2017-18 campaign. But unfortunately for them, those hopes quickly faded into something more like misery. Long story short, OKC utterly failed. They failed to find their chemistry on the court, they failed to stay quiet off of it and failed to even win 3 games in this season's Western Conference Playoffs.

And now, faced with all the failure (and subsequently having to watch his rivals compete for a Championship instead), most NBA analysts assume Paul George is already out of the door. Bearing that in mind, most would assume that the Thunder would want to at least keep Carmelo Anthony in town, a 33-year-old veteran shooter who isn't afraid to step up when needed. While some forget, there's no doubt the guy can still score and will always be somewhat of a box-office attraction. Maybe he and Westbrook can somehow figure things out.... if only they had another year to try?

But according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, that's not something the Thunder really aren't even hoping for. Rather, they just want to see him go.

What might be more pressing is the issue with Anthony. While the Thunder want to keep George long-term, they’d very much like to find a way to rid themselves of Anthony, who could not find a role with the team and did not inspire confidence with his unwillingness to sacrifice, highlighted by his insistence that he would not come off the bench.

As he turns 34 this spring and with his skills diminishing, it’s past time for Anthony to consider different ways he can contribute to a good team, if he is still interested in winning. There are times he seems to long for his days of jacking up shots for the Knicks on the way to another 30-win season. At least then he could point the finger elsewhere — the owner, the coach, the absentee team president — and come across as the mature one in the organization.

But Anthony’s stubbornness and selfishness have been exposed with the Thunder, who still owe him $28 million for next season, if Anthony chooses to opt in (as he surely will). It’s highly unlikely that the Thunder can find a trade for Anthony, who probably won’t be keen on a pay cut to pave the way for a buyout, either. The relationship has soured, though, and it might be best for all if a separation can be arranged.

So even despite the many challenges OKC will face in these next couple of months, their biggest dilemma will be figuring out how not to pay Carmelo Anthony the nearly $28 million in salary they owe him next season (assuming he picks up his player option).That same player option will make it nearly impossible for the team to trade him either, as there's no way any other franchise would want to risk taking on that contract.

Their only hope would be to somehow convince Anthony to abandon the contract and decline the player option. And considering it will likely be his last of this magnitude, that's extremely unlikely to happen.

In the end, there may be no way around it. When Sam Presti assembled this "super-team" almost one year ago, he knew it might come with some serious consequences. And unfortunately for him, those consequences are finally starting to catch up.