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Anthony opts out, to "explore his options"

<p>Carmelo Anthony will officially hit free agency.</p>

(SportsNetwork.com) - Carmelo Anthony will officially hit free agency.

As expected, the seven-time All-Star exercised an early termination clause in his contract with the New York Knicks, with his agent confirming the move in a statement released Monday.

"Carmelo loves being a Knick," said Anthony's representative, Leon Rose. "He loves the city and the fans. At this stage of his career, he just wants to explore his options."

Anthony had until Monday to make a decision. The 2012-13 NBA scoring champion was entering the final season of a three-year, $64 million extension he signed with the Knicks upon being acquired by New York from the Denver Nuggets in February of 2011.

The Knicks can offer Anthony a longer and more lucrative contract than any potential suitors once he hits the free-agent market on July 1. However, new team president Phil Jackson has indicated a willingness for Anthony to take a deal for less than the maximum value to speed up the club's current rebuilding effort.

Anthony expects to draw heavy interest from several teams ready to contend, however, with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks having been linked as possible destinations for the standout forward.

The 30-year-old helped lead New York to a 54-28 record and an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012-13, though the Knicks failed to build off that success in missing the playoffs this past season.

Anthony averaged 27.4 points, a career-best 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists over 77 games in 2013-14, finishing second to league MVP Kevin Durant in the scoring race.

In three-plus seasons since joining the Knicks, Anthony has averaged 26.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

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