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What Carmelo Anthony’s return to the Thunder means for OKC

Anthony is not opting out of his contract.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony is opting into his contract by not exercising his early termination option, according to Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania. Anthony has one year remaining on his deal with the Thunder that will pay him $27.9 million, an offer he won’t get anywhere else.

Anthony had the worst year of his career last season in a disappointing year for OKC. He scored 16 points per game, by far his lowest ever, on 40 percent shooting, also his lowest ever. Things weren’t right for OKC’s big three of Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Paul George as they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Utah Jazz.

Anthony sounded off in his exit interview in late April following the loss.

“I think the player that they wanted me to be and needed me to be was for the sake of this season,” Anthony said according to the Norman Transcript’s Fred Katz. “Should I say, because it was just so — like I said, everything was just thrown together, and it wasn’t anything that was planned out. It wasn’t no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system and what type of player and things like that.”

There was more.

“As far as being effective as that type of player,” Anthony added, “I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player. I think I was willing to accept that challenge in that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I still can do as a basketball player.”

Anthony also went on to re-iterate a statement he made clear midseason: He won’t take a bench role.

What this means for the Thunder

OKC knew the chance they were taking when they traded for Anthony. He was always likely to opt into this final year of his contract because the 34-year-old wouldn’t be able to make that kind of money in the current market.

The George-Westbrook-Anthony experiment failed in Year 1. That doesn’t mean it’s doomed in Year 2 — if there is a Year 2.

All eyes are on Paul George, who is also a free agent. Will he choose to run with this group again? Will Anthony’s opt-in convince him to stay, or drive him further away? Those are questions that will be answered in the coming weeks.

Aside from George’s decision, though, the Thunder and Anthony have a relationship to heal before things get truly ugly in OKC. Carmelo is staying unless he’s traded.