LAS VEGAS - Phil Jackson already has reunited with Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and Lamar Odom, and hopes to add Pau Gasol to the list of former Lakers joining him with the Knicks.
Jackson has visions of pairing Gasol with Carmelo Anthony and forming a competitive team in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls, Spurs, Thunder, Heat and Lakers also are pursuing Gasol, and several of them can pay Gasol more than the Knicks can.
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But Gasol, 34, won two championships as a Laker playing for Jackson and with Fisher. He's also teammates with newly acquired point guard Jose Calderon on the Spanish national team. Jackson also hopes playing in New York appeals to Gasol, a UNICEF ambassador.
"We'd like to be in the ballpark of where he's getting contracts offered,'' Jackson said Thursday. "We anticipate it's going to be somewhere $10 million above. We don't have that kind of money. But we have what Pau needs: the United Nations.
"He's the ambassador for the United Nations. That's a platform. Pretty soon he'll be secretary for the United Nations. Your career is headed that way and this is a good platform for you. I don't know if that's going to buy him into New York or not. But we'd like him to be there.''
Jackson has spoken to Gasol a few times but couldn't say he felt good about his chances of getting the four-time All-Star.
The Knicks can pay Gasol the taxpayer midlevel exception of $3.2 million, which would be a $16 million pay cut from last season. They have tried to make some moves to open cap room, namely dealing Amar'e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani and taking little back. But Jackson said that's not likely to happen.
"No possible clearing money right now,'' he said. "Everything's pretty much set. We've run around a little bit and tried to figure out a lot of different strategies. Right now we're pretty set.
"He knows what he has here and what is possible. I think he'd like to play with Carmelo. I think he'd like to play for a winner. We can't guarantee that, but with him we guarantee a much better chance.''
Now that they're out of the Anthony sweepstakes, the Bulls are expected to up their pursuit of Gasol and throw more money at him than some other teams can. The Spurs and Thunder can offer the $5.3 million midlevel exception. The Lakers can pay Gasol the most because he's their own free agent.
Jackson remains hopeful that Gasol's comfort level with him, Fisher and the triangle will bring him to the Knicks.
"We talked a couple of times,'' Jackson said. "I told him in the right system and the right coach, he could probably play a couple of more years. He got a laugh out of it. He knew I was just joking.''