Phil Jackson wants the Knicks to be the first or the last team to meet with Carmelo Anthony this week so they can leave an impression on him.
Jackson probably has already caught Anthony's attention by saying publicly, more than once, that he hopes Anthony will accept less than a max contract from the Knicks after becoming a free agent Tuesday. (In February, Anthony himself said "without a doubt'' he would take less money if it helps give the Knicks flexibility to bring in other players, and Jackson has pointed to that statement publicly.)
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But Jackson's real hope is that the hiring of Derek Fisher as coach and the acquisition of smart, unselfish point guard Jose Calderon show Anthony that the Knicks are on the move and making changes. They could try to acquire free agent Pau Gasol, who played for Jackson with the Lakers and Calderon on the Spain's national team.
Other teams, such as the Bulls, Rockets and Heat, are making moves to clear money in hopes of signing Anthony, though.
"We don't have control,'' Jackson said. "He is [going] to step into a situation in which people are going to appeal to him and his better self and about what their team is and he is going to have to make that judgment call. And we just felt that what we are doing appeals to him also and he realizes where he has been and how we want him back.''
The Knicks can give Anthony five years and $129 million, or about $34 million more than any other team, if Jackson winds up offering a max deal. Anthony also has talked about not wanting to uproot his family.
But some of the other teams have a better chance to win now, and there's always the LeBron James factor. The four-time league MVP also will be a free agent. He and Anthony reportedly want to play together, and some teams are trying to get in position to sign both.
Assessing the Knicks' competition for Anthony:
If Anthony leaves the Knicks, the Bulls are considered the favorite to sign him. Playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and for Tom Thibodeau is appealing. Anthony could strengthen the Bulls' biggest weakness -- scoring -- and they could contend for a title each year if Rose stays healthy (he's played only 49 games the past three seasons). Plus, Anthony still would be in a major market, which is important given that he's concerned about his "brand.'' It's also worth noting that the same company, Creative Artists Agency, represents Thibodeau and Anthony.The Bulls would clear about $13 million by amnestying Carlos Boozer. They also would prefer to trade Mike Dunleavy Jr. over Taj Gibson to open up more space.
They signed Jeremy Lin away from the Knicks two years ago and could end up with Anthony now. General manager Daryl Morey is creative and persuasive, as he's shown by acquiring and signing James Harden and Dwight Howard. Houston already has dealt one big contract (Omer Asik), and word is a Lin deal is ready to go if Morey knows he's getting either Anthony or James or both. That would require the Knicks or Heat to take back Harden in a sign-and-trade.
A James-Anthony-Howard Big Three could compete for a title, even in the loaded Western Conference. But Anthony-Harden-Howard might not be enough to get past the Spurs or Thunder, and Anthony must weigh that.
Anthony knows some Dallas players very well, including Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, who were just dealt from the Knicks. It's hard to say whether that's good or not. But owner Mark Cuban takes care of his players, and playing with Dirk Nowitzki would get Anthony countless open shots. Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches and the Mavs have a solid roster. Anthony would be the new face of the Mavericks with Nowitzki, a 16-year veteran, nearing the end of his career. But Dallas still might come up short against the other Western powers.
James, Pat Riley and South Beach are a Big Three that would be hard for Anthony to turn down.
The Heat would have a chance to win the Eastern Conference title every year and could add to its collection of three NBA championships. But if Dwyane Wade (who has notified the Heat that he will opt out of his contract) and Chris Bosh (who is expected to follow suit) return, Anthony might have to take roughly $70 million less than what the Knicks could pay.
The Heat could go in a different direction and try to add a point guard such as Kyle Lowry.
They're not talked about much because they have Kobe Bryant and little else. But the Lakers have major cap space and the allure of Hollywood, and they will be ushering in a new era with Bryant's career winding down. Anthony makes his offseason home in L.A., and as Jackson said, "Kobe's persuasive.'' But it's hard to see Anthony going there unless James does, too.