LAS VEGAS - Carmelo Anthony appears committed to re-signing with the Knicks, and it could become official Thursday.
A league source close to the situation said the Knicks are "optimistic" that Anthony will remain with the team he forced a trade to in 2011. He is expected to accept the Knicks' maximum offer of five years and $129 million Thursday, the first day that teams can sign free agents.
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The Daily News, citing an unidentified person close to Anthony, said the All-Star small forward believes in team president Phil Jackson and will re-up with the Knicks, barring a last-minute change of heart.
But a league source with ties to Anthony said in a text "no decision yet. Still up in the air." That could be because the other teams pursuing Anthony haven't been told they're out of the running.
The Bulls, Rockets, Lakers and Mavericks made sales pitches to Anthony, but the Lakers and Bulls have been the Knicks' biggest competition. The Knicks, however, have been the front-runners in the sweepstakes. They can offer the most money and want him to be the focal point of the triangle offense that new coach Derek Fisher will run.
Jackson didn't talk to reporters before leaving the Knicks' summer league practice Wednesday afternoon. Fisher did, but said he had no knowledge of Anthony's decision.
"I haven't been told anything about that at this point," Fisher said. "That would be great if it were to happen. I'd be excited when I am told that. At this point I don't know anything for certain."
Fisher, a first-time coach who played with Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, said if Anthony remains a Knick, it will make everyone's life a little less stressful.
"I don't think this job is easy regardless of who is on the team," Fisher said. "I think what I can say, having played with some of the greatest players to ever play the game before, it makes everybody's job easier to have those kinds of guys around. I think that's the way it'll be if it happens."
Before becoming a free agent for the first time, Anthony said repeatedly that winning would be more important than money. But he never gave any indications that he wanted to leave the Knicks or uproot his family.
The Knicks are coming off a 37-45 season. But Jackson and Fisher laid out their plan to Anthony for how they will make the Knicks a winner.
They will continue to pursue free-agent big man Pau Gasol. He has a relationship with Jackson, Fisher and point guard Jose Calderon, whose acquisition was an upgrade from Raymond Felton at point guard.
The Knicks have only the $3.2-million taxpayer midlevel exception to offer Gasol at this point. Jackson is trying to open up some money by trading Amar'e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani without taking much back in return.
The Bulls, Thunder, Spurs and Lakers also are after Gasol.
Chicago gives Anthony the best chance to win now, especially in the weak Eastern Conference, but the Bulls were strapped financially. They could offer from $70 million to $75 million unless the Knicks agreed on a sign-and-trade.
The Lakers told Anthony they would pay him the max they could -- four years and $96 million. If he had accepted their offer, he would have gotten to play with good friend Bryant and stay in Los Angeles, where Anthony lives in the offseason.
Bryant spoke to reporters Wednesday before the start of his camp in Santa Barbara, California, and said he didn't have any new information on Anthony's decision.
The Rockets reportedly have made an offer to Chris Bosh. The Associated Press reported Wednesday night that Chandler Parsons agreed to an offer sheet with the Mavericks, which the Rockets would have to match to keep him. Those moves were indications that both teams believed they were out of the Anthony chase.
Yahoo Sports reported that Anthony has been working out with Durant, and the league MVP has been saying positive things about Fisher. The Knicks could have the money to sign Durant when he's a free agent in 2016.
"I don't know if he always said those nice things," Fisher said. "He may have just said it to Carmelo assuming he might see me later. He's a great young man. For him to be that confident about the possibilities of me as a coach is humbling. I appreciate it a great deal."
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