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Carmelo Anthony says he'd take less money from Knicks if it would help them sign others

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks reacts after a

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks reacts after a teammate scored a first-half basket against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

NEW ORLEANS -- Carmelo Anthony said his "first priority" remains to re-sign with the Knicks and that he will take a pay cut if it helps give them flexibility to bring in other players.

Anthony also said he plans to speak to Knicks management after the season about whom he wants to play with and the type of players he wants on the team. He said he wants to hear the club's plan, too, and added that if the Knicks can become a legitimate title contender, he'll have "a long future" with them.

"Without a doubt," Anthony said Friday about taking less money. "Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I'd do it. If it takes me taking a pay cut, I'll be the first one on Mr. [James] Dolan's steps saying: 'Take my money and let's build something strong here.'

"As far as the money, it don't really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. That's not my concern. My concern is being able to compete at a high level, at a championship level. Coming at this last stretch of my career, I want to be able to compete at that level."

This was the most expansive Anthony has been about his plans since he said he will opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent.

There's been speculation that Anthony might leave because of the season the Knicks are having. They're 20-32 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. But during All-Star Weekend media day, Anthony said that if they build something sustainable, he wants to retire a Knick.

"I said it. I meant it," Anthony said. "That's how I feel. I still feel strongly about that. That's why at the end of the season, everything has to be laid down on the table. If it's something we can grow with, we can build on, we can compete at the highest level, then we're rolling. If it's not the plan that they have, we got to talk about something else.

"My first priority is to stay. My priority is, let's figure out together what we have to do, let's figure that part out together. My priority is not to just because I said I want to be a free agent just to go leave. I've never been a guy who comes into a situation when it's not going well to leave."

The Knicks can pay Anthony roughly $129 million over five years, or about $33 million more than any other team. But unless they get rid of some contracts -- namely those of Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani -- Anthony's willingness to take less than a maximum salary might not make a difference until after next season.

Those three are scheduled to come off the books in the summer of 2015, when Knicks targets Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love could hit free agency.

"I haven't had any in-depth conversations with management about who I want to play with, what kind of team we should have," Anthony said. "I never had those conversations because I always look at what's going on right now. I'm just naive to that. I always feel like I can change it, I can turn it around. I always put that on my shoulder. I never had that deep conversation.

"That time is going to come. When that time comes, everything will be laid out on the table. If they can counter that, then we have a long future ahead of us."

Anthony also spoke about the possibility of being dealt by Thursday's trade deadline or if he wants to be moved. He said he doesn't want that to happen.

Anthony said this has been a difficult season because the Knicks "took some steps back" after winning 54 games last season. He was asked if he is confident that the organization will do what is necessary to fix this.

"They should want to make that situation better," Anthony said of the Knicks, who haven't won an NBA championship since 1973. "They should want to compete at a championship level, just for the sake of the fans in New York and what the organization stands for and the history of the organization. They should want to be in those talks when they're talking about who's the best teams and the best organizations."

Notes & quotes: Mike Woodson's status came up briefly, and Anthony said he will be coaching the Knicks when the All-Star break is over: "We're going to practice in Memphis Monday and Woody will be there -- plain and simple." . . . Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 36 points and shot 7-for-16 from three-point range for Chris Webber's team in a 142-136 loss to Grant Hill's squad in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night in New Orleans. The Pistons' Andre Drummond had 30 points and a Rising Stars Challenge-record 25 rebounds for Team Hill.

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