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Lakers join Bulls as serious competition for Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks complains about a

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks complains about a call during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on March 26, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw

Phil Jackson could find himself in a different kind of triangle.

The Bulls had been the Knicks' biggest threat in the Carmelo Anthony free-agent sweepstakes, but according to multiple reports, the Lakers also have emerged as serious contenders for the seven-time All-Star.

The Knicks still are considered to be leading the competition to sign Anthony, who could make his decision Sunday or Monday on where he plans to play next season and beyond.

Jackson wants Anthony to be the focal point of the triangle offense that new coach Derek Fisher will implement. When they met Thursday in Los Angeles, Jackson also told Anthony that the Knicks would give him a maximum contract of five years and $129 million.

This came shortly after the Lakers made their pitch to Anthony. Reports indicated that Anthony was impressed by the Lakers' presentation. They informed him that they would give him the maximum they're allowed under the rules of the CBA -- four years and $96 million.

Anthony's offseason home is in Los Angeles, and he and Kobe Bryant are good friends.

A travel conflict kept Bryant from making the meeting, but he and Anthony were supposed to get together afterward. They have talked multiple times since both their seasons ended without playoff appearances. Bryant has been somewhat of a big brother to Anthony, and Jackson recently said, "Kobe's persuasive."

Making it an even more bizarre triangle is that Jackson coached the Bulls and Lakers and is engaged to Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, who was part of the team's sales pitch to Anthony.

Anthony has said his priority in free agency is to play for a team with a chance to compete for a championship. As currently constituted, neither the Knicks nor the Lakers fit that description. But the Lakers envision teaming Bryant, Anthony and Pau Gasol, whom they hope to re-sign. The Lakers also have dreams of pairing Anthony and LeBron James. Lakers officials met with James' representatives on Friday.

Jackson also has his sights on Gasol, but the Knicks can pay him only the $3.2-million taxpayer midlevel exception. Gasol also is being pursued by the Bulls, Thunder, Heat and Spurs.

The Knicks hope Jackson, Fisher (Gasol's former coach and teammate with the Lakers) and Jose Calderon (his point guard on the Spanish national team) will be appealing.

If winning truly matters most to Anthony, the Bulls or Rockets -- the first two teams he met with -- would be the front-runners for his services. Anthony also visited with the Mavericks.

The Bulls already are strong with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and coach Tom Thibodeau. Anthony would be the scoring source this offensively-challenged team needs, and it likely would challenge for the Eastern Conference title.

From the beginning, the Bulls were considered a strong possibility to land Anthony, but they can pay him only roughly $70 million over four years. They won't be able to offer near-maximum money unless they strip their roster. It's doubtful that Anthony would want that because it would defeat the purpose of wanting to play for a team with a chance to win it all.

One option to get Anthony more money would be a sign-and-trade involving Carlos Boozer, but the Knicks would have to be amenable to that.

Houston also has a shot to contend if Anthony teams with Dwight Howard and James Harden. The Rockets, who met with Anthony on Wednesday, are trying to make moves to get their cap to where they can pay a marquee free agent the maximum $96 million. Their sights also are on James and Chris Bosh.

Yahoo Sports reported that Anthony was "aligned with Jackson's vision" after they met Thursday. Jackson made one trade that improved the Knicks at point guard -- one of the biggest weaknesses last season -- when he acquired the smart and selfless Calderon from Dallas.

Jackson also is trying to maintain flexibility for next summer, when the Knicks could be major players in free agency.

Jackson has said on a few occasions that he hoped Anthony would take less money to give the Knicks the ability to sign other quality players, but it was important that the club president said the Knicks would give Anthony a max contract to show him how much they value him.

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