Phil Jackson wanted the Knicks to be the last team to meet with Carmelo Anthony so he could leave an impression on the star free agent, and he apparently tried to do just that.
During a meeting in Los Angeles Thursday night, Jackson informed Anthony and his representatives that the Knicks will offer him a maximum contract of five years and $129 million, according to multiple reports.
The Knicks, considered the favorites in the Anthony sweepstakes, can pay him about $34 million more than any other team can because he's their free agent. Anthony is mulling it over and could make his decision early next week.
Earlier Thursday, Anthony met with a group from the Lakers that included team executive Jeannie Buss, Jackson's fiancee. ESPN reported that the Lakers made it clear that they would pay Anthony the maximum they could: a four-year, $96-million deal.
Anthony opened his free-agent tour in Chicago on Tuesday, then visited Houston and Dallas on Wednesday. No other meetings are currently scheduled. Teams can agree to terms with free agents but none can be signed until Thursday.
Jackson had sounded reluctant to give Anthony a max deal, hoping to maintain some flexibility for other signings. But it was always believed that if that's what it took to retain Anthony, Jackson would oblige.
Another indication that Anthony might be leaning toward returning was a Yahoo report that said he was trying to get in touch with Lakers free-agent big man Pau Gasol to see if he would sign with the Knicks.
The Knicks have people who can recruit him, and Jackson, his former coach with the Lakers, already has reached out. Gasol also played with Derek Fisher with the Lakers and is close to new point guard Jose Calderon. They're teammates on the Spanish national team.
With Anthony, Gasol and Calderon, the Knicks would be vastly improved from last season, but Gasol would have to take a major pay cut from the $19.3 million he earned last season. The most the Knicks can give him is the $3.2-million taxpayer midlevel exception.
The Lakers can pay Gasol the most and want him back, but they were focused on Anthony on Thursday. In a 2 1/2-hour meeting in which general manager Mitch Kupchak and former Lakers star James Worthy were present, the Lakers played a video by "The Matrix" producer Joel Silver, the L.A. Times reported.
Kobe Bryant, Anthony's good friend, couldn't attend because of travel problems. They have been talking throughout the offseason, and multiple reports said Bryant and Anthony planned to get together later Thursday night.
Anthony lives in Los Angeles in the offseason, but the Lakers, who have the cap space to sign two stars, might need to land LeBron James to lure Anthony. The Lakers, Rockets and Suns reportedly have dreams of a James-Anthony pairing.
Anthony must weigh winning now versus making the most money and hoping he can win in the future with the Knicks. If he re-signs, the Knicks should be better, but they are limited financially in free agency. They're scheduled to be well under the cap next season, though and will have the ability to sign another marquee player. They also could be under the cap in 2016, when Kevin Durant is a free agent.
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