While they have limited cap space to work with, the New York Knicks still intend to pursue free-agent Paul Gasol next week when the free-agency period becomes official.
With the familiarity he has with him when he coached him on the Lakers, Phil Jackson thinks he can possibly persuade Gasol to accept less money and play with Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks and build a championship-quality team as soon as next year.
Sources told ESPN.com that Knicks officials, while not willing to trumpet it publicly with free agency fast approaching, are quietly confident about their odds of retaining Anthony thanks in part to the idea that new team president Phil Jackson and the high-scoring forward have "connected" to some degree.
Furthermore, one source close to the process told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks' front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.
Despite Gasol's relationship with Jackson, this will be a tough sell, considering Gasol can fetch a lot more money on the free-agent market. However, if Anthony and the Knicks can come to a compromise, then the pursuit of Gasol will become that much easier.
Anthony will certainly weigh his options and be wined and dined (with Chicago, Houston and Dallas being teams he'll look at) once July 1 comes around. But when push comes to shove, he may listen to his heart and stay true to his word that he would accept less money to stay with the Knicks if they can add some key pieces, like a Pau Gasol.
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Amid speculation that the Knicks are reluctant to offer a max deal to Anthony, Jackson said: "We haven't come to that. But the perception is we want Carmelo to be as interested in winning. When saying he's competitive and wants to be on a competitive team to also being able to demonstrate that if push comes to shove in a situation where he may have to take a little bit less and we're more competitive to bring in another player to help us bring this concept along."
A source told ESPN New York recently that Anthony viewed Jackson's message as "piggybacking" off what the All Star forward himself suggested in February about taking a pay cut and doesn't necessarily see it as Jackson placing a demand on him.
Anthony can receive a maximum of $95.9 million over four seasons if he decides to leave. Jackson has refused to address whether he will consider doing a sign-and-trade if Anthony opts to leave, but he did insist that the Knicks improved their chemistry Wednesday by shedding Chandler and Felton in the Dallas deal and contends that the trade sends "a message to all of our players that we are on the move and we are making changes."
We'll see if Jackson can indeed work his magic. Who knows, maybe Gasol would take less money to reunite with Jackson and his ex-teammate and now new head coach of the Knicks, Derek Fisher. However, a lot of variables are in play here.
Nevertheless, when free agency begins this week, what happens with Anthony, Gasol, the Heat Big Three (LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh) etc., should wrap us all up in a frenzy.
Follow me on Twitter @StacdemonTags: Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, NBA, New York, New York Knicks, Pau Gasol
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