The New York Knicks are becoming increasingly hopeful in their chances of re-signing star forward Carmelo Anthony, even though he's set to speak with several teams next week, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. Stein reports that Knicks officials are "quietly confident about their odds of retaining Anthony," thanks to Phil Jackson and Anthony having "connected."
Also: Jackson is planning to recruit Pau Gasol, his former Lakers center, even though the Knicks are limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million next season, a large drop-off from the nearly $20 million he made last season. Signing Gasol could be the Knicks' bait for retaining their star forward.
Anthony, according to Stein, is planning to meet with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers before July 4. Stein notes that as free agency draws near, Chicago and Houston are still optimistic about their chances of signing Anthony.
Why this makes sense
Phil Jackson loves guys who know his system and there's nobody on the open market who knows it better than Gasol. The pair won two championships in Los Angeles; that's the type of pedigree that Jackson would love to bring to New York.
Last season, Gasol scored 17.4 points on 48 percent shooting and grabbed almost 10 boards a game, but was mostly unmotivated on the defensive end. The Lakers, as a team, were disappointing on that side of the ball and Gasol played a major part in that. But he could be rejuvenated by playing with in New York with his old buddy Jackson and with fellow Spaniard, newly acquired point guard Jose Calderon.
Adding Gasol would be an instant upgrade on the offensive side of the ball. His game was never predicated off being stronger or more athletic than his opponents, so there's a good chance that Gasol ages gracefully. He could play the last few years of his career in a system that caters to him. That's a good selling point for Jackson.
Why this doesn't make sense
Gasol would have to take a major pay cut in order to play for New York and there's really no telling whether or not he's willing to make that sacrifice. He's also just over a week from turning 34-years-old. He may have been disinterested in playing with the Lakers, but there's also a chance that he's just withering with age.
Also, trading Tyson Chandler and filling that hole with Gasol is a major downgrade on the defensive end. A front court of Gasol, Amar'e Stoudmire and Carmelo Anthony is just inviting teams to easy buckets around the rim. Match that with Calderon's non-existent perimeter defense and the Knicks immediately become one of the worst teams in the NBA on that side of the ball.
There's also the question of how signing Gasol actually affects Anthony's stance on the Knicks. Anthony would still have much better roster options elsewhere, so there's a chance that New York signs Gasol and still loses its No. 1 target.
We'll leave this likelihood at a five out of 10, because there's so much that can happen in those precious first few days of free agency. Gasol would make sense in Jackson's offensive system, but he's also not likely a strong enough free agent to entice Anthony to stay.