Phil Jackson led a contingent of Knicks officials into a meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Friday in Los Angeles, according to a league source, and presented their plan for turning the team into a contender.
The current blueprint includes Anthony, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. All indications are that Anthony will do that.
Jackson has said he hopes Anthony will "opt in" and wait until 2015 to become a free agent. But a league source said Anthony hasn't changed his mind after saying all season that he would become a free agent this summer.
If Anthony were to opt in, it would give the Knicks more flexibility next summer, and perhaps in 2016, to sign multiple stars. The 2015 free-agent class could include LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Marc Gasol. Kevin Durant is the big potential prize in 2016.
Jackson was accompanied by general manager Steve Mills and new coach Derek Fisher during the sit-down with Anthony and his agent, Leon Rose. It was the first time Anthony met with Fisher since he became coach.
The Knicks can pay Anthony more than any other team in free agency. A maximum deal from them would be five years and roughly $129 million. But Jackson also has said that if Anthony re-signs, he hopes he will take less to give the Knicks more room for other moves.
Anthony has said he would be willing to give up some money, whether he stays with the Knicks or signs elsewhere, and that winning will be his priority.
There have been reports that Anthony could sign with the Heat and form a Big Four with James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. Anthony said he had no knowledge of that.
"I [haven't heard] about that one," he told the website TMZ on Thursday night. "That's a new one . . . Nothing is legit until a deal is signed."
Speaking before the Heat played Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night against the Spurs, James also pleaded ignorance when he was asked about teaming with Anthony.
It would take plenty of sacrifices by James, Anthony, Wade and Bosh -- from shots to many millions of dollars -- for them to team up. They all would have to opt out later this month, and the Heat would have to get rid of some other players under contract.
In this scenario, no one would have to give up more than Anthony. If everything broke perfectly in Miami, Anthony would have to sign for about $70 million less than he could get from the Knicks. It's hard to fathom Anthony taking that much of a pay cut.