LOS ANGELES – Hours before his final meeting with New York Knicks officials, free agent Carmelo Anthony reached out to obtain free agent Pau Gasol's phone number and discuss with him the possibility of playing together at Madison Square Garden, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Knicks had exuded an increasing confidence they can hold off the free-agent courtships of Chicago and Houston and were further encouraged with Anthony's desire to talk to Gasol about New York, sources said.
The Knicks have a core of leadership, including president Phil Jackson, coach Derek Fisher and point guard Jose Calderon, who have strong history and relationships with Gasol, and those factors would have to play a part in overcoming the fact the Knicks can pay Gasol only the taxpayer's exception starting at $3.28 million annually.
For now, Chicago and Oklahoma City are the most intriguing destinations to Gasol, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Gasol remains a serious target of the Miami Heat, too, sources told Yahoo Sports. Miami president Pat Riley plans to meet with Gasol in Los Angeles this weekend.
Gasol, 33, has been searching for a contract in the $10 million annual range, but hasn't ruled out the possibility of taking a deal in the midlevel exception range of $5.3 million annually, sources said.
Anthony found the Bulls' and Rockets' presentations to be "tremendous," one source close to him said, and has seemed to relish in the recruiting process. The Knicks' final pitch was important, and it is believed that a week of franchises gushing over Anthony left him needing Jackson to leave no doubt that he was completely wanted in New York, sources said. In other words, Jackson risked trouble if he played it too cool.
Anthony had a 2½-hour meeting with the Lakers on Thursday afternoon, but it would take a sudden change of direction for the Lakers to become a serious contender, sources told Yahoo Sports. Kobe Bryant had tried to make it back from a European trip to attend the presentation, but a change in the meeting time ultimately left him unable to do so. Nevertheless, Bryant has a strong relationship with Anthony and has been talking to him regularly about joining the Lakers.
Anthony is expected to take the weekend to make his decision, sources said, but the process is forever fluid.