Knicks targeting Melo-Gasol combo

"It's a big question because there are so many things that can happen out there," Jackson said. "We really don't know. With LeBron getting in this free agency ... we don't know what all that means. But we have every confidence that Carmelo is good for what his word is, that he wants to be in New York, he likes playing in New York, he wants to compete, he wants to be part of a playoff team that is competitive toward a championship."

Sources nonetheless insist that the Knicks feel far better about their chances than Jackson is letting on. No team can match the five years and $129 million that New York can provide if it wishes to offer a maximum contract to Anthony, and while Anthony is undoubtedly intrigued by the chance to team with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, he also still loves the Madison Square Garden stage dearly.

Anthony also said in an interview in early June that he would be hesitant to uproot his family -- 7-year-old son Kiyan in particular -- from New York to another city.

"The average person sees the opportunity to say, 'Melo should go here; Melo should go there; he should do this; I think he should do that,'" Anthony said in an interview with Vice Sports. "They don't take in consideration the family aspect of it. Where are you going to be living at? Do you want your kids to grow up in that place or that city? Do I want to stay the rest of my career in that situation and city? All that stuff comes into play."

A source told ESPN New York that Anthony has expressed similar concerns to close friends in recent days.

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."

As reported earlier this week, sources say Chicago has been plotting its free-agent pursuit of Anthony all the way back to the January trade of Luol Deng, while Houston on Wednesday night struck a deal to trade center Omer Asik to New Orleans in the first major step toward clearing enough salary-cap space to pursue Anthony or James. The Rockets have been telling teams for weeks that they have a subsequent trade lined up to move out guard Jeremy Lin if a marquee free agent verbally commits to Houston.

Chandler, for his part, thinks his return to the Mavericks will enhance Dallas' pitch to Anthony greatly.

"[Anthony] wants to win and he wants to be in a system and he wants to be in a culture," Chandler said this week. "I think that's going to go into a big part of his decision-making.

"I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team and the organization. At the end of the day, free agency is kind of an individual thing ... But I'll tell you one thing: Dallas isn't a bad place to be; it's a great opportunity and clearly we've done it in the past. It's not a hard place to sell. I'm going to do whatever it takes."

Ian Begley of contributed to this report.

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