Signs point to Carmelo Anthony staying with Knicks

Carmelo Anthony wanted to experience free agency, be showered with respect and admiration, and have teams appeal to his desire to win and to get paid.

After three days of that, he now is deciding whether the ultimate payday or the ultimate team achievement is more important to him.

Anthony would rather have both, and there is a growing sense that he trusts Knicks president Phil Jackson and believes that Jackson’s team will compete for a championship in the not-so-distant future.

The Knicks remain the favorite in the Anthony chase and certainly showed how much they value him Thursday night. Jackson met Anthony in Los Angeles and told him the Knicks will offer him a maximum contract of five years and $129 million.

Yahoo Sports reported that Anthony left the meeting “largely aligned with Jackson’s vision.” Anthony is expected to make his decision within the next few days.

The Knicks should be major players in free agency next summer and could sign players who will be able to help Anthony make the team more competitive. They’re limited this summer, but Jackson still is trying to improve them by making a run at Lakers free agent Pau Gasol.

The Knicks have some advantages with Gasol; Jackson, coach Derek Fisher and new point guard Jose Calderon have close ties to him. There also were reports that Anthony was trying to talk with Gasol.

Gasol would have to take a $16-million pay cut from last season because all the Knicks can pay him right now is a salary starting at $3.2 million. The Bulls, Heat, Spurs and Thunder also are pursuing him.

Anthony met with the Bulls on Tuesday, the Rockets and Mavericks on Wednesday and the Lakers on Thursday before sitting down with Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and Fisher Thursday evening.

The Knicks’ offer to Anthony is roughly $34 million more than any other team can pay him and about $60 million more than the Bulls can offer him. If he leaves the Knicks, the Bulls are considered the favorite to land him.

The Lakers reportedly told Anthony they would pay him the maximum they’re allowed under CBA rules — four years, $96 million. But they’re not a championship contender in the loaded Western Conference unless they sign another marquee player such as LeBron James.

Anthony’s best chance to win right now might be playing for Chicago and joining a nucleus of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The Rockets would be a power in the West with Anthony, Dwight Howard and James Harden. But with signs pointing to Anthony re-signing with the Knicks, both of those teams have moved on to contingency plans.

The Bulls met with Gasol on Thursday and were working on signing 2011 first-round pick Nikola Mirotic, which would impact how much they could pay Anthony. To give Anthony more, the Bulls likely would have to do a sign-and-trade and send Carlos Boozer to the Knicks with some draft picks.

The Rockets reportedly have reached out to Chris Bosh in case he doesn’t return to the Heat. They also are trying to get an audience with James. The Rockets, Suns and Lakers want to pair James and Anthony.

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