Carmelo Anthony Free Agency: L.A. Lakers Move Into Strong Contention

Carmelo Anthony appeared certain to return to the New York Knicks, but a new power player has stepped into the sweepstakes to land the superstar forward.

The Knicks star reportedly took the Independence Day weekend to make a decision about his NBA future, after having heard several pitches. Sources on Saturday indicated that Carmelo was leaning heavily toward a return to New York.

New team president Phil Jackson played a large part in that, Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote.

In the meeting that included general manager Steve Mills, Jackson dispelled doubts that he was indifferent about Anthony staying with the Knicks, sources said. New York officials have made it clear to Anthony that they need him on the roster to have a chance to attract star players in free agency, sources said.

Though the Knicks are tight on salary cap space, Jackson had been working his front office magic to bring in some supporting players. He traded Tyson Chandler for point guard Jose Calderon, and is reportedly making a run at center Pao Gasol.

The Chicago Bulls were also seen as important players in the sweepstakes, but not everyone is on board. All Star point guard Derrick Rose has reportedly said he’s not interested in recruiting Carmelo to the Windy City.

But not to be outdone, the L.A. Lakers soon moved into contention for Carmelo Anthony. Wojnarowski later cited league sources who said that the Lakers were moving into serious consideration for Carmelo.

“They’re in the game now,” the source said, though Wojnarowski could not say if the L.A. Lakers had passed New York or Chicago in contention.The Lakers are reportedly offering a four-year, $97 million contract to Anthony, and have employed his Team USA teammate Kobe Bryant as a pitch man.

Carmelo Anthony is expected to make his free agent decision sometime early next week.