- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Phil Jackson knows there are many roadblocks in the way of the Knicks' acquiring a big-name free agent this summer.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try.
“It’s so difficult to even get into consideration in that regard," Jackson said Thursday. "We have many handicaps, obviously, with our salary cap being what it is. But, you know, there’s always a possibility. We’re not going to rule ourselves out of any gambit that could possibly put us in the chance to really do something special.”
The question Jackson was asked was in reference to the Knicks' pursuit of free agent LeBron James. The Knicks are highly unlikely to land James or any other max-salary free agent.
But Jackson has his eye on another big-name player who might be willing to come to New York on the cheap.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Jackson will make a "determined attempt" to recruit his former Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol to replace Tyson Chandler, whom Jackson traded to Dallas earlier this week.
The Knicks are over the salary cap and will likely remain over the cap, whether Carmelo Anthony re-signs or not. So they only have the taxpayer’s mid-level exception to offer free agents. That exception allows them to offer a contract with a first-year salary of $3 million for a maximum of three seasons.
If the Knicks can cut some payroll from their current roster by trading away salary to a team with the cap space to absorb it, there is a chance they could become eligible for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. This exception would allow them to offer Gasol a salary starting at $5 million per season.
In order to be eligible for the bigger exception, the Knicks would likely need to remove Anthony’s cap hold from their books.
But will Gasol even consider playing in New York for a salary starting at $5 million?
He was under contract for $19.2 million this past season, and it is unclear how much the 33-year-old would command on the open market.
Gasol and Jackson are close, though, so the center might be willing to give Jackson a discount. Gasol won two titles under Jackson in Los Angeles and thrived in the Zen Master’s triangle offense.
The Lakers center also told Yahoo! Sports in April that he’d be willing to listen if Jackson wanted to talk to him about coming to New York.
"I'm happy for him and the position that he got," Gasol said. "I'm always going to be a big fan and a friend. I would listen."
Gasol wouldn’t be the first ex-Laker to join the Knicks. Jackson signed Lamar Odom to a contract with a non-guaranteed season in 2014-15.
As far as LeBron is concerned, the Knicks are on his list of places he'd consider playing next season. But New York would have to go through some serious salary-cap gymnastics to make him a competitive offer.
The Knicks would have to shed more than $25 million in salary to get far enough under the salary cap to make a strong offer to James, who opted out of the final season of his contract with the Heat to test free agency. And in such a scenario, they’d have to sign James before re-signing Anthony because if they re-signed Anthony first, it would take away the allotted cap space.
Question: Do you think Gasol will end up in New York? Do you think he would be a good fit?
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