Phil wants Pau Gasol in New York

Carmelo Anthony may be the hot name, but there is another sleeper on the market for the New York Knicks: free-agent center Pau Gasol.

Gasol’s name has become a trendy choice for Phil Jackson’s team over the past few weeks, especially since the Knicks acquired fellow Spaniard Jose Calderon from the Dallas Mavericks as part of a larger deal involving Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Of course, the roots of these theories start with Jackson, for whom Gasol played under for four years with the Los Angeles Lakers. The two still have a close relationship today.

“He had a birthday,” Jackson said of Gasol, who turned 34 years old on July 6. “I stayed away from communicating with him until it was an opportunity to talk. We talked a couple times.”

So what’s stopping the Knicks from welcoming Gasol to New York right away? As usual, it’s all about the money.

“We’d like to be in the ballpark of where he’s getting contracts offered,” Jackson said of New York’s strategy. “I anticipate it’s going to be somewhere, you know, $10 million [per year] and above.”

The Knicks are only a hair under the cap as is, and if Anthony returns, that sends the team into the no-man’s land of the capology world, leaving it without room to operate in signing other free agents. Jackson, meanwhile, says that moving money to create more room is “not possible.”

The 11-time champion would have to move pieces more craftily than Bobby Fischer to create room to sign the four-time All-Star.

“Everything’s pretty much set,” he said of the roster. “We’ve run around a little bit, tried to figure out a lot of different strategies, but right now, we’re pretty set.”

Speaking with reporters after the Knicks’ Thursday summer league practice, Jackson was his usual self. The Knicks may not have the money to appeal to Gasol, but as Jackson spun it, they have the culture.

“We don’t have that kind of money, but we have what Pau needs: the United Nations,” scoffed the 11-time champ with a smile and chuckle. “He’s an ambassador for the United Nations. ... We say, that’s a platform, and pretty soon, you’d be secretary of the United Nations.”

Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for a 27-win Lakers team last season. Even after 13 NBA seasons, he can still play, and if the Knicks could find some magical way to add him, it would only help their chances in a light Eastern Conference, where seemingly everyone is just a couple moves away from becoming a contender.

“He knows what he has here and what is possible,” explained Jackson. “I think he’d like to play with Carmelo, and I think he’d like to play for a winner, and we can’t guarantee that. But with him, we’d guarantee a much better chance.”

Phil says no fuss over Buss: While speaking with reporters Thursday, Jackson also talked about the potential awkwardness between himself and fiancée Jeanie Buss, owner of the Lakers, both aggressively pursuing Carmelo Anthony in free agency.

“We talked about this before. We’re going to be in a place where there are going to be players who both of us want, and we just have to deal with it. We’ll put our best pitch forward, and we just accept that as part of the game. It is what it is. I think these owners, and the position that I’m in, you have to understand that it’s just part of the game.”

Max won't clog cap: Jackson also stated that Anthony accepting a maximum contract of five years, $129 million wouldn’t hamper the Knicks’ future plans.

“No. They’re amenable to what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Jackson said of Anthony and his advisers. “We will discuss it. It’s not a big thing. You guys have made a much bigger thing about this, about what would happen. It’s not really a big thing. It’s about percentages, less than 1 percent available in a series of dollars that go over a period of five years. So, it’s not a big deal. It just gives us more flexibility. That’s all.”