Fisher on Melo: 'It's close to being real'

Carmelo Anthony is planting the seeds to stay in New York. The only big question remaining is when his return to the Garden will become official.

Finally, after 11 days of waiting, first-time head coach Derek Fisher is on the verge of locking up a star to build around.

“At least in the last few hours, it’s gotten closer to sounding like Carmelo will be rejoining our team,” says a cautious Fisher. “And that’s great news.”

Though the contract is not yet finalized, Anthony will come back to New York on a five-year deal, as sources told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Saturday. But there is a catch: Melo will likely take a little less than the max of $129 million, though he will make “north of $122 million,” reports ESPN’s Chris Broussard.

Fisher was perfectly noncommittal talking to a group of reporters after the Knicks’ too-close-for-comfort 71-69 summer league victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. But after the game, the talk was still all about Melo, and Fisher knew that, even sneaking in “I know you’ll edit that out, anyway” after leading his postgame statement about the direction of his summer league squad, which moved to 2-0 after Saturday’s victory.

It seems like Melo Watch 2014 is in its waning moments. Still, Fisher isn’t celebrating just yet.

“It’s exciting to hear that it’s still possible and that at least it’s close to being real,” Fisher said. “But I’ve been around a long time, so until it’s done and it’s real, we can’t assume that it’s a definite thing.”

The Knicks’ coach says he hasn’t spoken to Anthony since Saturday’s reports about the two sides closing in on a deal surfaced. Now, he’s waiting to hear from the men up top.

“Phil [Jackson] and Steve [Mills] will know more than me in terms of the timing and if it’s going to happen really soon, but I’m definitely encouraged by what I’m hearing. It sounds a lot more positive.”

Jackson hasn’t spoken publicly since Thursday afternoon, but even then, he seemed optimistic the Knicks could strike an agreement with Melo sooner rather than later.

“The two of us, I think, feel really passionately about what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Jackson explained. “It’s his ability to stay, be patient, lead and watch us develop a winner.”

Both Fisher and Jackson have stayed relatively even keel throughout this process. Jackson called himself “flat, emotionally” and stressed, “It’s in other people’s hands. You can’t control that.”

Fisher, meanwhile, has hijacked the exact same lexicon.

“We can only focus on the things we can control,” Fisher philosophizes. “So, that’s what I’ve tried my best to do.”

Anthony averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists this past season in New York, his fourth year with the Knicks. A five-year contract would carry him until age 35.