Teams continue to wait for Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James

Teams continue to await word from free agents Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James

How confusing has this whole free-agency thing become?

Not even the Zen Master is entirely certain of the future.

New York Knicks President Phil Jackson remained confident Carmelo Anthony would re-sign with the Knicks but hadn't spoken to the high-scoring forward in several days despite sending him several text messages.

"We're waiting," Jackson told reporters Thursday in Las Vegas after watching a Knicks summer league practice. "I felt really good about my [most recent] conversation with Carmelo. We really struck a chord. The two of us feel really passionately about what we're trying to get accomplished.

"It's his ability to stay, be patient, lead and watch us develop a winner. There's no instantaneous winner that we think is going to happen to the Knicks right now, but we're going to be a lot better."

A day earlier, the New York Daily News anonymously quoted a friend of Anthony who said the 11-year veteran "believes in Phil" and was ready to rejoin the team.

The Lakers, for what it's worth, haven't been told they're out of the Anthony sweepstakes. But they haven't been given any positive response, either.

Like Jackson, who coached the Lakers for 11 seasons, they're waiting.

They lost another possible roster addition Thursday, point guard Steve Blake signing a two-year, $4.2-million deal to go to Portland. At this point, the Lakers are pretty much all in for Anthony … or else.

They're not alone. They might be joined by Miami in a race for the few remaining mid-tier free agents if LeBron James leaves the Heat for Cleveland.

His website crashed periodically Thursday as fans flocked to see whether he had made an announcement. Police boosted security at his home near Cleveland, whatever the outcome might have been as the city seemed increasingly fine with embracing the player who turned his back on them four years ago.

In fact, a headline in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer said getting James back "would be an all-time coup."

Back in Los Angeles, the Lakers clung to the glimmer of a frontcourt tandem of Anthony and Pau Gasol. A trio of Lakers executives had dinner with Gasol on Wednesday night — Mitch Kupchak and siblings Jeanie and Jim Buss — but Gasol was believed to be reluctant to return unless Anthony was part of the plan.

Gasol has been courted by a variety of teams besides the Lakers — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami and Chicago among them.

But one person familiar with Gasol's thinking said Gasol could end up playing with Anthony … in New York.

"Don't count Phil out," said the person, cognizant that Gasol and Jackson developed a strong relationship over the years, even after Jackson's retirement from coaching in 2011.

Seeing how Jackson signed a five-year, $60-million deal in March, this probably won't be the last time the Lakers and Knicks chase the same player.

It hasn't been a weird experience for Jackson to indirectly go head-to-head with his fiancee Jeanie, who also happens to be the Lakers' highest-ranking official.

At least that's what Jackson said Thursday.

"No, we talked about this before," he said. "We're gonna be in a place where there are going to be players that both of us want and we just have to deal with it. We'll put our best pitch forward and when you lose the guy we just accept that as part of the game."

The Lakers lost a can't-win pitch to Dwight Howard last summer. He already had a foot out the door, unhappy with A) Kobe Bryant's win-at-all-costs attitude or B) Mike D'Antoni's offense or C) everything else regarding the Lakers.

This time, they fought an uphill financial battle with Anthony, who could sign with the Knicks for $33 million more than he could with the Lakers.

It remained up to Anthony to declare the Lakers victors this summer, but the weather vane was sure pointing East as of Thursday.

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