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Perhaps lost in all the discussions about what Carmelo Anthony will do next is this fundamental question, will the Knicks offer him a full max contract?

ESPN's Brian Windhorst raised this important question Monday on ESPN New York 98.7 radio.

The assumption throughout this whole saga is that the Knicks will offer Anthony a max contact worth approximately $129 million over five years and that the most he can make from another club is $96 million over four years.

If that is the case, then Anthony would obviously be leaving some $30 million on the table should he opt to take his talents elsewhere.

But what if the Knicks don't make that offer? What if they offer something short of max money?

Then the difference between what the Knicks offer and what another team's offer -- the Chicago Bulls seems the most likely option, but the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks could also be possibilities-- isn't as great and therefore shouldn't theoretically make as much of a difference to him.

Remember, Phil Jackson is already on record saying that Anthony should fulfill his initial promise to take less money so that the Knicks can add pieces around him going forward.

And according to some reports, Anthony wasn't entirely thrilled with those sentiments.

“The way things have been structured now financially for teams is that it’s really hard to have one or two top stars or max players and to put together a team with enough talent you’ve got to have people making sacrifices financially so we hope that Carmelo is true to his word and we understand what it’s going to take and we will present that to him at that time,” Jackson told us in April.

Jackson also wanted Anthony to opt in for this coming season and Anthony went ahead and opted out as expected. So it's not like the two of them are entirely on the same page.

“I’m all about moving forward,” Jackson said in April. “Just deal with what is and move forward. If [keeping Melo] is in the cards, man are we fortunate. If it’s not in the cards, man are we fortunate. We’re going forward anyway.”

Of course, Anthony met last week with Jackson and new coach Derek Fisher and called the meeting "great," but it's also clear that Anthony has said he wants to compete for a championship and Jackson still has to show Melo exactly what the path toward competing for a title in New York would entail.

It's also possible -- as the Daily News reported -- that Knicks owner James Dolan could swoop in and demand that Jackson pay Anthony max money if the new Knicks' President doesn't.

The other important question -- also raised by Windhorst -- is, Would the Knicks deal Melo in a sign-and-trade?

Jackson doesn't seem inclined to do so, but if he comes to the conclusion that he may lose Anthony to free agency without getting anything in return, he could opt to deal him in a sign-and-trade.

The Bulls, for example, could offer Carlos Boozer 's expiring contract and one of their two first-round picks, for Anthony, and then at least the Knicks would get something in return. (And they could have the Bulls draft a young point guard like Tyler Ennis or Shabazz Napier with one of those picks.)

The Bulls, as ESPN's Marc Stein has reported, would rather deal Boozer, who is due $16.8 million next season, than amnesty him.

If the Knicks don't offer Anthony max money and a sign-and-trade doesn't happen, then Anthony could still sign as a free agent with Chicago for $17 or $18 million annually, as the Chicago Tribune reported.

Anthony said in this video interview that he wanted to do what's right for his kids, and that he's aware that moving them around while they're still in a school can be disruptive.

In his ideal scenario, the Knicks would be competitive -- read: having a chance to compete for a title -- and he could just keep himself and his family in New York.

But if the money is relatively equal and he feels the Bulls offer a better chance to win a title, those could be critical factors in his decision.

Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider for and You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.

Tags: Knicks , Adam Zagoria
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