It might seem as if a lot has happened in the build-up to the Bulls’ pursuit of soon-to-be free agent Carmelo Anthony, but in reality, little has changed.
Yes, the All-Star does want his full maximum contract, according to multiple sources, and who can blame him for wanting to get the most out of his full earning potential? After all, it remains to be seen whether the 30-year-old will get another long-term max deal after his next pact. Anthony has indeed started to let it be known that the Knicks might want to consider a sign-and-trade scenario with the Bulls, a person familiar with the situation confirmed, but he isn’t fixated on coming to Chicago as his only option.
And it’s also true that Anthony hasn’t been as receptive to Bulls’ All-Star center Joakim Noah’s attempts to contact him as of late. That might not mean much or it could be significant, but for the time being, it’s another piece of information that will lead to rampant speculation.
But the bottom line in this entire premature, hypothetical preview of what might happen is that unless Anthony is willing to take far less money to come to Chicago—as previously stated, an unlikely occurrence and no, don’t bring up Miami’s “Big Three” making the sacrifice back in 2010, as it would only be Anthony, not a group of him and his friends, whose bank account would be affected—neither he nor the Bulls (not to mention the Rockets, Heat or any other potential suitors) are in control of this situation. The Knicks, specifically Phil Jackson, hold all the cards here.
For all of the trade proposals circulating, some more accurately portrayed than others, New York understands that if they lose Anthony, the franchise’s direction has to be clear and while Bulls fans value the likes of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, let alone Carlos Boozer and his expiring contract, those players don’t necessarily move the needle elsewhere.
Thus, there’s no reason to overreact to reports of the Bulls’ interest in the Magic’s Arron Afflalo—a good fit in the backcourt next to Derrick Rose and on the team as a whole—especially because the veteran shooting guard and his affordable $7.5-million deal could be used to make another, bigger move. But mostly due to the fact that it would serve as a contingency plan if neither Anthony nor Kevin Love end up playing their home games at the United Center next season, fitting an offseason model of acquiring solid veteran depth at multiple positions, a la recently-crowned NBA champion San Antonio, as opposed to chasing superstars and filling out the roster with minimum contracts, similar to Miami, the Finals loser.
The Bulls have a lot going on right now, between potential draft-day trades, free-agency preparation and next week’s draft, in which they have two first-round picks. At the moment, they’re seemingly in the eye of the storm, with every big rumor connecting back to Chicago in some way, even LeBron James’ impending free agency.
But as well as the organization has positioned itself for this summer, going back to January’s trade of Luol Deng, the late-season additions of veterans Ronnie Brewer, Mike James and Louis Amundson and the option to amnesty the much-maligned Boozer, because of how simultaneously murky and clear the Bulls’ situation is—Rose’s second comeback (his health, as has been reported, is indeed “fine,” but the level of competition he faces on a daily basis in Berto Center workouts is lacking), the team’s need for another legitimate scoring threat, Tom Thibodeau’s coaching ability—it should be understood that regardless of the ongoing rumor mill, while they can be aggressive, they are at the mercy of the whims of others at the end of the day.
That goes for Rose reportedly not reaching out to Anthony (the former league MVP famously has stated, on many occasions, that he doesn’t recruit) or vice versa, not to mention his supposed preference for playing alongside Minnesota’s Kevin Love. The latter assumption has some logic to it, as Rose and Love became acquainted from being in the same high school class and seeing each other at various AAU tournaments and summer camps, entering the league together and participating in the same offseason workouts in California.
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From an on-court perspective, as much the Bulls need scoring, something Anthony does better than any player this side of Kevin Durant, he does tend to dominate the ball, which could make Rose, obviously a player who also needs the ball in his hands to be at his best, believe that Love’s pick-and-pop game could be a better fit with his penetrating abilities, though bringing in the All-Star power forward would clearly affect current sixth man Gibson, a development that probably wouldn’t sit as well with Noah.
But like Jackson in New York, Timberwolves top executive (and head coach) Flip Saunders won’t hand-deliver his superstar to Chicago (if the Bulls do still have interest and haven't completely focused on Anthony) and has to make the best deal for his own team, whether that happens by next Thursday, the February trade deadline or next summer, meaning the Bulls—and the Warriors, Celtics, Nuggets, Kings and Suns, other reported interested parties in a potential trade for Love—can only wait and see what happens.
That philosophy would also serve fans well, at least until July gets here or even just the draft. Be patient, don’t let often-contradictory rumors rule the day and understand that as much money as NBA superstars make, their decisions aren’t always as easy as we, the media, make it out to be on paper.
Sorry, that probably wasn’t as comforting as it was intended to be. Instead, overreact to any piece of information you hear regarding NBA free agency or hypothetical trades. Everything up to this paragraph was written in jest. Apologies for the error and continue believing whatever elicits the desired emotions.