Between his image in a Bulls uniform on video screens around the United Center, the presence of All-Star center Joakim Noah and sixth man Taj Gibson, a somewhat unexpected appearance by former league MVP Derrick Rose, a tour of the team’s new practice facility and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau riding with him and his agent, Leon Rose, in a van en route to Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, superstar small forward Carmelo Anthony got the red-carpet treatment in his free-agency visit to Chicago.
What remains to be seen, however, is if beyond the Bulls’ sincere desire to have Anthony join the organization, their presentation will ultimately be enough to convince him that sacrificing financially and leaving his comfort zone and New York, is worth it. Anthony, of course, is scheduled to visit other cities—he’s slated to fly to Texas for Wednesday meetings in Dallas and Houston, then Los Angeles on Thursday to sit down with the Lakers—but the Bulls had the first crack at wooing the scorer in his first real brush with free agency.
As much as this summer has been compared to 2010, when the Bulls were unsuccessful in trying to acquire the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Chicago native Dwyane Wade, not only is their full attention focused on Anthony, but they’re no longer just an up-and-coming team with a first-time head coach and young players just coming into their own, but a playoff-tested squad with the aforementioned Thibodeau acknowledged as one of the league’s best at his profession, Noah now a household name, Gibson a respected high-level role player and Rose a legitimate superstar, albeit one with injury concerns.
The Bulls also have an identity as one a hard-nosed, elite defensive unit, perceived to need only an influx of scoring to put them over the top, something that just so happens to be Anthony’s specialty. While the other aspects of his game, such as rebounding and overall versatility are downplayed—similar to Rose, who’s shown the ability to be more of a playmaker when surrounded by teammates who are capable scorers and in fact, was more of a pass-first point guard until his MVP campaign—Anthony would be complemented by a supporting cast that would allow him to focus on what he does best.
These factors were surely brought up Tuesday, but of more importance, frankly, is the fact that he would have to leave money on the table to play in Chicago, whether via a sign-and-trade scenario or an outright signing. League sources have indicated that if Anthony came on board, the Bulls would prefer to keep Gibson, whose salary would free up salary-cap space to get the prized free agent closer to the max contract only the Knicks can offer, though dealing away players like veteran sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy and his trade-friendly contract, would create a starting salary in the $15-million range.