Like several other teams in the NBA, the Bulls’ free-agency plans are temporarily on hold because of the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, even as they visit Los Angeles — where Anthony is meeting with the Lakers and is reportedly scheduled to meet with his current team, the Knicks, Thursday evening to conclude his free-agency tour — to meet with Lakers veteran big man Pau Gasol.
Even teams not in the mix for Anthony are affected by his impending decision, as other key free agents at his position, including former Bulls’ All-Star small forward Luol Deng, are waiting for the first major domino to fall before reaching agreements. Meeting with Gasol represents a contingency plan of sorts for the Bulls, as does expressing interest in the likes of role players like point guard Ramon Sessions and shooting guard Anthony Morrow.
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If the Bulls do not land Anthony, who will likely make a decision before the end of the upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, according to a league source, their assumed fallback strategy will center on acquiring more depth in the form of established veterans, as well as at least exploring a potential trade with Minnesota for disgruntled Timberwolves’ All-Star power forward Kevin Love and making a decision on the fate of Carlos Boozer, with the options to either trade him or exercise the amnesty clause on the final year of his contract beginning July 10. The idea of a deeper, well-rounded squad, while not the big splash many Bulls fans are hoping for this summer, is appealing because of the success of the San Antonio Spurs, who used that model to defeat the star-studded Miami Heat in June’s NBA Finals.
But several role players are beginning to come off the board and at the perceived exorbitant agreements being doled out around the league — for example, shooting guard Jodie Meeks’ reported three-year, $19-million deal with Detroit and point guard Darren Collison’s reported three-year, $16-million pact with Sacramento — this offseason, at least early on, is showing that teams will have to pay a premium for even niche contributors, with the players without contracts and teams in need of talent circling each other like pre-teens at a middle-school dance as free agency continues.
It can’t be said that the Bulls have put all of their eggs in one basket, but the nature of the market and the resources they’ve put into chasing Anthony, despite their prepared approach, means that the organization will have to be decisive in filling out its roster, regardless of whether they land the superstar small forward.