As the wait for Carmelo Anthony’s free-agency decision continues, new subplots are arising around the NBA.
The most prominent is LeBron James’ potential return to Cleveland, which has become more of a possibility not only due to the league MVP’s silence since opting out of the final year of his contract in Miami and the Heat’s reported signings Monday of veteran role players Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, but All-Star teammate Chris Bosh’s supposed max-contract offer from Houston. The pre-July assumption that the “Big Three” of James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade — chatter surrounding the Chicago native has been remarkably quiet — would stay together is now being questioned, and if the trio was indeed to split up, it would certainly shake up the NBA landscape.
But back to Anthony, who is widely believed to have narrowed his choices to the Bulls, Knicks and Lakers. A decision could come any day now, but there is a growing feeling around the league that he is waiting for James — who will reportedly soon meet with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas, where his upcoming camp for high school and college players is based — or even Bosh, to make a commitment before revealing his destination.
For the Bulls, this means the organization must continue to play the waiting game while working on contingency plans, such as bringing over 2011 first-round draft pick Nikola Mirotic, who has an approximate $3-million buyout from his Spanish team, Real Madrid, of which the Bulls can contribute $600,000, per NBA rules. Lakers veteran big man Pau Gasol is another target, and while the Bulls visited him last week in Los Angeles, they are far from his only suitor, as Gasol could return to the Lakers, reunite with first-year Knicks head coach Derek Fisher and team president Phil Jackson in New York — the Knicks appear focused on moving the exorbitant contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani — as well as relocate to Oklahoma City or San Antonio, playing for a Western Conference contender.
[MORE BULLS: Projecting Carmelo Anthony's future with each team]
Also on the Bulls’ radar are small forwards like Dallas’ Shawn Marion, Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, Washington’s Trevor Ariza and Houston’s Chandler Parsons — the latter is a restricted free agent and has to bide his time patiently, as the Rockets are engaged in multiple maneuvers, from their courtship of Anthony to attempting to shed the final year of point guard Jeremy Lin’s deal — but the free-agent marketplace as a whole is at a critical juncture, with role players like Avery Bradley, Channing Frye and Jodie Meeks agreeing to contracts that are perceived to be above market value, meaning the price point for the aforementioned targets could be higher than expected. There have been less whispers about the Bulls’ chances to trade for disgruntled Timberwolves’ All-Star power forward Kevin Love, though it’s still unknown exactly what it would take to pry Love from Minnesota and when, or if, team president and head coach Flip Saunders would part with his franchise player ahead of his 2015 free agency.
Meanwhile, the Bulls’ biggest addition, regardless of any new acquisitions, remains Derrick Rose, as his health would be the key to the squad’s title hopes, even if the likes of Anthony or Love arrived in Chicago. Rose, who is taking part in the Bulls’ summer-league team’s practices at the Berto Center, recently stated that he was unsure of whether he’d participate in USA Basketball’s training camp in Las Vegas leading up to the FIBA World Cup, but now that his friend and offseason workout partner, Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, has pulled out of the process, there will be even more scrutiny on the former league MVP if he did choose to play for the national team, with Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Portland’s Damian Lillard and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving serving as the primary competition at his position.
But for the time being, speculation rules the day, at least until one of the major dominoes in free agency falls and instead of every tidbit of information being overanalyzed, something of substance can finally happen.