Bulls Make Sense for Carmelo Anthony
With every day that passes, Carmelo Anthony’s pending venture into free agency becomes more and more complex and intriguing.
From a financial standpoint, it’s pretty cut and dry. Anthony stands to make the most by staying with the Knicks. They retain his bird rights and have the ability to offer him a max, five-year contract.
However, the Knicks are enduring one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. At 22-40, they’re lottery bound without the rights to their first-round pick, which is headed to the Denver Nuggets – as a part of Anthony trade, ironically.
Recently, reports surfaced that Anthony wasn’t too keen on the Knicks’ big plan to hit free agency 2015 hard, when the likes of Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo could be obtainable. At 29 years of age and set to turn 30 in May, Anthony doesn’t have another season in his prime to spare for a non-contender. His top priority is going to be putting himself in a position to win for the duration of his contract. While he’s been clear that he would like for that to be in New York, it’s going to be very difficult for them to make significant upgrades before next season.
Playing with a similar surrounding cast is not going to be appealing at all to Anthony because even his most herculean efforts this season have not been enough to get them back in the playoff mix. Anthony is playing some of the best basketball of his career, yet only has 22 wins to show for it at this point, which has to be quite discouraging.
Meanwhile, Anthony probably can’t help but notice that the Chicago Bulls are surging despite being without their All-Star point guard and former Most Valuable Player winner in Derrick Rose. For the second straight season, they’re proving to be as resilient and tough a team as the league has to offer. They’re currently 34-27, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Joakim Noah is playing like the best center in the league and due to the Luol Deng trade earlier in the season, they could potentially be in a position to make a strong run at Anthony in free agency.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Twitter, the recruitment already started during All-Star Weekend, with Noah and Anthony having serious discussions on what it’s like to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau along with what their potential would be together.
Anthony reportedly voiced a mutual admiration for Noah and the Bulls, impressed by their effort and hunger. Additionally, Anthony revealed that his son’s favorite player is Rose, while Noah told him coming to the Bulls will help him win a ring and secure a winning legacy.
If asked, Rose would be willing to help in the recruitment of Anthony, something he was unwilling to do in season’s past, Broussard tweeted.
If the Bulls were able to offer the same contract the Knicks are able to this offseason, the Syracuse product would have a lot easier decision on his hands. However, they’re not in a position to do such. In order to just make Anthony a respectable offer in the neighborhood of $16 million, they’d have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and trim additional salary to get any higher than that. Not only will they be south of what the Knicks can offer in year one, they also can only offer four years to their five. Anthony would be walking away from over $20 million to join the Bulls, but it’s not an unset precedence. Just last offseason, Dwight Howard made the same sacrifice to join the Houston Rockets instead of staying with the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Knicks, the Lakers’ recruiting pitch relied heavily on their history and popularity, but that wasn’t enough to turn down the opportunity to play with a better supporting cast, albeit in a smaller sized market, in Houston.
The situation with Anthony, the Knicks and the Bulls is eerily similar – and they aren’t going to be the only two teams after him either. The aforementioned Lakers are also expected to at least show interest in Anthony and you can never discount a dark horse team getting involved in the process late.
With the Knicks’ best chances to improve another potentially nightmarish season away and the losses continuing to pile up, the reasons to stay in New York are really only financial related. When it comes to competing, teams like the Bulls, even with Rose’s injury history, offer the better opportunity to win a championship.
All eyes are going to be on Anthony come July 1. There are going to be plenty of other big name free agents, like LeBron James and Luol Deng, but with so much uncertainty surrounding his future, Anthony’s free agency brings the most interest of them all.
Rockets Running Smoothly
Speaking of Dwight Howard and the Rockets, everything has been smooth sailing on their end here in 2014. They’ve been one of the league’s hottest teams in the New Year. They’re only four games back of first place in the West at 42-19.
Howard, who has talked to Anthony about his pending free agency and talked about his experiences, gives credence to the notion that the grass may be greener on the other side.
“We’ve got Dwight,” Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley responded to Basketball Insiders when asked what the key to this season has been. “We’re able to establish some post offense and some paint defense, with Dwight and [Omer Asik] on the same team that makes it much tougher for the opponent to score around the rim.
“We’ve been playing together and we’ve been sacrificing on defense, making a big emphasis on defense so we’ve been getting stops which leads to early offense. That’s the way we play.”
Thanks to the leadership that Howard has provided, Beverley and the Rockets aren’t making more of their strong start than what it is. Howard has been a part of great regular season teams that have come up short in the postseason and has his new teammates focused on what they haven’t accomplished, not what they have.
“It’s a long season still, 20+ games left,” Beverley said. “So we have a lot of work to do, we haven’t really reached our potential. We’re working everyday we’re focused on getting better everyday. That’s the key.”