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NBA Sunday: Noah Recruiting Anthony to Bulls

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Noah Recruiting Anthony Via Text Messages

Joakim Noah reportedly started recruiting free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls at this year’s All-Star weekend, when the Bulls center gave a pitch to the New York Knicks forward. It was during this conversation that Anthony supposedly asked Noah what it was like to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and seemed to express some level of interest in playing for Chicago.

Well, Noah has continued to recruit Anthony, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Joe Cowley writes that Noah and Anthony communicated via text messaging throughout the second half of the 2013-14 season, including talking one day after the Bulls were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

“Sources said Noah has been in Anthony’s ear as often as possible, and he has told other Bulls to push hard for Anthony this summer,” Cowley writes, citing multiple sources including one of Noah’s Bulls teammates.

“I was kidding Jo that they were boys now,” one source told Cowley. “‘Well, get your boy to come to Chicago.’”

Noah is no stranger to the role of recruiter. During the 2010 offseason, Noah took free agent Carlos Boozer out to dinner during his visit to Chicago and helped lure the forward to Chicago. Don’t be surprised if similar plans are made after July 1 this summer, when Anthony will likely visit Chicago. Noah also called to LeBron James when he was a free agent 2010, but never got a phone call back. When Noah was at the University of Florida, the school’s football coach Urban Meyer would send Noah to meet with some recruits.

The Bulls can offer Anthony a four-year deal worth approximately $95.8 million, while the Knicks can offer him a five-year deal worth approximately $129 million.

IN RELATED: Chicago Bulls Salary Cap Information

During the season, Noah was asked about the reports that he was recruiting Anthony, but he chose not to comment on the “gossip.” This was a smart move by Noah, since this is somewhat of a grey area in the NBA. While the NBA tends to look the other way when players privately discuss teaming up in the future, this could potentially be considered tampering if Noah talked about the duo’s conversations and made his recruiting public.

In order to sign Anthony, the Bulls would likely have to get rid of Boozer, who is set to earn $16.8 million in the final year of his contract. Chicago will reportedly try to trade Boozer. If they aren’t able to do that, they’ll likely amnesty him. Bulls general manager Gar Forman admitted that the team will consider using the amnesty provision this summer.

“Obviously, we still have the amnesty as an option that we haven’t used that a lot of teams have,” Forman said. “That’s something, as we go into July, we’ll have to evaluate. If it’s something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way.”

Boozer and Noah are the only Bulls eligible to be amnestied, and Noah obviously isn’t going anywhere. The Bulls will try to trade Boozer before amnestying him, but that’s certainly an option for Chicago.

According to the Sun-Times article, Noah doesn’t want to see the Bulls part ways with Taj Gibson in order to land Anthony, as Gibson emerged as a significant contributor for Chicago this past season and will slide into the starting lineup to replace Boozer. Gibson is locked up for the next three seasons, on a very reasonable contract that will pay him just $8 million next season.

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If the Bulls are able to land Anthony, it would give them a very impressive core of Noah, Gibson, Anthony and Derrick Rose, who is expected to be at full strength in time for the start of the 2014-15 season after missing most of this year with a torn meniscus. It remains to be seen how effective Rose will be after missing most of the last two seasons, but if he can return to form, the Bulls would have to be considered one of the league’s elite teams on paper. Throw in the fact that they have Thibodeau, who is one of the best coaches in the league, and they’d be a legitimate threat to the Miami HEAT and have a good shot at representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

The Bulls will have some competition for Anthony. The Knicks will obviously try to re-sign their All-Star, and their new team president Phil Jackson recently met with Anthony to discuss the team’s future. New York has an edge entering the summer, since they can offer significantly more money than other teams (although Jackson seems to want Anthony to take a pay cut). The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Anthony, who will exercise the early termination option in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent and secure a new long-term deal.

Last summer, we saw Dwight Howard land in Houston after communicating with James Harden and Chandler Parsons via text message in the months leading up to free agency. We’ll see if Noah’s recruiting can help the Bulls become the frontrunner to land Anthony this offseason.

Where Do the Rockets Go From Here?

When Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets last offseason, he did so because he believed it gave him his best chance at winning a championship. Howard joined James Harden to form an incredible duo, with a talented supporting cast that featured Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik among others. The team had title aspirations entering the season, and understandably so.

However, after Damian Lillard’s series-winning three-pointer with .9 seconds left in Game 6 to lift the Portland Trail Blazers to the second round, the Rockets will be watching the remainder of the postseason from home. Houston was a favorite entering the series, but only managed to win two playoff games this year – the same number of postseason victories they had last series, without Howard.

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“It hurts,” Howard said. “When you put everything you’ve got on the floor and somebody hits you with a dagger like that, it’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s a tough loss, but it’s something we’ve got to learn from.

“I’ve been to the Finals, I’ve been to the Eastern Conference Finals, I’ve been to the top and it’s not easy getting there. You’ve got to make everything count. I think that’s a big lesson for us all. No matter who we play, no matter what happens in the regular season, you can’t take any team for granted. … There are a lot of things we can learn from this series and hopefully come back next year and be a lot better.”

“It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Parsons said. “If we get a stop, this locker room is totally different and we’re going home to play Game 7 and move on. Instead it’s over and there are no words to describe the feeling.”

Now, the Rockets enter the offseason with some uncertainty surrounding the franchise. Kevin McHale is certainly on the hot seat going forward, but he won’t lose his job this summer, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets will reportedly pick up the 2014-15 option on McHale’s contract, but there’s now a lot of pressure on the head coach moving forward. If this talented group can’t go on a deep postseason run next year, McHale is likely out as the team’s coach.

Some people around the league felt that McHale should’ve been fired now, that he wasn’t the championship-caliber coach that this team needed. However, Rockets owner Les Alexander is said to be a fan of McHale and it seems the team wants to have some continuity on the sideline entering the 2014-15 season.

But will the team also resist making roster changes this summer? That’s less likely. Houston has been mentioned as a potential destination for a number of free agents, most notably Carmelo Anthony. While the Rockets have $56,983,489 in guaranteed commitments for next season, they are reportedly “confident” that they can clear the necessary cap space to be active in free agency this summer. That would likely entail trading Asik and/or Lin, who will each have a $8,374,646 cap hit for next season but an actual salary of $15 million due to the poison pill contracts the Rockets signed them to as free agents in the summer of 2012.

IN RELATED: Houston Rockets Salary Cap Information

If the Rockets can’t upgrade their roster by signing a player, they will try to make a trade for a significant piece. The Rockets have reportedly tried to trade for stars such as Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo. If they pull of a blockbuster trade like that, other players and picks would have to be included as well, such as Parsons and Terrence Jones.

The Rockets will also need some internal improvement from their core. Harden is still just 24 years old, so he should continue to get better. If Harden could improve even a little bit on the defensive end, that would really help the Rockets. He didn’t play well in the postseason, which really hurt Houston. The Rockets have a number of other players who are 25 or younger including Parsons, Lin, Beverley, Jones and Troy Daniels, all of whom played a significant role in the series against Portland. Howard, who is 28, also vowed to return even better next season after the Game 6 loss.

“It hurts to be going home early,” Howard told Rockets.com. “It hurts to sit and watch somebody hold up a trophy and I won’t have a chance to get it this season. It should just push us for next season. I know it’s going make me continue to get in the gym, continue to get better and also push these young guys, letting them understand that we can’t take these moments for granted. Nothing is promised. The playoffs aren’t promised. Rings aren’t promised. You’ve got to go out there and earn it and it takes a lot of hard work.

“We’ve got a great nucleus of guys. Everybody has to come back better next season and see the mistakes we made this year as a team and try to learn from them, so next year we won’t have situations like this.”

This was a disappointing year for the Rockets, and now they enter a very important summer for the team. Another reason why Howard chose this team over other suitors was because they had a wider window to compete for a title. This is true and Houston should continue to contend, but changes may have to be made in order for the Rockets to live up to the lofty expectations set for this team.

 

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About Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy is a Senior NBA Editor of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last seven seasons.