CHICAGO -- Phil Jackson's official introduction Tuesday as president of the New York Knicks didn't just mark a new era within Madison Square Garden. It likely signified the end of a dream being built at the United Center, as well.
Aside from the panache that Jackson's hire gives the Knicks, it also likely closes the door on the possibility of Carmelo Anthony heading to the Bulls.
The idea of Anthony coming to Chicago this summer as a free agent was always a long shot, especially given the many moves the Bulls would have to make to clear cap space, and the reality that Anthony still might have to take a pay cut.
Anthony always sounded as though he didn't want to leave New York, and he has been open recently about how he still wants to stay there and would even be willing to change his playing style for Jackson.
But the rumors surrounding the Bulls and Anthony persisted after an ESPN.com report said that Bulls center Joakim Noah talked to Anthony about joining Chicago during All-Star Weekend. They reached a fever pitch two weeks ago when the Knicks came to town and Bulls fans held up signs pleading for Anthony to come to Chicago.
Jackson's presence changes all of that, though.
The Hall of Fame coach-turned-executive left no question Tuesday that he believes Anthony is part of the Knicks' future.
"There's no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, maybe the best individual isolation player in the game," Jackson said. "I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans."
Those words have to crush the Bulls' front office. Anthony was the top priority for the Bulls this summer. They hoped to pair him with a core of Derrick Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau and Noah, and push toward a championship. The feeling was that Anthony would take pressure off Rose as he came back from his second knee injury and would thrive under the tutelage of Thibodeau.
Now Jackson has come in and changed the game. It's hard to imagine any scenario in which Anthony shuns Jackson and his championship pedigree, not to mention the $30 million-plus and an extra year on a guaranteed contract that only the Knicks can offer.
So where do the Bulls go from here?
With Anthony out of the picture, the Bulls' next best option is to focus again on trying to get European star Nikola Mirotic to come over this summer. But it remains unclear if Mirotic can get out of his deal, or if he even wants to come to the NBA this summer. It's also uncertain just how much the Bulls would have to spend to bring him over. Are they ready to invest $8 million to $10 million a year for a player who has never played in the NBA?
If Mirotic doesn't come over, the Bulls will have some cap space to sign a prominent player, but it won't be someone of Anthony's caliber. Lance Stephenson's name has floated around as a possibility for several months, but will the Bulls be willing to break the bank to sign the Indiana Pacers guard?
What about Carlos Boozer? The Bulls have been expected to amnesty the final year of his deal for a while, but now that Anthony doesn't seem like a possibility anymore, would the Bulls really eat the almost $17 million left on Boozer's deal if they couldn't improve themselves significantly?
No matter what Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson decide in the coming months, they'll look back on Tuesday as a turning point in their summer plan. Jackson's arrival in New York marks the start of Plan B in Chicago.