CHICAGO -- Carmelo Anthony's first stop on the free-agency express is expected to be Chicago at some point on Tuesday, the first day free agents can speak to teams about signing in other cities. This revelation, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, can't be a bad thing for the Bulls.
Out of all the places Anthony could have traveled to first, he chose to start the tour in Chicago. That means the Bulls can make the first impression, the first of many impressive pitches he will see over the next week or so. In order to understand the things that Anthony may see and do in Chicago, it's important to go back in time to see how the organization handled the free-agent recruitments during the summer of 2010.
While Tuesday is technically the day the Bulls are expected to give their major pitch to Anthony, it's a safe bet that they will make first contact with the 30-year-old All-Star at 11:01 p.m. CT on Monday night. That's because it's the same plan they executed four summers ago while going after that year's batch of free agents. Various members of the organization were sent all over the country to hand deliver iPads to the top free agents in the league right after the stroke of midnight. Bulls radio play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky went to Texas to deliver a pitch -- and a Bulls iPad -- to Chris Bosh. Swirsky had a previous relationship with Bosh given that he used to be the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors, Bosh's former team.
Former Bulls executive Jeff Wohlschlager went to Los Angeles to hand deliver a Bulls iPad to Carlos Boozer, the man the Bulls would ultimately land after striking out with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. It was a presentation, and gift, that clearly left an impression on Boozer.
"I was in L.A. meeting with [Miami Heat president Pat Riley]," Boozer recalled in 2011. "I think it had to be like midnight Eastern time or whatever that day, so it was like 9 West Coast time or something. I was going to have dinner with [the Heat], and right at 9 o'clock at night, a dude knocks on my door and I'm like, 'What's poppin'?'"
Wohlschlager handed Boozer a briefcase.
"I pop open the briefcase, and it's an iPad with an intro to the team and the players that they had. The history, showing the championships that they had won in the past. Showing how good we can be if I came ... On the briefcase, there was a big Bulls logo. It was like a titanium briefcase, and you opened it up and it had the iPad sitting there, and it had a big picture of me in a Bulls uniform."
While it's unclear at this point whether the Bulls will fill up more iPads full of information, what is another safe bet is that the organization -- in some form or fashion -- will be in front of Anthony the second they can be. The Bulls put a lot of time, effort and money into their recruiting pitches four years ago. This time around figures to be no different given that the general feeling within the organization is that the Bulls are just one piece (Anthony) and a healthy Derrick Rose away from contending for a championship this coming season.
To that point, while the Bulls have been hesitant to reveal whether Rose will be part of any formal pitch, what seems clear is that All-Star center Joakim Noah will be at the forefront of whatever the Bulls decide to do with Anthony. Coach Tom Thibodeau acknowledged that Noah likely will be involved in some way last week and it makes sense given the fact Noah and Anthony have known each other for more than a decade. The pair spent their formative basketball years within the northeast AAU circuit and have a lot of respect for each other's game.
Noah enjoys playing the role of lead recruiter, a role he thrived in during his time at the University of Florida with both basketball and football players. He would be more than willing to take Anthony around the city and sell him on being a Bull, much the same way he did with Bosh back in 2010. This time, he hopes the results are a little different. Noah was convinced Bosh was going to sign with the Bulls after their meetings, only to find out that Bosh opted to go to Miami to sign with James, Wade and the Heat.
"I thought [Bosh] wanted to come to Chicago," Noah said during an interview in August of 2010.
Four years later, Noah has to hope he can send a message to Anthony that sticks with him throughout the course of the next week when he meets with other teams and other players.
As part of the pitch, the Bulls are also likely to chauffeur Anthony to their new downtown practice facility. After years of making players drive out to, and usually live in, the suburbs, the Bulls are about to open a new state-of-the-art facility later this summer that sits right across the street from the United Center. It's a big selling point for an organization that can now sell players on being just a short drive from downtown Chicago.
While money, and Rose's health, figure to be huge parts of any discussion with Anthony, especially given that the Bulls are hopeful he will take a little less money to allow them to retain Taj Gibson, what may be most important in the Anthony pitch is how he responds to what Thibodeau is selling. Anthony has said that he is just focused on winning a championship. In order to do that, Thibodeau must sell him on the fact he's the man who can lead him there.
"When a player is looking at free agency they're looking at, 'OK, who are the players that are there?'" Thibodeau said on ESPN Chicago 1000 last week. "And I think that's an easy sell for us. Because not only do we feel they're great players, but they're high character guys. And they play as a team and they play for each other. And I think that's attractive to people."
The Bulls believe they can offer the best place for Anthony to win immediately. They'll get their chance to convince him of that on Tuesday.