Chicago Bulls: Carmelo Anthony
After judging the slam-dunk championship at the Nike Chi League all-star festivities Saturday, Pippen was asked if he was surprised James left for the Cleveland Cavaliers following Miami’s one-sided loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.
“I kind of figured he’d go back [to Cleveland],” Pippen said at Whitney Young High School. “I don’t know if he could hold that team up. I think [Dwyane] Wade's physical ability had him thinking, like, ‘Hey, maybe this is not the place I need to be.’ It was a great run for them. They weren’t as successful as they thought they would be, but you went to the Finals four times, so you can’t hold your head down too much about that.”
Six rings in six tries gives Pippen room for such backhanded praise.
While the Bulls reportedly had a meeting with James’ agent during this summer’s free-agency period, they failed at landing their true big target: Carmelo Anthony.
Pippen, now a special advisor to Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, was a major part of the pitch to Anthony.
After Pippen’s family pictures with Anthony from a Nike European summer tour elicited great hope in the Windy City, the Hall of Famer was part of the Bulls’ daylong Chicago presentation to Anthony on July 1.
But after all the wooing, Anthony stayed in New York and signed a $124 million deal to remain a Knick. The Bulls were reportedly his second choice. It's a familiar story for the Bulls, who haven't been able to land a major free agent in the post-Jordan-and-Pippen era.
“I’m not disappointed,” Pippen said. “Guys are going to make their decision at the end of the day, so you try to make a pitch, and hopefully it works. It hasn’t worked so far, but still, we did what we had to do as an organization to try and attract one of the best free agents out there.”
What was the pitch, given that Chicago couldn’t offer a max deal?
“'Look at the roster' -- that was pretty much it,” Pippen said. “We have a roster we think has a championship pedigree. We’ve been playing good basketball the last few years, even without our star player. Just adding some pieces was the pitch we were throwing at him. We felt that he was a big piece that we needed to get over the hump.”
As far as big pieces, Pippen said he likes the addition of 7-footer Pau Gasol, who had his introductory press conference Friday.
“We have size, and we got two big guys that can really pass the ball,” he said. “Pau gives us inside scoring that’s much needed. ... It’ll be great for our basketball team because we haven’t had a dominating low-post scorer in the block for a while.”
With James in Cleveland, Pippen said he thinks the Bulls have as good a chance as any team if Derrick Rose gets back to form.
“I think it’s wide open now, other than looking at San Antonio as the defending champion,” Pippen said. “I think a lot of teams have the opportunity to step up.”
It started Saturday afternoon a few hours before the Bulls' summer league team played its first game. That's when the organization came to the realization that Carmelo Anthony was staying in New York for sure and taking all the extra millions that came with that decision.
Is it a roster that can contend for a championship? Only time will tell -- the Bulls still lack the type of create-your-own-shot scoring that Anthony would have provided -- but it is unquestionably deeper on paper than it was at any point in the past season. Obviously, the health of Derrick Rose hovers over everything the Bulls do, but the front office did a nice job of loading up the rest of the rotation with players who should be able to contribute in several ways.
Rose is the key, but Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Hinrich and Gasol are all proven veterans who know how to play. Jimmy Butler is one of the best defenders in the league and, if he develops a consistent shot, will make himself a lot of money. Tony Snell struggled at various points this past season but has played well to start summer league.
Rookie Doug McDermott has also looked solid to start summer league play and is being counted on to help the Bulls stretch the floor with his shooting prowess. Mirotic remains a bit of a question, in the sense that he has never played an NBA game, but the Bulls' front office has always believed he would produce at this level, and his length should help spread the floor for Rose.
That's 10 players Thibodeau should be able to count on to produce in some form this year. What is left for the front office in the coming weeks? They have to decide if they believe second-round pick Cameron Bairstow can make the roster this season. No matter what, they must continue to try to add another backup center to take a little pressure off Noah. Veteran Nazr Mohammed remains interested in playing for a third season in Chicago, but it it's unclear if he'll be back.
The Bulls must continue to evaluate backup point guard options. With their recent moves, they have the ability to wait and see how the market unfolds, but D.J. Augustin isn't an option anymore after agreeing on a two-year deal with the Pistons on Sunday. Bulls GM Gar Forman needs another veteran in the mix for this role and has had good luck filling that need the past few seasons.
No matter how the rest of the roster is filled, the Bulls' have their core in place. These are the players who will decide how far the Bulls go in the playoffs next season. These are the ones Thibodeau must mold into a contender over the next nine months. The Bulls badly wanted Anthony, but they did the best they could, given the circumstances. It's a tired refrain for frustrated Bulls' fans, but the belief within the organization is that this is still a team that has the ability to contend for a championship right away. The pieces are in place -- now it's time to find out if there's enough talent.
The Chicago Bulls coach spent a few minutes with the media before his team's opener in the Las Vegas Summer League, and it was like talking to him before a regular-season game in Milwaukee in March.
The basketball lifer was obviously disappointed by the fact that Carmelo Anthony decided to stay with the New York Knicks -- Thibodeau and the Bulls invested a lot of time and effort into their recruiting pitch to Anthony -- but he didn't show his frustration. He didn't even mention Anthony by name.
"At this time of the year, [executive VP of basketball operations] John [Paxson] and [general manager] Gar [Forman] have talked to a number of players," Thibodeau said. "You make your presentation, we think we have a lot to offer. We feel we have some good options, and we're looking forward to the challenge of next year."
That's as deep as Thibodeau will go. Anybody who has followed the Bulls over the past four seasons knows to read the tea leaves with the veteran coach, though. His refrain will always remain the same: Whether Anthony landed in Chicago or not, Thibodeau was always going to be of the belief that the Bulls have more than enough to win. It's a mantra that has defined his coaching career and his tenure with the Bulls.
But there's no doubt Thibodeau will motivate his players next season by reminding them that, in the end, Anthony spurned Chicago. Anthony turned his back on Thibodeau and what was widely believed to be the best situation to win a title right away. Even if Thibodeau understands how much Anthony fought with the decision and how much money he would have left on the table, Thibodeau will use Anthony's choice as yet another motivational ploy in firing up his team. He thrives on the "us against the world" mentality and will remember that in the future when the Bulls face the Knicks.
Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, but he also just turned 34 years old and missed chunks of the past two seasons because of injuries. His ability to create space on the floor because of his passing and vision should mesh well with Joakim Noah. Gasol also gives the Bulls a back-to-the-basket scorer, something they thought they were getting when they signed Boozer four summers ago.
Gasol is absolutely a better all-around player than Boozer, but he has never been known for playing consistent, high-level defense. Like Boozer, there's a solid chance Gasol could end up sitting late in the fourth quarter of games as coach Tom Thibodeau decides to go with one of the best defensive combos in the league in Noah and Taj Gibson. While Gasol isn't as defensively challenged as Boozer, he isn't the best option to close down games on this roster.
The larger issue with the Gasol deal is the same one it was going to be with any player the Bulls landed who wasn't Anthony: Does Gasol -- and Nikola Mirotic, assuming the Bulls finally hammer out a deal with the European star -- put the Bulls that much closer to a title? The Bulls would be a better, deeper team with Gasol and Mirotic in the fold, but the issue for them is the same: Who scores late baskets for them in the playoffs? Derrick Rose is expected to come back in fine form to start the season and has looked great in summer league practices, according to several people who have seen him play, but the Bulls have seen before how this story ends.
The interesting wrinkle about the Gasol news is that it likely pushes the Bulls out of the conversation for a potential deal with Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love for now. With Gasol, Noah, Gibson and Mirotic likely headed to the NBA, the Bulls are loaded with big men and will still try to add a backup center in free agency.
Still, even if Rose stays healthy -- which is a huge "if" given he's played only 49 games the past three seasons because of various injuries -- Gasol isn't the type of "create your own shot" player the Bulls have been lacking. He's a skilled offensive big man who is past his prime. The Bulls still have a chance to contend in the weak Eastern Conference -- but the goal is to find ways to win championships. Gasol's addition puts them closer to that goal, but not by much.
The Bulls always knew they were going to have to get past LeBron James in order to win a championship. Now they'll just have to do it by going through Cleveland the next few years.
If the Bulls don't land Anthony, they are looking at the very real possibility of heading into next season as the third-best team in their own division. James' choice makes the Cavaliers the new favorite in the Central. The Indiana Pacers, despite all their dysfunction at the end of the season, still have Paul George and a core that has been to the Eastern Conference finals the past couple of seasons.
If Lance Stephenson decides to sign elsewhere, that will change the dynamic within the division, but it won't change the fact that James' presence in Cleveland remains the biggest roadblock facing the Bulls.
James' decision has other ramifications on the Bulls -- namely, the backup plan of trying to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Love is "intrigued" by the possibility of playing with James, and would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Cavs.
If the Bulls don't land Anthony, the next best option is to continue calling Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders to see if they could work a deal to bring Love to Chicago.
The Bulls' offer figured to include Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and/or Nikola Mirotic along with a future draft pick or two. If the Cavaliers offer Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in last month's draft, along with a few other assets, will that be too good of a deal for the Timberwolves to pass up? Gibson and Butler are great defenders and solid players, but they don't have the potential star power of Wiggins.
No matter what happens in the coming days in free agency, the Bulls know that James remains in their path more than ever. Like it did in Miami during his first season there, it's going to take him some time to learn the intricacies of playing with new teammates like Kyrie Irving and company, but James is the type of player who makes everyone around him better.
The Bulls have the same kind of talent in Derrick Rose -- a player who opens up space for everyone else on the floor -- but Rose has played in only 49 games in the past three seasons because of various injuries. James' move doesn't change much in that regard. Rose must continue to work on his game and hope his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season. Until he can prove that he is healthy -- and playing at the same level -- it's foolish to believe the Bulls are a serious contender to win a championship. Even if Anthony signs in Chicago, the Bulls still need an elite-level Rose to be a serious title contender.
The key for the Bulls becomes simple now. They must hope that Anthony signs with them, which would give them the superstar scorer they've been missing throughout the Tom Thibodeau era.
Anthony's presence would take a lot of pressure off Rose and the rest of the team, and it would be an antidote for the intense defense James has played against Rose in the past. The Bulls have to hope that Anthony remembers what their pitch was -- that Chicago offers him the best chance to win right away.
The Knicks can offer the most money, but they are still selling hope. Anthony must buy into the notion that the Knicks' new kingpin, Phil Jackson, can turn around the roster in summer 2015, when he'll be working with a lot more cap space.
The Bulls have to hold onto the belief that Anthony knows that the best way to get through Cleveland and to a championship is to join forces with Rose and Noah. The reality for all parties is that they are much better equipped to do that together, not apart.
If Carmelo Anthony does not sign in Chicago, the Bulls are going to have a lot of choices to make in a short amount of time. Like many teams, the Bulls have money to spend but there is a lot of competition to land second- and third-tier free agents. Once the first big dominoes of free agency fall when LeBron James and Anthony make their decisions, everything else will come down quickly.
The Bulls have several contingency plans in order and they must act decisively if they are left at the alter by Anthony.
With that in mind, here are a few of the options Gar Forman and John Paxson will have to consider if Anthony passes on the Bulls:
Chandler Parsons, SF
It always seemed like Houston would end up matching whatever offer materialized for the restricted free agent. But if the Rockets end up landing Chris Bosh, maybe the game changes for a team like the Bulls. At 25, Parsons is sure to have many suitors -- the interesting aspect of his deal, as my colleague Tim MacMahon from ESPNDallas.com noted, is that any team that signs Parsons to an offer sheet may then have to wait three full days to see if the Rockets would match the offer.
If James still hasn't made his decision in a few days and Bosh is waiting to see what happens, would a team like the Mavericks or Bulls be willing to gamble on signing Parsons to the offer sheet, in the event that Anthony picks a team?
Parsons would fill a huge need for the Bulls in the form of outside shooting, but would the Bulls be willing to create enough cap space to land him? According to ESPN capologist Larry Coon, the Bulls would have about $13 million in available cap space if they use the amnesty provision to eliminate the final year of Carlos Boozer's deal and trade Mike Dunleavy. With Nikola Mirotic's arrival looming on the horizon, the Bulls wouldn't even come close to offering Parsons a competitive offer if Mirotic wants somewhere between $6 million and $8 million.
As Coon noted, the Bulls can't offer Parsons the same kind of "poison pill" contract the Rockets offered former Bull Omer Asik because Parsons has already been in the league for three years and is not bound to the same contract restrictions. Plus, if the Mavericks, or another team swoop in to sign Parsons to a big offer sheet, then the Bulls are out of contention anyway. Parsons is a close friend of Bulls center and fellow Florida product Joakim Noah, but that tight bond probably isn't going to be enough to bring him to Chicago.
Pau Gasol, C
Gasol's name has been on the Bulls' radar for a while. The front office flew out to meet with Gasol last week in Los Angeles and he seems to be at the forefront of any non-Anthony contingency plan. As with Parsons, there are a lot of teams contending for his services. The Bulls don't figure to offer Gasol nearly as much as the Lakers will, but they can sell playing on a team that believes it has a legitimate chance to contend next season in the much weaker Eastern Conference. Still, landing Gasol is going to be tough because of the quality of suitors in the hunt for him.
Lance Stephenson, SG
The mercurial 23-year-old Pacers swingman has already turned down a five-year, $44 million deal from Indiana and ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported Monday that the two sides are still "far apart on a deal." I still don't believe the Bulls will make a serious run at Stephenson because of his documented ability to upset a locker room, but if they whiff on other names, he remains a possibility, especially if the Pacers can't come to terms with him.
Luol Deng, SF
Don't hold your breath for a Deng reunion with the Bulls. Deng already turned down a three-year, $30 million deal last season. He and his camp were not happy with how the Bulls approached the contract process and there are still lingering feelings on both sides. Plus, adding Deng after potentially missing out on Anthony & Co. would not satisfy a fan base that already knows what kind of team the Bulls are with Deng in the fold.
Trevor Ariza, SF
The Washington Wizards swingman would fit into the Bulls' system on many levels. He is a solid defender and can knock down open jumpers -- as evidenced by some of his performances in the Wizards' first-round playoff win over the Bulls. Washington would still like to re-sign him, but he could be an answer if the Bulls are willing to splurge a little.
As the Bulls' front office tries to filter through all the scenarios, the big problem they have is the same one every team is dealing with. Many organizations have a lot of money to spend this summer.
As the Bulls learned in the past with Carlos Boozer, and others, teams usually have to overpay in free agency. That's why it's more imperative than ever for the Bulls to target one big free agent and lock him up right away if Anthony isn't ready to come to Chicago. The Bulls aren't going to have time to wait and see what happens in a crowded marketplace.
Signs of Anthony wearing a No. 7 Bulls jersey alongside the Larry O'Brien Trophy dotted the sides of the building. As Forman got into his car, he had a lot to feel good about. He and assistant GM Randy Brown were among several members of the organization headed over to continue speaking with Anthony at a downtown hotel. Optimism was the prevailing theme of the day as Forman left that day.
Six days later, all that optimism has been replaced by reality.
Anthony is now expected to decide between taking a five-year max contract with the New York Knicks for about $129 million or a four-year max contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for $96 million. The Bulls' offer would have started at only about $17 million next year, given that the organization would like to keep its core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Doug McDermott intact.
According to one source with knowledge of the discussion, it was a strategy that Anthony seemed to be on board with, especially when it came to keeping Gibson. He knew the Knicks had to gut their roster when they made the original deal to acquire him from the Denver Nuggets during the 2010-11 season. He didn't want to have to endure that again if he landed in Chicago.
So does that mean Forman and executive vice president John Paxson should be criticized because it appears Anthony is going to take max money, even when he went on record earlier in the year saying that money wouldn't be the most important factor in his decision?
No, but a large portion of the Bulls' fan base will anyway.
That's because of the cumulative letdown of big-time free agency over the past four years. Forman and Paxson did not land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. Some fans still haven't gotten over that and never will. Now that it appears Anthony is headed elsewhere, all those old feelings are resurfacing.
The larger issue with Forman and Paxson is what happened in the days since Anthony's meeting. That's when ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported that, according to sources, Rose wasn't actually part of the formal recruiting pitch to Anthony and was "shocked" to see Anthony there. On the surface, that's hard to believe considering last Tuesday marked the first time since the Game 5 playoff loss to the Washington Wizards on April 29 that the basketball floor at the United Center was down, according to several sources.
But the perception remains that the division between the Bulls' front office and Rose's camp seems only to be growing over time. It started just before the All-Star break last season, when Rose admitted that he was still a long way from returning to the floor, even though many within the organization believed he was just a few weeks away from making his return from an ACL injury he suffered in April 2012. The disconnect grew deeper a couple of weeks later, when Rose's brother, Reggie, voiced his displeasure to ESPNChicago.com regarding the lack of movement from the front office to put better players around his brother.
It's the job of Forman and Paxson to form a united front within the organization. But between the Rose drama and the on-again, off-again drama surrounding Thibodeau's future in Chicago, the Bulls have looked anything but unified at various points in the past two seasons.
Forman and Paxson aren't alone in the blame game. Rose, once the most universally beloved athlete in town, is now one of the most questioned. He has only played 49 games in the past three years and has repeatedly said he didn't want to recruit players. Bulls officials have played coy from the beginning about what Rose's actual involvement was last Tuesday, but they would much rather their star swallow his pride and sell some of the league's brightest stars, like Anthony, on the virtues of playing in Chicago.
Whether Rose went out of his way to speak to Anthony for hours may not have made much of a difference in the end, especially if Anthony was just going to head to the biggest payday all along, but the perception is that Rose and his camp aren't on the same page with the front office. It's a perception that all involved can't shake and one that reflects poorly on the entire group.
Rose still believes he is the best player in basketball. It's that inner confidence that allowed him to become the league's youngest MVP in 2010-11, and it's that belief that elevated the Bulls to new heights in the post-Jordan era. But now that confidence -- and stubbornness -- seems to be hurting the Bulls more than helping them, which is why Rose is facing more criticism than ever from a fan base that misses watching him play at the highest level.
Passing out blame is usually one of the stages of grief fans go through when their team and city is jilted in free agency. They need a scapegoat and an outlet for the feelings of sadness. The reality for the Bulls is that maybe the blame in this situation should be chalked up more to bad luck than anything, or anyone, else.
If Rose hadn't been hurt, it wouldn't have changed the entire course of the organization. Maybe they would have been able to claw past LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2011-12 the way many within the organization still believe. Maybe Anthony would, in fact, sign in Chicago for less knowing that Rose is still one of the top players in the league, not a question mark coming off his second major knee surgery in two years.
Several people deserve at least some blame for the fact that Anthony doesn't appear to be heading to Chicago, but none of them could have overcome the one thing that has hovered over the Bulls since Rose went down with his first knee injury: bad luck.
Derrick Rose, who has said repeatedly over the years he doesn't want to recruit players, was there at the United Center on Tuesday to be part of the group that sold Anthony on the benefits of coming to Chicago.
Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau, two men who have not always seen eye-to-eye on various decisions over the last few seasons, spent the entire day discussing the virtues of the Bulls' organization with Anthony.
They walked him through the Bulls' brand-new practice facility in the afternoon and continued selling him on the organization at a dinner meeting inside a downtown hotel. The pair got into the same car around 10 p.m. and drove away to wait out Anthony's decision over the next week.
As an organization, the Bulls have been focusing on this pitch to Anthony for a while. They know he is the type of player they've been missing the most. They know he is the man who can score 25 to 30 points a night and take a large amount of pressure off Rose's shoulders. That's why they left no detail unturned during their day with the superstar scorer.
It's the reason why Thibodeau picked Anthony up in a large van and personally escorted the All-Star small forward and members of his team to the United Center. It's why the Bulls made sure pictures of Anthony wearing a Bulls jersey were plastered all over the facade of the arena, along with images of the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Melo signs, with championship trophies, wrapped all around the United Center. pic.twitter.com/uxlv8MEiDS— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
It's why Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson rolled inside to be with Thibodeau, Rose and other members of the organization to sell Anthony on the pitch -- the vision for Chicago's future. That pitch isn't hard to figure out and it's why one Bulls official after another was so quietly confident before, during and after their time with Anthony on Tuesday.
Now the ball is in Anthony's court.
The Bulls are hopeful Anthony will go through the rest of the recruiting process and remember what he saw and heard on Tuesday. That he will buy into what the Bulls are selling.
But as Anthony processes what he encountered in Chicago and Bulls' personnel give each other handshakes for what they feel is a job well done, Anthony has a major decision to make on two levels.
First, is he ready to leave a place in New York City that he truly seems to love? A place where he and his family appear to be happy. Most important, especially for the Bulls, is he willing to leave millions upon millions on the table in order to play in Chicago?
Even the most optimistic Bulls' official doesn't have the answer.
New York Knicks czar Phil Jackson still has the ultimate financial trump card, if he chooses to play it. He can offer Anthony a full max deal worth up to $129 million over five years.
The Bulls can offer only $96 million over four years. However, that’s a figure they would rather not hit if they had to sign Anthony outright, because it would mean they would have to let go of a host of meaningful players, including Gibson.
Rose and Noah would still be safe at that max amount for Anthony. But is a core of Rose, coming off missing almost three seasons because of knee injuries, Noah and Anthony enough to get the Bulls to the promised land?
That's a question the Bulls must ponder as they continue to hope against hope the Knicks would agree to a sign-and-trade, which would offer Chicago a much better option to keep its roster somewhat intact.
The key to their pitch is that it followed a mantra that Noah lives by on a daily basis: The Bulls lived in the moment and they enjoyed it.
They don't know how the rest of Anthony's tour will shake out, but they know they did everything they could to put their best foot forward.
Indeed, on one of the most important days in recent franchise history, the Bulls were united on every level in trying to bring Anthony to Chicago.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls' sale pitch to Carmelo Anthony is underway as the team meets with the New York Knicks free agent on Tuesday at the United Center.
ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell is there and will post updates throughout the day here.
Rose did not speak to the media on his way out. He walked out with Randy Brown. pic.twitter.com/BeGJB0yVij— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Derrick Rose just walked out of the United Center.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
The more time Thibs can spend with Melo the better for the Bulls. Very smart move to have him in van that picked up Anthony.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
The other person in the van that picked up Melo? That would be Thibs. He was talking to him on the whole ride into the United Center.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
John McDonough just walked in and out of UC: "We are not in the Carmelo sweepstakes."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Taj Gibson has entered the United Center. pic.twitter.com/xfP9KTz5Pe— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Melo signs, with championship trophies, wrapped all around the United Center. pic.twitter.com/uxlv8MEiDS— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Cameramen say that Melo's van had a police escort in front and behind it on the way into the United Center.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Fans were a little shocked to see Melo walk out. The van he was in could barley make it past the security gate at the United Center.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Carmelo didn't make any comments on the way in. Just hopped out of a big van with a couple associates. pic.twitter.com/DC2oIdBVPY— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Carmelo walking into the United Center. pic.twitter.com/1SXPYtXoqZ— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Carmelo received some scattered applause from various fans and politely said "Thank you. Thank you" as he walked into the building.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Carmelo, in a full Bulls uniform, is on some of the other video boards around the United Center. pic.twitter.com/WeKY3OJWUK— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Bulls officials feeling confident about pitch as they head into United Center. They've always believed Chicago offers best place to win.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Noah declined comment but had a big smile on his face as he posed for pictures with fans. Bulls' personnel know how big this day is.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Joakim Noah has entered the United Center. He is in very good spirits.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
The Bulls' recruiting pitch to Carmelo is already underway. This is the message on the side of the United Center. pic.twitter.com/7vsu4kCpuL— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Anthony can be that guy.
Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Rose -- a core that has been together for a while and plays hard every night. More importantly, he would be playing for Thibodeau, a coach he respects and one who has a track record of making great players even better.
Yes, Rose's health status continues to hover over everything the Bulls do. Other teams will undoubtedly tell Anthony that Rose's body can't withstand the grind of an 82-game season anymore. But as Thibodeau pointed out recently, every player goes through injuries at some point in his career. Rose has gone through a trying period over the past few seasons, but if he comes back and is anywhere close to the player he was before the injury, he would be the most talented player with whom Anthony has ever played. Rose is still only 25 and was the youngest MVP in league history.
The reality for Anthony is that the Bulls are intent on winning right now. They don't need to wait another year and clear out cap space like the Knicks do. The other key is that Chicago is in the Eastern Conference, with a much easier route to the NBA Finals. Dallas and Houston, two teams with which Anthony is expected to meet, have to battle it out in the much more difficult Western Conference.
Anthony could take all the shots he wanted in Chicago and would get plenty of open looks playing alongside Rose. He would also become an even better defender playing in Thibodeau's system and would have Noah and Gibson flanking him on either side on the defensive end.
In so many ways, Anthony is the missing piece the Bulls have been searching for. He can score and would space the floor for Rose and his teammates. But he also seems to be at a point in his career where he knows legacies are defined by championships, by rings. The Bulls have to make it clear they offer the best chance, the best path, to the one thing that has eluded Anthony up to this point in his career -- a title.
Bulls GM Gar Forman is confident the city of Chicago will help sell itself to Anthony and other free agents the Bulls speak with over the next week. The Bulls' brand is strong throughout the world, and the organization is hopeful Anthony wants be part of the chase for a seventh championship that will make that brand even stronger.
But as Bulls' employees put together their pitch for Anthony, the overriding theme is short and simple: If the 30-year-old scorer wants to be in the best position to contend for a championship right away, then sign on the dotted line in Chicago and come be part of a city that is starving for another winner.
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.
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.
"I think he would fit right in with that team," Rose, an ESPN analyst, said Tuesday on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I think if you're able to make that a Big Three, now Miami is looking to Chicago and saying, 'Wow we've got some real competition' in an overall weak Eastern Conference this year."
Webber told "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN Radio last week that he believes Anthony should go to a team with an offensive coach rather than one fronted by a defensive mind like the Bulls' Tom Thibodeau.
Rose said if he were Anthony he would want the Bulls to execute a sign and trade deal to acquire him rather than a straight signing. The Knicks are the only team that can offer Anthony a five-year, $129 million contract. The Bulls, or any other team, can offer Anthony only a maximum four-year, $96 million contract.
"In order for me to leave that kind of money on the table they better have Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson coaching with Pop and Red Auerbach as assistants," Rose said.
Anthony officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks on Monday and is considering the Chicago Bulls, among several teams, as he figures out where he wants to play next.
Boeheim doesn't buy into the notion that Anthony is just going to sign with the team that can offer him the most money. The Knicks are the only team that can offer Anthony a five-year, max contract worth $129 million. The Bulls, like the rest of Anthony's suitors, can offer the All-Star only a four-year deal, maximum $96 million contract.
To clear that kind of space, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and then gut the rest of their roster. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Anthony would be joined by a slew of players on minimum salary deals.
The Bulls, like everyone else in the Anthony sweepstakes, are hoping that Anthony will take a little less to build a championship foundation around him.
"I don't think it's a money issue," Boeheim said. "I think he wants to obviously make what is a fair wage like everybody else. I don't think Phil Jackson is taking a minimum salary in New York. I don't think Derek Fisher is, I don't think [Carmelo] should. I think LeBron James is a good example. They're both looking at what's the best place for them from a business perspective. And players can do that now, it's the rules. It's the way [the system's] set up. And I think they should try and make that decision. But it is a hard decision; you don't know exactly where you can go and when."
Boeheim, who guided Anthony and Syracuse to a national championship in 2003, believes that a piece of Anthony's heart remains in New York, but he is intrigued by the possibilities in Chicago.
"I think he likes New York," Boeheim said. "I think he's really enjoyed being there. I think his family enjoys it. Yes, I think he does like that. But I think at the end of the day, you have to make a decision on where is the best place to win. Where can you win? And that should be what drives this decision. I think it is what will drive this decision.
"The problem with that is you're just speculating now. 'All right, I come to Chicago, Derrick Rose gets hurt again. Now where are we? How tough is it now to win?' If you've got a healthy Derrick Rose, and the other pieces they have in [Joakim] Noah is certainly one of the best defensive all-around centers in the game. You've got [Jimmy] Butler, you've got a lot of little pieces there, a lot good players, you've got a great coach, a proven coach [in Tom Thibodeau]. I think it's is an interesting choice."
Boeheim knows the health of Rose, who has played just 49 games the past three seasons because of two knee injuries, will be a question Anthony must ponder as he tries to process his decision.
"Obviously that's something that you have to think about, in terms of how healthy Derrick Rose is," Boeheim said. "But I think Carmelo would enjoy playing for Tom. I got to know Tom last summer. I think he's a great coach. I think he's got a good feel for players, how to deal with players, how to talk to them, how to get the best out of them, how to be tough, when to be tough. I think he'd be a great guy to play for, I really do and I think Carmelo would enjoy that. But it's a tough decision, there's no question about it."
CHICAGO -- LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, and the Chicago Bulls would be wise to get in front of him again and make their best recruiting pitch just like they did four summers ago.
But that does not mean they should lose focus on what should remain their ultimate prize this summer: Carmelo Anthony.
As fans consider the possibility -- however small it may be -- of James pairing up with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, remember that James passed on the chance to do the same thing in the summer of 2010. And that was before Rose had two serious knee injuries that caused him to miss the vast majority of the past two seasons.
The Bulls are in a better place than they were that summer four years ago thanks to the rise of Tom Thibodeau as one of the best coaches in the league, the development of Taj Gibson and the elevation of Noah to an All-NBA center and the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year.
But if James wasn't going to tie his professional future to Rose back when Rose didn't have any knee problems, why would he change his mind now? It's a question that hovers over every recruiting pitch the Bulls will make this summer to James and other players throughout the NBA.
The interesting dynamic of the Bulls' courtship history of James is that while he has always been respectful of the way Chicago has played under Thibodeau, he never responded to Noah's overtures about coming to play in the Windy City.
"I did not talk to LeBron," Noah told ESPNChicago.com in August 2010. "I reached out to LeBron. I think of course he's a great player, and I wanted to win, and he would have definitely helped. That being said, he did not reach back out to me. He did not want to talk to me, which is fine. I really don't give a [crap] at all. I really don't care. I think we have a really good team and we're going to be ready to compete against the Miami Heat."
The Bulls have had some intense games with the Heat over the past four years and have been bounced out of the playoffs by Miami in two of those seasons. They should do everything they can to speak to James and talk to him about playing for Thibodeau, a coach he respects.
But the front office can't lose focus on Anthony. He is the player the organization has targeted for months, and he is the player who likely gives the Bulls the best chance to topple James, wherever he may land. While it's no sure thing that Anthony lands in Chicago -- he might even team with James somewhere else -- he is a much safer bet than James when it comes to playing for the Bulls at this point.
James had the chance to play for the Bulls and turned it down. What makes this time any different?
With the news Sunday that New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent, Bulls fans -- and executives -- are hoping that the All-Star swingman will decide to join forces with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
He would give the Bulls the one thing they've been missing throughout the Tom Thibodeau era, besides a healthy Rose -- a superstar scorer who can create his own shot when needed. Anthony has talked openly in the past about his affinity for Thibodeau and the Bulls. He appreciates how hard they play and he's smart enough to understand that he could be the missing piece in their quest for a title. ESPN New York reported, according to sources, that Anthony has talked to one high profile person about what it's like to be famous in Chicago.
The Bulls are clearly on his mind as he tries to figure out whether he wants to stay in New York and take the financial security that comes with that. Or, if he wants to chase a championship somewhere else.
As Anthony ponders his decision, the Bulls will continue to do what they can to make their dream a reality. Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday that the Bulls have discussed a potential trade with the Orlando Magic that would bring Arron Afflalo to Chicago. Afflalo is someone the Bulls have been intrigued by in the past and would fit in very well into Thibodeau's defensive-first system. He was also a teammate of Anthony's in Denver for about a year and a half before Anthony was dealt to the Knicks.