And it just so happened that the Knicks were playing the Bulls, widely speculated to be serious suitors for Anthony this summer.
Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony could be teammates next season.
The Knicks ended up beating the Bulls 100-89. But Anthony sat the entire fourth quarter to rest his ailing shoulder and watched the Bulls refuse to quit. Down by as many as 17 with 7:29 left, Chicago got as close as seven with 2:35 to go.
The Bulls rarely ever stop fighting, no matter who they lose to injury or how much more talented the opposition is. If the Knicks played with the kind of mentality spawned by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, they would still be in playoff contention or perhaps already in the playoffs.
Last Friday, Anthony was asked about the Bulls. He called Thibodeau “a great coach” and said the former Knicks assistant’s system “reminds me of Gregg Popovich’s system. You put anybody in that system and it’s going to work.”
Thibodeau, who shares the same agency (CAA) as Anthony, was asked about his system and why it works despite losing key players such as Derrick Rose (injury) and Luol Deng (trade) this season.
“It’s a credit to the players -- they had to make a collective decision: Are we gonna just accept our fate as others would have it?” Thibodeau said. “Or are we going to have a will and determination to overcome our circumstances? Our guys have chosen to fight.”
Even though Thibodeau was simply answering a question, his answer certainly makes for a pretty good recruiting pitch. How many times did the Knicks fail to show an ounce of fight in a loss this season? A 114-73 home loss to the Celtics immediately comes to mind.
Chicago and Carmelo could certainly use each other. The Bulls are missing a go-to scorer of Anthony’s caliber, as there’s no guarantee Rose will ever return to being an MVP-level player.
At this stage in his career, Anthony wants to win a title and needs to surround himself with a playoff-ready supporting cast. The cap-strapped Knicks likely have to endure another season of mediocrity before being able to make a big splash.
Chicago has as versatile a big man as there is in Joakim Noah, who had 13 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists on Sunday. The Bulls also have another young, emerging big in Taj Gibson. And they have gritty, hard-nosed players who share the ball -- six players scored in double figures against the Knicks –- and defend.
There’s plenty that can and will happen between now and July 1, when Anthony becomes a free agent. He has a lot to ponder his next move.
“I’m telling you, it’s hard for me to even think about that,” Anthony said Sunday. “It’s hard for me to even think past tonight at this point. Everything for me is just cloudy. I’ve never been in the situation before. I don’t know what to say about this situation."
“The only thing for me is to stay positive throughout this situation,” he added. “There’s going to be a lot of questions that I have, that I’m going to be asking myself: Why this? Why that? I’m pretty sure I won’t find no answers anytime soon. We’ll see what happens.”
The Knicks should still like their odds of keeping Anthony with Phil Jackson and his truckload of rings aboard and a max contract to offer. New York can sign Anthony to a five-year deal worth $129 million. He can sign only a four-year contract worth $95 million with another team, barring a sign-and-trade.
Perhaps the thought of $129 million is enough to ease Anthony's misery of missing the playoffs while the Bulls play on next week in the postseason.
But on Sunday, Anthony's frustration was obvious. You just have to wonder: How much will he be thinking about Chicago, and vice versa, later this summer?