- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Four quickie reactions to all the Carmelo-to-Chicago chatter that generated so much curiosity Wednesday:
1. Before you expend too much brain power trying to figure out whether the Bulls would really part with Joakim Noah in a trade for Carmelo Anthony, be advised that the Bulls are actually working on something else Noah-related: Getting him locked in for the long term with a contract extension.
The sides have been negotiating quietly for weeks and sources close to the process say that sufficient progress has been made -- although no deal is imminent -- to all but guarantee that terms on a five-year extension will be reached before the Halloween deadline.
Noah is determined to stay in Chicago, one source assures, while the Bulls continue to send clear signals that they have no interest in parting with their center. Not even for someone of Anthony’s pedigree, as one source told ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell.
2. I did a spot check with a few of the sources used for last Thursday’s piece in this cyberspace about how the Nuggets are telling every team that calls about Melo’s availability that they’re not ready to discuss that subject yet.
One week later, Denver’s mindset hasn’t changed.
Sources tied to potential Anthony suitors are still telling ESPN.com that the Nuggets remain in the fact-finding phase and haven’t given a clear indication about how soon they’ll be willing to actually field offers.
No matter how much Melo might want out.
I certainly don’t doubt that Anthony’s desire to leave remains profound -- as ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher laid out Aug. 16 when he quoted a source saying that it was “a matter of when, not if, Anthony and the Nuggets will go their separate ways” -- but most rival teams continue to cling to the belief that an actual deal is more likely to happen closer to the February trading than the leaguewide start of training camps in less than three weeks.
3. The newsiest development on the Denver side is the fact that new Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri and Anthony still haven’t met face-to-face.
The Nuggets made it clear at Ujiri’s introductory press conference more than a week ago that they wanted him to sit down with the face of the franchise to assess whether any hope for a reconciliation remains or whether they have no choice but to start taking those trade calls, with Anthony eligible to become a free agent at season’s end.
Nuggets officials continue to believe that the sitdown will take place soon. Yet it’s worth noting that they likewise believed entering free agency July 1 that Anthony was close to signing the three-year, $65 million contract extension that Denver formally extended back in June before the draft.
The calls from other teams aren’t going to stop coming in no matter what, but the vigor with which the vultures circle only grows with each new hint of extension resistance from Melo.
4. Even if the Nuggets can eventually be sold on the idea of taking back a trade package headlined by Noah and Luol Deng -- which is debatable in itself unless the draft picks included were so irresistible or the Bulls landed a suddenly durable Nene as well – Chicago simply can’t afford to add Noah to a potential Melo offer.
Not after the long-term investments that the Bulls made this offseason on Carlos Boozer and Tom Thibodeau.
Boozer needs a long, defensive-minded center as a sidekick to truly flourish. Thibodeau needs a Kevin Garnett-style anchor on D in his first head-coaching gig like he had in Boston with KG as the Celtics’ defensive coordinator.
And Noah not only fills both of those roles but would be incredibly hard to replace. Especially if the would-be primary Noah replacement is a scoring machine who plays small forward.
When it comes to fit alongside the new power forward and the new coach, Melo isn’t at Noah’s level.
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