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Chicago Bulls know to land Carmelo Anthony, it takes two to tango

Date

K.C. Johnson

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. Photo: Reuters

Chicago: On February 18, 2010, the Chicago Bulls traded John Salmons and two second-round picks to the Bucks for Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick and their expiring contracts.

Hours later, they sent Tyrus Thomas to the Bobcats for two more expiring deals - Flip Murray and Acie Law - and a future first-round pick, avoiding a $14 million cap hold scheduled for Thomas that summer they would've had to renounce for nothing.

Taking a deep breath - and plunge - management continued its aggressiveness on draft night in June by paying Washington to take Kirk Hinrich and the rights to 17th pick Kevin Seraphin for nothing but salary-cap space in return.

And then, armed with close to $31 million to spend, the Bulls entered free agency with cautious optimism and watched LeBron James take his talents to South Beach, where Dwyane Wade remained and Chris Bosh followed.

This isn't to say the Bulls can't and won't land Carmelo Anthony when NBA free agency begins July 1. In fact, Anthony will give the Bulls serious consideration now that a league source confirmed he is exercising the opt-out clause in his contract.

The free-agent moratorium lasts until July 10, but verbal commitments can come between July 1 and then. Sources said Anthony, who also will be pursued by the Knicks, Rockets and Mavericks, won't belabor his decision.

The above anecdote is to remind that it takes two to tango, that the Bulls can make all the right moves, try to sell a winning organisation in a world-class city with six NBA championships in the United Center banners. And Anthony can still opt for elsewhere.

Plenty of league sentiment exists that Anthony, despite publicly saying he'd take a pay cut to play for a winner, still desires a maximum or near-maximum offer. And why wouldn't he? At 30, with another possible work stoppage looming in a few seasons, this likely will be be his last major deal.

If Anthony does help the Bulls by signing for less, there are always off-the-court avenues to recoup money. Don't forget that Derrick Rose's Adidas contract dwarfs his substantial Bulls' payday. Anthony reminded all of his Brand Jordan affiliation with his T-shirt when Scottie Pippen's wife, Larsa, posted a picture of their Paris encounter on Instagram on Sunday.

But the New York Daily News reported on Sunday that some believe Anthony's camp hopes Knicks owner James Dolan - who swooped in to take the reins on Anthony's acquisition from the Nuggets - intercedes and demands team President Phil Jackson offer the All-Star forward maximum dollars.

If Anthony doesn't budge from his desire for a maximum or near-maximum deal and Jackson doesn't move from his stance on not building a sign-and-trade package centered on Carlos Boozer's expiring deal - both real possibilities - then it could be 2010 all over again.

If Anthony accepts a four-year deal with a first-season salary in the $17 million-$18 million range, the Bulls can and will make that happen.

The summer of 2010 underscored this trait of Bulls management: When it misses or makes a mistake, it has a backup plan or tries to rectify the error.

After striking out on James, Wade and Bosh, the Bulls signed Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer and traded for C.J. Watson. They went from 41 victories to a league-best 62 and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. This fuller roster approach, centered on the possible acquisition of Magic swingman Arron Afflalo and overseas prospect Nikola Mirotic, is in play if attempts to land Anthony fail.

One of the Bulls' rare draft misses, James Johnson, was dealt for a pick that helped them acquire Mirotic. And they created minor salary-cap space for this summer by dealing Marquis Teague.

The Bulls don't need back channels to woo Anthony. He shares the same agency as coach Tom Thibodeau. The organisation typically takes a no-nonsense approach to selling its virtues, which sources said resonated strongly with James and Wade in 2010 despite them opting to go elsewhere.

After all, it takes two to tango.

Chicago Tribune

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