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updated: 7/3/2014 11:19 PM

If not Anthony, Bulls could turn to Gasol

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  • Center Pau Gasol looks to be a part of the Bulls' Plan B if Carmelo Anthony decides not to sign up to play in Chicago.

      Center Pau Gasol looks to be a part of the Bulls' Plan B if Carmelo Anthony decides not to sign up to play in Chicago.
    Associated Press File Photo/November 2013

 
 

The center of NBA free-agent activity Thursday was Los Angeles.

A Bulls contingent -- which reportedly included Joakim Noah -- ventured to the West Coast to meet with Pau Gasol. Carmelo Anthony completed his free-agent tour by meeting with the Lakers and Knicks in L.A. There was even talk that Anthony and Gasol would meet with each other.

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The day ended with no decision by either player, but espn.com reported that Knicks president Phil Jackson told Anthony the team would offer him a maximum contract worth $129 million over five years.

No team can match that offer. By NBA rule, if Anthony joins another team, either by signing outright or in a sign-and-trade, he can get only a four-year contract at smaller raises.

The highest the Bulls could go is $96.6 million over four years. If Anthony re-signed for a fifth year, there wouldn't be a huge difference in overall compensation, but there are no guarantees for what happens down the road.

Anthony did not give the Knicks an answer and is expected to spend the weekend mulling his decision. The Lakers, with ample cap room, reportedly offered $96.6 million over four years.

If it means anything, the Bulls' meeting with Anthony was the longest of the five this week. He met with Houston and Dallas on Wednesday.

Many NBA observers believed Anthony's free-agent tour was designed mostly to ensure he received a max offer from the Knicks.

In theory, though, Anthony could decide the Bulls provide the best chance to win a championship, go back to the Knicks and ask to be traded to Chicago. That's the scenario the Bulls still are hoping for.

The basis of the Bulls' sales pitch was the chance to contend in the weaker Eastern Conference with teammates of similar age. Anthony is the eighth-highest scorer in NBA history who has never played in the Finals, and he's moving up the list quickly.

On the other hand, the Bulls already have touched base with one potential Plan B player. Gasol might seem an unusual choice, considering the Bulls already have Noah and Taj Gibson. But Gasol also might be the best player available with a reasonable price tag and legitimate interest in joining the Bulls.

Gasol, who turns 34 on Monday, has averaged at least 17.4 points in 13 of his 14 NBA seasons, missing only in 2012-13. He was at 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds for the Lakers last season while playing 31 minutes a game.

The Bulls need a scorer and probably envision a three-big rotation of Gasol, Gibson and Noah. Miami and Oklahoma City also are said to be chasing Gasol.

There was a report that Anthony wanted to speak to Gasol about possibly joining him in New York, but the Knicks could offer only the taxpayer midlevel exception of $3.28 million.

The Bulls can create $11 million to $12 million in cap space with the amnesty of Carlos Boozer. If Anthony does pick the Bulls and the teams worked out a sign-and-trade, it's conceivable the Bulls still would have the midlevel exception (worth $5.3 million) to offer Gasol.

Another conceivable spin is the Bulls could create more cap space to pay Anthony if they convinced Gasol to sign for $5 million, then trade Gibson's $8 million salary to the Lakers.

The other relevant news Thursday was continued uncertainty about the future of Miami's Power Trio. LeBron James' agent reportedly took meetings with the Cavaliers, Mavericks, Rockets and Suns this week in Cleveland. It's possible James could meet with teams in person next week.

Former Bulls guard Thabo Sefolosha, meanwhile, reportedly agreed to terms with the Atlanta Hawks, ending a long stint in Oklahoma City.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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