As July 5 ticked away, the Bulls were still watching to see when the big firecracker might explode.
They're waiting out the Carmelo Anthony decision, which could arrive anytime. The high-scoring Knicks free agent met last week with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks, Lakers and Knicks.
There was no real news Saturday. The New York papers continue to insist Anthony never wanted to leave the big city or take any less than a full maximum contract. Reports later in the day suggested the Lakers pulled into a three-way race with the Knicks and Bulls.
The Bulls have a right to feel optimistic if they believe Anthony is looking for the best opportunity to contend for a championship. The Bulls can offer some certainty, with proven players of similar age and a coach, Tom Thibodeau, who has shown he can maximize the talents of his players.
Re-signing in New York is essentially a bet that first-time general manager Phil Jackson can bring in more talent by 2015 and first-time coach Derek Fisher can mold it into a title contender.
Los Angeles has the cap room to give Anthony a maximum offer. If he joins another team, even in sign-and-trade, the most Anthony can get is $96.7 million over four years. The Knicks could go as high as $129 million over five years.
Signing for the max in New York would cut down on the cap space the Knicks' will have in 2015 and perhaps weaken the chances of improving the team. There have been suggestions he might take less than the max from New York.
In Los Angeles, Anthony would join Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and rookie Julius Randle to form a thin and aging lineup. The Lakers also have guard Kendall Marshall and big man Robert Sacre under contract. The Lakers have not yet hired a head coach.
The Lakers could waive Nash and use the stretch provision to create an extra $6 million in cap space, which would presumably go toward convincing Pau Gasol to stay in Los Angeles. Feel free to debate whether that's a lineup better than the Clippers, let alone a championship contender playing in the brutal Western Conference.
What's really going on? Anthony's wife, La La, is an actress, so maybe she'd prefer moving to Los Angeles -- where the couple have an off-season home -- rather than Chicago.
Maybe Anthony's camp is trying to convince Jackson to work a sign-and-trade with the Bulls, which would be his best scenario if he does want to play in Chicago. Maybe he'll announce Sunday he's staying in New York. All we can do for now is wait.
One piece of actual free-agent news was ex-Bulls forward Luol Deng meeting with Miami's Pat Riley on Saturday in Chicago. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was also reportedly at the meeting.
The Heat's situation is keeping the rest of the league on edge. LeBron James' agent reportedly met with the Cavaliers, Mavericks, Rockets, Suns and Lakers last week. James apparently wants a maximum contract to stay in Miami -- he's earned it, obviously -- but wants to add talent to the roster, which requires teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to take pay cuts.
Bosh could decide to go off on his own and get close to the max from Houston or Dallas. Meanwhile, no free agent has been willing to commit to Miami while James' status is in question.
Deng turned down $10 million per year from the Bulls before he was traded to Cleveland in January. He probably expects to get more than that and it's unclear whether the Heat could deliver.
One other bit of news from the weekend was a report that Nikola Mirotic has informed the Bulls and Real Madrid that he plans to jump to the NBA this summer. Mirotic is the 6-10 forward drafted by the Bulls in 2011.
Mirotic reportedly has a $3 million buyout with Real Madrid, to which the Bulls are allowed to contribute $600,000. So it's not clear what his salary requirements will be.
But the Bulls always felt Mirotic would sign either this summer or next, so it's not an unexpected development. They'll certainly wait on Anthony before making any commitment to Mirotic.
If the Bulls don't get Anthony, they should have enough cap space to sign Mirotic and make a run at another free agent, such as Gasol. If Anthony joined the Bulls in a sign-and-trade, they could use the midlevel exception to add Mirotic.
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