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updated: 7/7/2014 9:08 PM

Bulls reportedly still in play for Anthony

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  • After seemingly getting down to a choice between the Knicks and the Lakers, Carmelo Anthony reportedly still hasn't eliminated the Bulls from the free-agent picture.

      After seemingly getting down to a choice between the Knicks and the Lakers, Carmelo Anthony reportedly still hasn't eliminated the Bulls from the free-agent picture.
    Associated Press

 
 

Still no real news about where Carmelo Anthony might play next season, but the national story line changed slightly.

After several reports suggested Anthony was leaning toward New York or looking at the Los Angeles Lakers, The New York Daily News suggested Tuesday the high-scoring Knicks forward is, in fact, very interested in the Bulls.

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Concrete facts have been difficult to uncover this week, but this report does follow some basic NBA logic.

• Long before Anthony arrived for his recruiting visit to Chicago last week, the Bulls felt they could offer him the best chance to contend for a championship next season.

He would fit nicely into a lineup of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and either Doug McDermott or Jimmy Butler. Those players are close to Anthony in age and could have a successful four-year run together, especially if Rose can shake his injury bad luck.

• The fact that this saga has dragged on as long as it has suggests Anthony's representatives are working hard to explore every avenue, including sign-and-trade scenarios with New York.

When this process started, the Bulls felt they had a good rapport with Anthony's agent, Leon Rose. Anthony mentioned several times last season he cared more about winning than the size of his salary. A sign-and-trade would allow the Bulls to pay Anthony a maximum salary over four years and keep most of their assets.

This creates an interesting scenario: Knicks president Phil Jackson might be faced with the choice of helping the Bulls create a (potentially) powerful lineup or allow Anthony to join the Lakers while New York gets nothing in return.

The Lakers have enough cap room to offer Anthony a four-year, $96.6 million contract, the most he can get from another team. The Knicks can offer five years and $129 million.

Of course, what the Bulls want is for Anthony to tell the Knicks he's going to sign with the Bulls, trade or no trade.

By using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer and trading away Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Randolph, Tony Snell and either Jimmy Butler or Doug McDermott, the Bulls could free up about $18 million in cap space and give Anthony $77.3 million over four years.

A sign-and-trade would be preferable to the Bulls. Boozer and his $16.8 million salary are in very low demand around the league.

But by taking back J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, who are signed for two more seasons, the Bulls could help New York create more than $50 million in cap space for 2016. They obviously could throw in a future first-rounder or the conditional pick from Sacramento they got in the Luol Deng trade.

There are sign-and-trade scenarios that do not include Boozer. The Bulls have nonguaranteed contracts of Ronnie Brewer, Mike James and Lou Amundson available to trade. The one key ingredient is a willingness of the Knicks to make a deal.

Meanwhile, the other NBA obsession Tuesday was the future of LeBron James. A visit to South Florida by the private plane of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert appeared to be much ado about nothing, but there were reports that James might be considering a return to the Cavaliers.

Chris Bosh reportedly is being pursued by Houston, and if he left, the Heat could conceivably try to fit Anthony into that open salary slot.

Miami made a couple of moves Monday by reaching agreement with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. By signing those two players using salary-cap exceptions, the Heat could avoid asking Bosh and Dwyane Wade to take pay cuts.

The NBA league office probably enjoys dominating headlines in July, but the fans could use some resolution. When that will happen is anyone's guess.

• Get the latest Bulls new via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

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