Maybe the long wait will come to an end soon for the NBA's two most prominent free agents, but there were no official decisions Wednesday.
The Bulls continue to wait for an answer from Carmelo Anthony, while LeBron James met with Miami Heat president Pat Riley and did not announce any future plans. There is a growing belief James will return to the Cleveland Cavaliers four years after the infamous decision to take his talents to South Beach.
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A report by The New York Daily News suggested Anthony will announce today he is returning to the New York Knicks. The story cites a friend of the high-scoring Knicks forward and says Anthony agonized over the decision but ultimately believes in the abilities of Knicks president Phil Jackson.
On the other hand, the Bulls have not been told of any decision from Anthony or his representatives. Anthony's agent, Leon Rose, told espn.com his client hadn't made a decision yet.
New York was considered the favorite all along because the Knicks can pay Anthony up to $129 million over five years. If he joins another team, Anthony could make a maximum of $97 million over four years.
The Bulls felt they had a chance because they could offer Anthony, 30, his best chance to contend for an NBA title right away. Anthony currently ranks eighth on the list of most points scored by a player who hasn't reached the NBA Finals.
The Knicks missed the playoffs last season and could struggle to improve quickly because of a high payroll. New York should have cap space in 2015, though, when the contracts of Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani expire.
Anthony met with the Bulls at the United Center on July 1. He also visited Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The wait for Anthony could end up having negative implications for the Bulls if they ultimately miss out and other free agents sign elsewhere in the meantime.
Dallas reportedly agreed to sign Houston restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to an offer sheet worth $45 million over three years. The Bulls had expressed interest in Parsons but would have to unload some salaries to make a similar offer. If they miss out on Anthony, what's next for the Bulls? They'll be expected to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer to create some cap space. The Bulls still would have to pay Boozer's $16.8 million salary, but it wouldn't count toward the salary cap or luxury tax.
The window to use the amnesty clause begins today and lasts a week. Today is also is the first day NBA teams officially can sign free agents.
The Bulls already have met with Lakers power forward Pau Gasol, and he figures to be their No. 1 target if they miss on Anthony. Gasol turned 34 last weekend but is a proven scorer who averaged 17.4 points last season.
The Bulls also are expected to sign 6-foot-10 Nikola Mirotic, a 2011 draft pick who is planning to secure a buyout from Real Madrid this summer. They also will be in the market for a backup point guard and a backcourt scorer.
If the Bulls miss out on Anthony and Gasol, it's tough to predict what they might do. There are many players available but no obvious candidates.
They could approach some veteran scorers such as Brooklyn's Paul Pierce or Miami's Dwyane Wade. Otherwise, Indiana's Lance Stephenson, Washington's Trevor Ariza, the Lakers' Nick Young and ex-Bull Luol Deng appear to be the best available unrestricted free agents. The Bulls have expressed interest in Ariza, according to a league source.
With Mirotic and rookie Doug McDermott joining the team, the Bulls likely will try to move Mike Dunleavy this summer.
Another possibility is attempting to trade for Minnesota forward Kevin Love. The problem with that plan is if Love signs long term, it would give the Bulls two high-salaried big men and limited means to add perimeter scoring.
There's also no telling if the Timberwolves are ready to make a move with Love or will wait until the February trade deadline.
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