Anyone who has sat near Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau during a game or even heard his baritone voice bellowing through the television knows this -- he's insanely competitive.
And Thibodeau wants enough talent on his squad to make a run at an NBA championship. So he has been working hard on free-agent target Carmelo Anthony.
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Thibodeau has played a significant role in keeping Anthony interested in the Bulls, according to a league source. As of Thursday evening, the Bulls were trying to figure out what it would take to close the deal.
If Anthony committed to playing for the Bulls next season, they could begin talking to the Knicks about sign-and-trade scenarios. Otherwise, the Bulls have the means to clear about $18 million in cap room by using the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer and trading away other players for draft picks.
The Bulls have pushed the idea they can give Anthony the best chance to compete for an NBA title right away. Thibodeau and the Bulls envision a lineup of Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and either Jimmy Butler or rookie Doug McDermott.
Of course, nine days have passed since Anthony visited Chicago, so there's no telling how or when this will play out. The NBA world continues to wait for decisions from both Anthony and LeBron James.
A recent report suggested Anthony would announce Thursday he was staying in New York, and that didn't happen. The Knicks can give Anthony the most money, a maximum contract worth $129 million over five years. The most he can get by joining another team is four years and $97 million. Anthony also visited Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers last week.
Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to reporters Thursday in Las Vegas, where the summer league is about to begin. Jackson said the Knicks have five different contract offers on the table. He expressed confidence that Anthony will stay in New York but said he hasn't heard from the high-scoring forward since a July 3 meeting in Los Angeles.
"I expected (an answer) yesterday and the day before yesterday. We're waiting," Jackson said, according to The New York Daily News. "I felt really good about my conversation with Carmelo. We really struck a chord. The two of us feel really passionately about what we're trying to get accomplished."
The Bulls and Knicks are both pursuing Lakers free-agent forward Pau Gasol, a player Jackson coached in Los Angeles. Unless the Knicks can unload high-salaried players, they can offer only the taxpayer midlevel exception of $3.3 million.
The Bulls could offer far more than that if they miss out on Anthony. They could conceivably work a sign-and-trade with New York to get Anthony and use the full midlevel of $5.3 million to try to land Gasol, but that scenario is a long way from reality.
Anthony and James have done a nice job of dominating the national headlines. They're also holding up business around the league. The Bulls are watching some of their secondary targets sign contracts, while James' indecision surely has Miami teammate Chris Bosh wondering if he should accept a reported offer from Houston.
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