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updated: 7/13/2014 3:59 PM

All-too-familiar story for Bulls

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  • Yes, the Bulls very much wanted to have Carmelo Anthony playing for them next season. And, yes, Anthony is indeed returning to the New York Knicks.

      Yes, the Bulls very much wanted to have Carmelo Anthony playing for them next season. And, yes, Anthony is indeed returning to the New York Knicks.
    Associated Press

 
 

It was certainly entertaining while it lasted, but as always seems to be the case with the Bulls under John Paxson, the Bulls finish second.

Or third. Or fourth. Or fifth.

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The reality as it applies to Carmelo Anthony is he was never coming to Chicago for $40 million less than he could get in New York, or maybe even $50 million when it's all said and done.

For that, you can't blame the Bulls.

The rest was all for show, Anthony using the Bulls and Lakers and playing the Knicks and Phil Jackson until they offered the kind of money Anthony was seeking from the start.

Anthony wanted the big contract, wanted to stay in New York and wanted to be with the Knicks. With a couple weeks of theater, he got all he wanted.

Blame Anthony? Call him a loser? Think he should have sneezed at an extra $40 million for the guarantee of winning in Chicago?

Well, easy for anyone to say if it's not their $40 million, especially when there's a guarantee of precisely nothing in Chicago.

Sure, the East is there to be had after LeBron James' departure from Miami, but it remains to be seen what Cleveland will place around James, and until Derrick Rose makes it to the NBA Finals without several limbs falling off, we'll have to see that to believe it.

As for not having enough cap space, that is most certainly on Bulls management if the point of the exercise was to have enough cash available this summer to truly entice Anthony with the offer of the biggest contract with the best chance to win.

But the Bulls have become quite familiar with missing out on the best players available.

When Kobe Bryant let the Bulls and Lakers know he wanted to come here seven years ago, the Bulls said it was too complicated.

When Kevin Garnett was traded to Boston, the Bulls were unwilling to move key pieces of their untouchable young core.

When Pau Gasol was dealt to the Lakers, the Bulls were asleep at the wheel.

When the Big Three went to Miami, the Bulls wound up with Carlos Boozer.

When they drafted LaMarcus Aldridge and quickly flipped him for Tyrus Thomas, they thought they knew something about Thomas that no one else did.

On the other hand, they did get the bounce of a Ping-Pong ball that landed them Rose, so it can't be all about bad luck.

Now the big prize is Gasol at age 34, and probably the signing of Nikola Mirotic.

It's not all bad as Gasol is an upgrade offensively over Boozer. He can score in the post, play the four or the five, and he'll work nicely with Joakim Noah. Gasol still has great footwork and is a terrific passer, and he and Rose will pick and pop all day, so the Bulls will be better than they were.

But, once again, it comes down to the health of Rose. Depending on what the Cavs can do for James, the Bulls would seem to have a good chance to get out of the East if Rose remains on the floor and Tom Thibodeau doesn't run his players ragged, something Thibodeau has yet to figure out.

If Rose can stay healthy, if Noah can stay in one piece, if Gasol can keep his body together, if Doug McDermott can fill it up like he did in college, and if Thibodeau is willing to sacrifice possessions and games to save something for the postseason, the Bulls have a chance to win the conference.

But those are questions for yet another regular season, the answers coming in due time.

As for the off-season, it has a familiar feel as well.

For Bulls fans, it feels like second place again.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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