CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Since the Bulls traded Luol Deng, rumors of Carmelo Anthony leaving the Knicks in free agency to play alongside Derrick Rose have flourished.
Yahoo! Sports became the latest outlet to report Anthony's interest, quoting a "longtime confidant" of the forward.
"Chicago is much more in play for him than L.A. (Lakers)," the source told Yahoo.
One issue is even if the Bulls use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer, they won't have anywhere close to enough salary-cap space to offer Anthony a maximum contract. It would take the Bulls making go-for-broke moves like they did in 2010, when they traded Kirk Hinrich into Wizards' salary-cap space and took nothing in return for a run at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
With next summer's salary cap projected at roughly $62 million, the Bulls could have roughly $10.7 million of salary-cap space if Boozer's $16.8 million deal is off their books. The exact number depends on how many first-round picks they add depending on whether the protections on their Bobcats' and Kings' picks come to fruition or not.
Thus, it would take a trade of, say, Taj Gibson's $8 million salary to a team with enough cap space to absorb it outright for the Bulls to make a competitive offer to Anthony. Even trading Mike Dunleavy would only get the Bulls to a possible $14 million of cap space this summer.
While the Deng trade did create some previously unexpected possibilities -- maybe a talent takes a slightly lesser salary to join Rose in a big market for an elite coach like Tom Thibodeau -- landing Anthony via cap space still would be considered a long shot.
Perhaps a sign-and-trade involving Boozer's deal could be engineered if the Knicks were scared of losing Anthony for nothing. They can offer Anthony five years and $129 million, an extra year over other free-agent suitors.
Special night: Speaking of Anthony, his Knicks' franchise-record 62 points came against the Bobcats on Friday night.
"The way he scored, there was very little you could do to get the ball out of his hands," said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who worked with Thibodeau under Jeff Van Gundy with the Knicks. "He wasn't posting so we couldn't double-team. He was at the elbow, in the middle of the floor."
Clifford predicted a Knicks' resurgence with Anthony back to playing power forward.
Layups: Thibodeau said Hinrich, who did right hamstring rehab back in Chicago, will travel and could return at some point on the upcoming six-game trip. ... Thibodeau downplayed closing the Clippers' loss with Mike James over D.J. Augustin but praised James' readiness to play.
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