CHICAGO -- Monday at least featured some NBA free-agent movement. It just didn't come, at least publicly, from Carmelo Anthony.
And that's fine with the Bulls, who are working under a very simple premise: Until they are told no, they believe the personal and professional connection they feel they made with Anthony during last week's in-person pitch is resonating.
And with each passing day that Anthony doesn't leap to accept maximum offers from the Knicks and Lakers, the Bulls at least remain in the game. Only Anthony and his inner circle know who's in the lead there.
As Heat President Pat Riley prepared for his face-to-face meeting with LeBron James this week by starting to re-tool the Heat with verbal commitments from Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, Anthony tweeted about Derek Jeter making Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.
Given the speculative nuance that has threatened to send this offseason careening out of control, Anthony's hashtag couldn't be overlooked: #JordanFam.
That's a reference to Jordan Brand, the Nike subsidiary he and Jeter endorse.
Entering free agency, the Bulls always knew that, without a sign-and-trade transaction, they couldn't compete with the Knicks' five-year, $129 million offer or even the Lakers' four-year, $96 million deal without gutting their team. But Anthony is the one who emphasized winning is a priority. And athletes often can maximize endorsement potential by doing exactly that.
Even the most jaded free-agency observer might agree the Bulls offer the best chance to win in 2014-15.
The fact Taj Gibson played an active part of the Bulls' pitch played to Anthony's desire to keep Gibson and possibly join a ready-to-win roster. A source familiar with the Bulls' pitch said Anthony and Gibson "connected."
Without a sign-and-trade and by keeping Gibson, the Bulls only can offer Anthony a four-year, roughly $73 million deal via salary-cap space. This is one of the many reasons acquiring Anthony via a sign-and-trade is more ideal. It can make Anthony's offer far more lucrative and allow the Bulls to remain over the salary cap, thus allowing them to sign other players via exceptions.
Multiple outlets, including the Tribune, have reported that Knicks President Phil Jackson hasn't shown much inclination for sign-and-trade talks. This, obviously, could change should Anthony inform Jackson he's choosing the Bulls.
And this is where Jackson's close relationship with his former employee, specifically executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, can't be overlooked.
After all, this is what franchises do when faced with losing a star for nothing. Even the Cavaliers signed-and-traded James to the Heat in 2010.
Of course, all this assumes Anthony chooses the Bulls over the Knicks' and Lakers' maximum offers. That's no small choice.
The Bulls remain engaged in contingency plans should Anthony remain in New York or choose the Lakers. But according to an agent who represents one player whom the Bulls have shown interest in, team officials have made clear they are waiting for Anthony's decision.
Just like the rest of the NBA.
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