(CBS) Prior to LeBron James’ announcement Friday that he’s returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, news came that star forward Carmelo Anthony has reportedly narrowed his choices to the Bulls and Knicks.
But in the instance that Anthony chooses New York’s money and big stage over the ready-to-win roster in Chicago, the Bulls are casting a wide net in free agency.
General manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson are delaying their initial appearance at Summer League games in Las Vegas, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported, in order to stay in contact with Anthony’s camp and focus on all their options. Anthony isn’t expected to make a decision Friday, Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports reported, and the Bulls aren’t pushing him for one.
New York has offered Anthony a five-year, $129-million deal. Chicago can only offer in the four-year, $73-million range, the Tribune reported, if it hangs on to Taj Gibson like it wants to. The Bulls could pay Anthony more if they executed a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks, but New York has shown no inclination yet to do engage in such talks.
In the fallout from James’ decision, Chicago gauged shooting guard Dwyane Wade’s interest, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski — but by late Friday afternoon in the fluid world of free agency, it appeared he had no intention of returning to his hometown. Wade is on the open market after opting out of the last two years and $42 million on his deal with the Heat.
The Bulls are known to have shown serious interest in big man Pau Gasol and have continued to contact with his representatives, per reports. He appears to be Plan B if Anthony heads to New York. Gasol tweeted a message in Spanish late Friday afternoon that translated to him saying he’s “very close” to a decision.
Ya estoy muy cerca de tomar la decisión. Gracias a todos por vuestro interés y apoyo! #FreeAgency— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) July 11, 2014
The Thunder and Lakers also have serious interest in Gasol, but Wojnarowski reported early Friday evening that he turned down a two-year offer from Los Angeles worth $10-million-plus per year.
The degree of Chicago’s interest in Wade was unknown. It could’ve been a courtesy call to see if he’d consider taking a lesser role and willing to accept a drastic pay cut or it could’ve been something more, given that the Bulls are still in search of another wing.
Whatever the case, that would represent a risk. The 32-year-old Wade has struggled mightily with injuries the past few years, and his bad knees have sapped him of his attacking style. He played just 54 games last season.
The Bulls are also continuing to pursue one of their own free agents, point guard Kirk Hinrich. Bulls management spoke highly of Hinrich at season’s end, and he’s a guy who’s well respected in the locker room.