A wild Wednesday passed with the NBA's free-agent moratorium ending, LeBron James' future in limbo, Carmelo Anthony likely announcing his return to the Knicks on Thursday and the Bulls focused on Pau Gasol.
Twitter somehow survived.
Though the Bulls had yet to be told officially they're out of the Anthony sweepstakes, the New York Daily News reported Anthony will make his Knicks' announcement Thursday. That would intensify the Bulls' pursuit of Gasol, and league sources indicated the Bulls hope to pursue sign-and-trade options with the Lakers for him involving Carlos Boozer's expiring salary.
The window to use the amnesty provision on Boozer's salary officially opened at 11:01 p.m. Wednesday. But the Bulls all along have been trying to trade him, not only to relieve themselves of their financial commitment to him but more to stay above the salary cap. This would allow them to use exceptions to sign other players. Nikola Mirotic, Trevor Ariza, Shawn Marion, Kirk Hinrich and Ramon Sessions are just some of the possibilities.
With the NBA setting the salary cap for the 2014-15 season at $63.065 million, the Bulls would have $10 million of cap space if they have to use the amnesty route on Boozer, who won't be back. The Bulls have until July 17 to use the amnesty provision.
The luxury tax line for next season was set at $76.829 million.
General manager Gar Forman has maintained consistently the Bulls will be a fuller, more improved team regardless of what happens in free agency. A big reason will be the return of Derrick Rose, who again practiced with the Bulls' summer-league entry at the Berto Center on Wednesday.
Sources indicated Anthony strongly considered the Bulls after feeling a personal and professional connection with their in-person pitch July 1. A source familiar with their presentation said Anthony presented a professional manner throughout, engaging in basketball conversation with Tom Thibodeau and easily bantering with Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Scottie Pippen and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at dinner.
Though Derrick Rose didn't attend the dinner, his roughly 20-minute talk inside the Bulls' locker room with Anthony went well, a source said. Gibson and Noah talked up Rose's desire to win and humble, team-first nature at the dinner, the same source indicated.
The Knicks all along were considered the favorites to retain Anthony. Their five-year, $129 million offer trumped all pursuers by nature of collective bargaining agreement rules or salary-cap limitations. And the Daily News, citing an unidentified friend of the All-Star forward's reported Anthony "believes in Phil" Jackson, the Knicks new president.
Without a sign-and-trade transaction, the most the Bulls could offer Anthony without gutting their team was four years and $73 million.
Conversely, the Bulls actually can outbid serious suitors for Gasol, other than the Lakers. But Gasol, who knew he would be taking a pay cut from the $19.3 million he made last season, is more likely to leave the Lakers without them landing Anthony. In a more advantageous salary-cap situation, they offered Anthony four years and $96 million.
Gasol, 34, is drawing serious interest from the Thunder, Spurs, Heat and Knicks. But those teams are all limited by exceptions that the Bulls could trump. It's unlikely if the Bulls land Gasol that the deal would be longer than three years.
The wild day began with reports of a three-team trade between the Cavaliers, Nets and Celtics that opened up a maximum salary slot to offer James. When free agency opened, James' return to the Heat seemed a foregone conclusion. And the thought of him returning to his home state franchise that he famously left in 2010 would have seemed outlandish.
But James left a Las Vegas meeting with Heat President Pat Riley Wednesday evening without a commitment to re-sign. The Heat reached verbal commitments with Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger during the moratorium that were viewed as moves to entice James to return.
But like most everything else in this dizzying game of musical chairs, nothing is guaranteed. Except the money and the contracts the players sign when the music stops.
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