Report: Joakim Noah Still Courting ‘Melo For Bulls

After all-star weekend in New Orleans, word spread that Bulls center Joakim Noah had been actively recruiting Carmelo Anthony to sign with Chicago this summer when ‘Melo opts out of his Knicks deal and becomes a free agent on July 1. Now comes a report from the Chicago Sun-Times that Noah continued to talk up Chicago with ‘Melo throughout the season.

At the time of the original rumor, Noah dismissed the “gossip,” but didn’t outright deny the story:

“What are

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you talking about? The gossip going on? I feel a lot of gossip,” Noah said at the time. “I think we all know that we’re in a good place. We’ve got a healthy group, it’s a healthy environment, and we’re not going to let gossip get in the way of what we’re doing. We’ve gone through so much this year, so it’s not going to be a little gossip that gets out there.

“You want me to address that? I don’t feel like addressing it. I really have nothing to say.”

The story initially died down and the Bulls finished the season strong as a No. 4 seed in the East. Since being eliminated, 4-1, by the Wizards in the first round, though, Noah had minor arthroscopic surgery for a previously unreported left knee issue. He’s convalescing for the next 8-12 weeks, but hasn’t appeared to let the recovery prevent him from continuing to reach out to ‘Melo like he reportedly did after the supposed tête-à-tête during all-star weekend in NOLA.

Via the Chicago Sun-Times‘ Joe Cowley:

According to several sources, including a teammate, Noah’s All-Star Weekend “conversation” with New York Knicks standout Carmelo Anthony didn’t end in New Orleans. They had discussions via text the rest of the season, including the day after the Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

“I was kidding Jo that they were boys now,” a source said in a phone interview Friday. “‘Well, get your boy to come to Chicago.'”

In order to actually sign Anthony, though, the Bulls will definitely need to amnesty Carlos Boozer and persuade Anthony to take less than he would stand to make if he signed a max contract with another team. That amount would also be substantially less — under the terms of the new CBA — than the Knicks can offer if ‘Melo chooses to re-sign in New York.

But acquiring Anthony appears to have one caveat: the Bulls can’t afford to lose stud six man Taj Gibson (who would take Boozer’s place in the starting lineup if Boozer is amnestied):

Sources said Noah has been in Anthony’s ear as often as possible, and he has told other Bulls to push hard for Anthony this summer. But there is one condition: Backup big man Taj Gibson can’t be sacrificed.

And there’s the kicker.

For the Bulls to keep Noah, Gibson and point guard Derrick Rose, Anthony would have to be willing to sign a contract in the $14 million- to $15 million-a-year range, and general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson would have to get creative with the rest of the roster.

If Anthony was serious about taking less money to win a title with New York, why not do so in a much better situation to compete for a title in Chicago? The fans would certainly embrace him with open arms.

‘Melo is the primary scorer the Bulls desperately needed in their series with the Wizards. Obviously Derrick Rose would have been the focal point of the team’s offense had he remained healthy, but he’s now lost consecutive seasons due to injuries and ensuing surgeries on both knees. The Bulls have the coaching and the personnel that would make them the perfect fit for Anthony’s iso-heavy scoring. Noah did well as the facilitator after Rose went down this season, but Anthony draws so much attention on the offensive end it would open up things for the rest of the Bulls without sacrificing much for their top-5 defense on the other end. It’s a win-win for both player and team, but it depends on Chicago’s ability to navigate their team’s finances and ‘Melo sacrificing a lot of money for a very real chance at a title.

(Chicago Sun-Times)

Are the Bulls front-runners to sign Anthony this summer?

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