Update March 7, 7:40 p.m.:
Carmelo Anthony has denied being recruited to the Bulls by Joakim Noah over all-star weekend.
Melo says he doesn't know how the Noah story came up, either. Asked if that conversation happened, he said "I can't have that conversation."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) March 8, 2014
Joakim Noah's illegal attempt at selling Carmelo Anthony on the Chicago Bulls is reportedly underway.
Briefed by a source close to the situation, ESPN's Chris Broussard says that Noah talked to Anthony about signing in Chicago this offseason while the two were in New Orleans for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game:
Well, over All-Star weekend, I'm told by a person with knowledge of the conversation that Joakim Noah recruited Carmelo. Now, you'll probably hear denials out of Chicago if they talk about it, because it would be tampering officially. But I'm told that Joakim said to Melo, 'Look, you could go to Los Angeles, but if you want to win a ring, if you want your legacy to be about winning, come to Chicago.'
There's something simplistically beautiful about Noah's obvious tampering. Not only did he swiftly insult the Los Angeles Lakers, who have long been considered a potential landing spot for Anthony, but he also disparaged the New York Knicks by not even mentioning them in the conversation.
He stayed coy in the aftermath as well, telling reporters Friday:
Noah says he doesn't want to address Carmelo rumors. Asked if it was accurate he said, "it doesn't matter." Never said No.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 7, 2014
Noah didn't want to address the 'gossip', as he called it, going around. Very careful not to say Carmelo's name during media session.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 7, 2014
Anthony, for his part, was supposedly receptive to Noah's sales pitch.
"Melo, I'm told, said, 'Look, I've been watching you guys. I admire how hard you play. I admire how hungry you are,' " Broussard recounts. " 'Oh, and by the way, my son's favorite player? Derrick Rose.' "
Conveniently enough, Broussard adds that Rose is prepared to board the Melo train, too:
I'm told D-Rose would love for Melo to join Bulls as well. If Bulls ask Rose to help recruit, he will..— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) March 6, 2014
Let's get this out of the way now: For a weekend that supposedly isn't about recruiting future teammates, there was sure a lot of premature wooing down in New Orleans.
"As far as recruiting and things like that, that never happens," Anthony told reporters before heading to New Orleans in February, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post.
Cough. Liar. Cough.
Now there's this.
Pairing Anthony with Rose and Noah isn't new in theory. The Bulls have the ability to create cap space and, according to CSN Chicago's David Kaplan, are expected to chase Anthony this summer:
The Bulls will be all in for Carmelo Anthony + two NBA scouts told me this weekend that he would be a great fit for Tom Thibodeau's system.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) March 3, 2014
Going "all in" on Anthony will be complicated.
Chicago has more than $63.8 million in guaranteed salary on its books for next season. Amnestying Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million salary only allows the Bulls to offer Anthony a contract starting somewhere around $16 million annually, assuming a 2014-15 salary cap of $62.9 million (per ESPN's Larry Coon). Dumping Mike Dunleavy would increase their spending power by more than $3 million.
But that's before factoring in other cap holds.
Which team will Carmelo Anthony be playing for next season?
If Nikola Mirotic journeys stateside, the Bulls have to spend money on him. They also have draft picks and other free agents to consider. Unless they expect Anthony to take a drastic pay cut, someone such as Taj Gibson may need to be dumped too.
None of this is to say Anthony is completely sold on the Bulls. He has to leave more than $30 million on the table just to get out of New York. Accepting even less could be out of the question. Rose's murky bill of health will also factor into his decision.
Sources add tho that it'll be hard for Melo to turn down the $ and leave NYK— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) March 6, 2014
This early, though, it's not about promises. It's about remaining in play.
If nothing else, Noah, alleged free-agency tamperer extraordinaire, has ensured the Bulls will be on Anthony's mind when he hits the open market this July.
*Salary information via ShamSports.