Is Joakim Noah Key to Luring Carmelo Anthony to Chicago Bulls?

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Is Joakim Noah Key to Luring Carmelo Anthony to Chicago Bulls?
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, Joakim Noah is recruiting Carmelo Anthony to come join the Chicago Bulls. If that’s the case (legalities aside), nothing could be better news for the Bulls, as Noah, not Derrick Rose is the key to luring the free agent.

According to Broussard,

The sources said Noah told Anthony something to this effect: You can go to Los Angeles, but if you really want a ring, if you really want your legacy to be about winning, you should come to Chicago.

Noah responded to the rumors, in typical Noah fashion, in an ESPN interview. 

Of course he was funny, but notice he didn't technically deny it? And, whether or not it's true, if Noah is recruiting, that's good news, and if he isn't, he should be. 

There are two reasons the communication is best coming from Noah and not Rose: the messenger and the message.

 

The Messenger

Understand the situation that Anthony is in right now. He’s playing the best basketball of his career over the last two seasons, with a player efficiency rating of 24.7 and a true shooting percentage of .560, both well over his career averages.

He’s out there, pouring it in night after night. Over his last 11 games, Anthony is averaging 32.5 points on an effective field-goal percentage of .548 and a true shooting percentage of .586. His team is 2-9 in those games.

It’s a frustrating situation for Anthony, and after experiencing his team getting dismantled by the Bulls on national TV, he said it was “embarrassing” the way the team was losing, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago.

And, per Marc Berman of the New York Post, he felt that the team was not showing a sense of pride.

It’s not Anthony’s fault the Knicks are losing, but the team has not handled adversity well, and they are basically imploding.

Now, imagine for a moment you are Anthony. You’re watching the NBA landscape and you see Rose go down with injury. You see the Bulls, after going into decline, claw, scrap and climb back into the playoff hunt. Then you see them trade Luol Deng.

And then you only see the fight intensify.

What do you feel about Chicago’s fortitude at that time if you’re Anthony?

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Don’t just think of this in terms of your living room, think of it in terms of the Knicks’ locker room. Think of the contrast between what you’re seeing in Chicago and what you’re seeing with your own team in New York. How much do you envy that heart?

Then Noah’s words get back to you. Per Sean Highkin of USA Today, Noah said,  

There's no tanking. There's none of that. We're going to go out and give it 150 percent. When (our jerseys) say 'Chicago Bulls,' I want people to be proud of that. Whether we have four guys out, no matter who's hurt, we're going to give 150 percent win or lose. I know people in this city are proud of that.

And then,

We just want to represent.  Even when I come to the game, I see the guy on the streets selling the newspaper. It's cold outside, but when he sees me drive by, he's excited. 'Alright, let's go Bulls! Get it done tonight!' I feel like I play for that guy.

To me, that's what the city represents. There's a lot of hardship. There's a lot of adversity. So I feel like, when I play basketball, I want people to be proud of their team.

Then you—Anthony—see Noah back up those words. Since the Deng trade, he’s averaging 13.2 points, 12.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He’s had three triple-doubles. He’s been launched into the MVP discussion. And deservedly so because, since the Deng trade, the Bulls are 20-9 and have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

You said after one loss, per Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York, "That's the only thing that kind of bothers me, today we didn't even fight." 

You’re on a team that is getting crushed by adversity and you have the man who has been conquering it all season long come to you with the message about winning. Are you going to listen to that man?

Rose might be the superstar on the Bulls, but right now, Noah is their leader and voice. Noah, more than anyone, is the person who has earned the right to sell the message, because right now he’s the embodiment of the message the Bulls can sell.

Noah’s very existence says, “We. Will. Not. Quit.” And, if you’re Anthony, and you’re frustrated with losing, nothing rings more true to you than that. Certainly not the all too familiar refrain of a superstar with a history of knee injuries giving you assurances that he’s going to be fine.

Jim Prisching/Associated Press

This is nothing against Rose, but right now the best messenger is a fighting, victorious warrior, and Noah openly wears the thriving, beating heart of a gladiator on his sleeved jersey.

Even Spartacus says, "I am Noah."

If you’re Anthony, and you’re looking at your chance for a ring, is there anything that Rose, or even Kobe Bryant, can say that will speak to you more than the very existence of Noah?

 

The Message

Some might say that Bryant could tell Anthony, "Come to me and I’ll show you how to win a championship." He does have five rings. We saw how well that worked with Dwight Howard.

Here’s the bottom line about the bottom line, and why Bryant can’t speak to Anthony the way Noah can.

The Bulls can’t afford Anthony (and neither can the Lakers unless they gut their team). Oh sure, they could get him to a max deal if they dump their first-round picks, Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy Jr., all while giving up on any chance of bringing over Nikola Mirotic this year. All that is in addition to amnestying Carlos Boozer.

Now any one, two, or, in some cases, even three of those pieces are worth giving up to get Anthony, but all six is just too much to pay.

So, to get Anthony to come to Chicago means that he has to be asked to sacrifice real money—like more than $5 million a year, and a fifth year to his contract.

The Bulls could finagle some things and give him an offer that would start at around $16 million. That would give Anthony a contract in the ballpark of four years and $70 million. That’s well short of what he’d get extending in New York.

David Alvarez/Getty Images

Realistically, in order to get Anthony, it’s going to require sacrifice on his part, and that is going to have to be part of the message. Winning requires sacrifice. LeBron James sacrificed to win. Now Anthony is going to need to do the same if he wants to win.

And the sacrifice is mostly figurative. Yes, it’s a whole bunch of money, the likes of which I’ll never see. But, to Anthony it’s not as meaningful. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he’s worth $80 million already.

According to Basketball-Reference, he’s made $135 million in his career. Regardless of how you look at it, he has made some serious coin. And if he needs to fall back on his wife, La La, he can live off her meager $9 million.

When your household net worth is close to $100 million, you’re not eating Ramen noodles for lunch (unless you want to). You’ve reached a level of earnings which have you set for life.

So really, what you’re sacrificing is just digits. It’s nothing more than binary numbers on a computer now. Anthony is never going to look at a pair of boots that La La wants and say, “Meh, too bad I can’t afford it.”

Now, that message of sacrifice is going to have a lot more honey when it’s not coming off the lips of someone like Rose, who has a $200 million shoe deal, and for whom they literally wrote a rule into the collective bargaining agreement just to give him more money.

That’s not a critique of Rose. It’s just an observation about the message itself. It means more when it comes from someone who is actually sacrificing. And in essence, by recruiting Anthony and his contract, Noah is effectively recruiting against his own financial interest.

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Noah’s contract will end while both Rose’s and Anthony’s are still current, meaning he won’t get his full value come contract time. He’s campaigning for a pay cut so he can win a title.

The very fact that Noah is willing to recruit sends the message to Anthony, “I’m willing to sacrifice to win a championship. Are you?” At the same time, he can crush any Lakers hopes of acquiring Anthony just by asking him the question. Quite clearly, Bryant isn’t.

Based on the season Noah’s had and his willingness to put winning first, it’s hard to imagine any message which would penetrate more deeply into Anthony’s desire to win, or anyone who could deliver it better.

The extra millions will mean nothing to Anthony as he gets older, but being a part of a team that has a banner raised—that’s something that he’ll hold on to. Noah spoke to that hope, and did so as eloquently as possible, just by being Noah.

 

All stats are obtained from Basketball Reference or NBA.com/STATS unless otherwise stated, and are current though games of March 6, 2014. 

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