NBA Free Agency: waiting on LeBron, THEN Carmelo?

Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

are we having fun yet?

If you were worried that the Bulls waiting on Carmelo would potentially cost them with other free agents, on Tuesday night at least one of those possible targets was snapped up: Gordon Hayward was offered the 4-year, $63m contract from Charlotte. Utah will probably match, but either way his services are now tied up between those two teams.

On the bright side, the Bulls are very much in on Pau Gasol, and conveniently he seems to be waiting for Carmelo Anthony.

Speaking of Anthony, nothing new on that front. Though Frank Isola offers some encouragement from New York:

there is a growing belief that Phil Jackson would be open to a sign-and-trade since he could get an asset back for his top player.

Also, Jackson has maintained a close relationship with Bulls vice president John Paxson, who played on Jackson’s first three championship teams in Chicago. The Paxson-Jackson dynamic should not be discounted because at the very least the two sides would be open to talking if Anthony decided that he wanted to play for the Bulls.

Most NBA executives are convinced that Anthony will not leave more than $30 million on the table to sign with the Lakers or Bulls. But the fact that Anthony has delayed his decision suggests that money is not his ulterior motive.

"If it was just about money he would have made a decision days ago," said a person close to Anthony. "It’s not that simple."

I think we all understand (and hopefully the Bulls do too!) that Melo isn't signing outright in their relatively limited cap space. I still don't see how the Bulls can leverage the Knicks into a sign/trade without getting at least somewhere close to what Melo can make in NY.  We've previously posted the concept that the Lakers max cap space helps that cause, and I've seen it repeated a lot of places, but it is still hard to fathom logistically: Melo telling the Knicks that he would be willing to play for 2 other teams and it's the Knicks choice as to where to send him, and all 3 teams playing that game.

If it happens, that's great. It's also seemingly unprecedented to hard to really feel great about.

I am also skeptical of the Bulls having deals lined up to clear salary in the case they need to create more leverage to sign Anthony outright, for the simple fact that we haven't heard anything about it. The Bulls are secretive, yes, but we're talking possibly multiple deals that would need to be made in quick succession. The Bulls are probably more proactive than 'we'll talk about financials later' would indicate, and if you want to believe in them, they've shown time and time again to be really good at dumping money.

It's also possible that the reason we haven't heard anything about anything is not because it's all happening and they're just super-capable and clandestine about it, but that Melo literally hasn't decided yet. It could all be him waiting for LeBron James first. Even for the fantastical idea of having James pair with him in NY after Phil Jackson magically makes several huge contracts disappear (ht: RM in the fanshots). LeBron is meeting with Pat Riley today, so maybe today dominoes start to fall? Hopefully? I hope so...

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