Does anyone even remember opening night? This season is over a quarter-finished and it seems so long ago. In case you did forget, the Bulls went to New York and demolished Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. Fun was had.
The Bulls have had a pretty good season since then, through some ups and downs with injuries but showing off nice depth along the way. The Knicks followed with a surprising win over the Cavs and then went into a total tailspin. They're 5-22. They all hate eachother and the Triangle. And Melo now knows how a no-trade clause works and is dealing with a bad knee himself.
He also has a ton of money. Since this will be Melo's first time back in Chicago since his free-agency tour, it seems a proper time to remember what his choice actually was: It was not taking less money to play for a winner. It was whether to leave 50 million dollars on the table...or, like, not do that.
The Bulls weren't willing to come close to enough money to entice Melo to sign. They made their own choice: to keep Rose, Noah, and Gibson, which meant they didn't have even a max salary slot to have Melo commit, a prerequisite in trying to leverage the Knicks into sign/trade talks (and thus a 5th year on the contract).
What's come out recently (in a process that does sort of make Melo look like a buffoon) is a documentary where Anthony lauded the setup and culture of the Bulls*. But it also confirmed that the Bulls were not near a max offer.
*(also interesting: Melo says Rose did reach out to him during the process. So he recruits, a little? It was of course reported that during the official wine-and-dine Rose bailed and it angered the Bulls. So it's all strange still, at the least)
There are some whose brains go: "hmm, thinking is tough, and actually I'm kind of paid to not think too much to preserve the strength of my opinions. Didn't Melo say he'd take less money? Isn't him not doing so fraudulent? Does the word fraud combine with Carmelo some way? I don't think it does, but I should put in the effort..."
Well he did take less money, about $5m worth. That's a lot of money. He could've done something in the ballpark of that by going to the Lakers, Mavericks, or Rockets. But not the Bulls. Chicago apparently made quite the impression, but they didn't come up with a competitive offer.
The Bulls were a longshot (and I'm pretty much saying no shot) because of the type of team they wanted to build. Keeping Gibson, Jimmy Butler (I figure it's unlikely Knicks could've gotten Butler in a S/T, anyway), sign multiple players like Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic with the less-than-max cap space. Gar Paxdorf wanted depth, Joakim Noah likes it that way, Mike Dunleavy doesn't mind shitty cars, Kirk Hinrich had his semi-annual 'this is a guy who took less money' article written about him, and as Bulls fans there is reason to believe things worked out.
And you can be happy it did, and credit the Bulls for figuring that it wasn't worth giving up what they had to in order to facilitate a Carmelo Anthony acquisition, plus question whether one could build a team around him making that much money. The Knicks are certainly finding out it's tough, though everyone knew this season was prelude to a lot of cap space in the coming summer.
The current Knicks disaster doesn't mean it wouldn't have worked out here. It would have been a lot different, though, with Melo alongside Rose and Noah, likely Butler, and the rest signed with low exceptions. The Bulls didn't want that team, which is why they didn't free up the cap space. And thus Melo didn't really have a choice in Chicago.