The reports were in on Saturday, and early Sunday Carmelo Anthony himself announced his decision to stay with the Knicks. There was some Orange and Blue-flowery sentiment expressed, which led to some obvious funsies at the real reasons.
We still don't know the actual terms of the deal yet, but indeed: it was a lot of money. Frank Isola and Adrian Wojnarowski both have it at over but near $120m for 5 seasons, with Isola reporting it'll include an early opt-out clause.
Isola also says the Bulls were 'seriously considered' and has a Melo-based source describe Melo as 'torn' over the decision. To me that's surprising in and of itself if you look at the gargantuan difference in money.
Because the Bulls weren't just presenting an option that would be a slight change in priorities, they weren't even close in dollars. KC Johnson also had Melo taking the Bulls seriously (though that may have been the Bulls own naivete over the 'connection' they made) while pointing out the facts of their offer.
The Bulls all along knew their pitch to Anthony resonated but that attempts to orchestrate a sign-and-trade to get Anthony closer to a maximum salary were a long shot. Their best offer without a sign-and-trade and with keeping Taj Gibson checked in at four years and $73 million.
In my opinion this is not a competitive try, to the point where you have to hope it isn't true. Reportedly the Bulls didn't even discuss money with Anthony in their meeting, but you'd have to figure everyone knew what could be done: the Bulls could 'easily' move the salaries of Boozer, Dunleavy, and Anthony Randolph. But since he was supposedly a very important part of the pitch, Taj Gibson wouldn't be moved.
This was probably a mistake. There was little sense in thinking that Carmelo Anthony would commit and be the catalyst to 'orchestrate' a sign/trade with the Knicks when he couldn't be guaranteed at least something reasonably close to what he wanted. The Bulls needed to make a threat to NY that Melo would be signed outright, which they didn't.
The sticking point there is Taj Gibson. The Bulls wanted Carmelo Anthony, but they apparently only wanted him with Taj on the team. It looks like the Bulls wanted Anthony only on their terms, like they didn't even want to make it seem like they'd trade Taj to create room for him because they didn't want to trade Taj under any circumstance.
If you think that's a valid strategy, and that there's no point in acquiring Anthony at the expense of creating the hole Gibson's absence would've created, that's understandable. I disagree (Melo is an improvement regardless and harder to find than Taj Gibson, and there would've been other moves made to fill out the roster), but that's less the point as it is the Bulls failing to go 'all in' for a superstar. Thus, much of the credit to them for being first-loser in the Anthony sweepstakes rings false. If the reports of Anthony's indecision are accurate, then they do deserve some praise for having a heck of a pitch. And in that respect maybe this indeed was different than 2010.
But in 2010 the Bulls had max cap space. This time they didn't, and in fact they weren't even close. The Lakers, who to their detriment had a worse roster situation than the Knicks, at least were offering over $20m more than the Bulls 'could'. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered anyway, as the Knicks had that 5th year of around $30m as a trump card regardless, but again: this wasn't even close.
So much was made over Anthony's comments around the All-Star Break about his priorities, and for some Bulls fans (and less-good members of the media) allowed projection that he'd forgo a freaking fortune for their idea of a 'legacy'. But the context of those comments were about choosing between maximum offers (what the Knicks could do versus another team), or taking a little less from the Knicks to allow a bit of added flexibility.
[Those comments also showed his propensity to talk both sides of any scenario, meaning they never should've have been taken that seriously.]
And that's not even going into Melo's non-monetary reasons to stay: his desire to be a New York Knick, how he forced his way to his 'hometown' team and wants desperately to win there (even to the expense of winning at all, apparently), his family...
...and yes, the validation and pride given by being paid like a max player when you are one. Meaning, the money. But Anthony didn't choose between two offers where one valued money over winning. Between what the Knicks did and what the Bulls refused to do given their own 'priorities', Carmelo Anthony chose the only legitimate offer on the table.