NEWS OF THE MORNING
Report: Thibodeau spearheading Bulls’ Anthony push | Report: Gay opts in with Kings | Report: Mavs to pursue Lakers’ Gasol, Wizards’ Gortat | Impossible choice now for ‘Melo | Report: Celts to view Embiid’s medical records
No. 1: Report: Thibodeau spearheading Bulls’ push for Anthony — Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose once famously said he doesn’t recruit players to join him in the Windy City. That policy may not apply to Rose’s coach, Tom Thibodeau. According to the Chicago Sun-Times‘ Joe Cowley, Thibodeau is doing a lot of research on Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony, who recently announced he’ll be in this summer’s free-agency pool:
The Bulls’ push to acquire New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is heating up heading into NBA draft week, and perhaps no one wants his services more than coach Tom Thibodeau.
According to one of Anthony’s former coaches, Thibodeau has reached out to him and to several other coaches who have worked with Anthony with numerous calls.
‘‘I even told Tom that there may be days he will want to blow his own head off when it comes to Melo’s defense, but he keeps saying he knows he can make it work,’’ the coach said. ‘‘It’s not that Carmelo can’t play defense, it’s just how often. And he knows every trick in the book on getting around that.’’
That the Bulls are in full-court-press mode on Anthony comes as no surprise, considering center Joakim Noah courted him during All-Star weekend in February and continued the recruitment throughout the second half of the season.
And it would seem Noah isn’t alone. Point guard Derrick Rose reportedly has gotten involved, too, and Thibodeau has used back channels to let Anthony know his addition could mean big things for everyone involved.
‘‘There’s no question [the Bulls] would be better with [Anthony], with or without his defensive inconsistencies,’’ the coach said. ‘‘As I told Tom: ‘You’re in the East, Tom. Remember, you’re in the East.’ ”
The question, though, is how does a deal for Anthony get done? Multiple media outlets have reported a sign-and-trade that includes the expiring contract of forward Carlos Boozer is the favored route, especially with the Knicks preparing for Anthony to announce Monday that he will opt out of his current deal.
Such a scenario likely would involve the Bulls sending at least one of their first-round picks — No. 16 or No. 19 — to the Knicks, who are in rebuilding mode and need to start with a point guard.
There are also reports the Bulls might be willing to deal another draft pick in pursuit of Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, which means they’re serious about pursuing a championship now.
The Bulls’ offseason aggressiveness isn’t shocking to anyone around the league. At the NBA Finals last week, several sources indicated general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson were ‘‘looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take’’ to make the Bulls a contender.
No. 2: Report: Gay opts in with Kings — Come Thursday night, the Sacramento Kings will pick eighth in the 2014 Draft and will be looking to add another young piece to their always-promising core. One piece of that core won’t be moving on — star forward Rudy Gay. The swingman opted to forgo free agency this summer and will stick around with the Kings for at least another season. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee has more on Gay’s move and what it means for the Kings:
The Kings’ courtship of Rudy Gay did not begin with a meeting in Sacramento earlier this month.
It began in December, when the Kings traded for Gay in a seven-player deal with Toronto and knew he could become a free agent after the 2013-14 season.
The Kings’ effort paid off Sunday, when Gay informed the team he would opt in for the final year of his contract, worth $19.3 million, for next season, league sources confirmed. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized.
Gay had until June 30 to decide whether to return to the Kings or become a free agent. With Gay on board for next season, the team will look to negotiate a contract extension this summer.
The Kings feared Gay, 27, might test free agency in hopes of landing with a playoff contender, so they actively let him know about their desire to keep him.
The Kings made their final pitch June 10 in Sacramento, appealing to Gay to be a part of what they are building with center DeMarcus Cousins and a new arena in 2016.
Letting Gay know he was wanted was important. The Kings were Gay’s third team in a year. He was traded from Memphis to Toronto in January 2013.
If Gay had opted out of his contract, the Kings would have gone into Thursday’s NBA draft with small forward as an area of concern. They would have considered trading for a veteran small forward if Gay hadn’t made his intentions known.
Now that Gay has told the team of his decision, the front office has more clarity, knowing it won’t have to trade the first-round pick, eighth overall, for help on the wing.
The Kings will still consider trades as they look to upgrade their perimeter shooting, add better passers and improve the defense and overall basketball IQ of the squad.
Now, a decision looms regarding point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Kings have until June 30 to make Thomas a qualifying offer, which will make him a restricted free agent.
No. 3: Report: Mavs interested in Pau Gasol, Wizards’ Gortat — A few seasons ago, the Dallas Mavericks poached a former All-Star big man from a team in Los Angeles with hopes he could thrive playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs’ marriage with ex-Clippers center Chris Kaman didn’t go well at all, but it seems that the Mavs are perhaps interested in taking a different angle at this plan this summer. According to ESPNDallas.com’s Tim McMahon and Marc Stein, the Mavs intend to make a serious push for former Lakers All-Star big man Pau Gasol in free agency … and perhaps take a crack at Washington Wizards big man Marcin Gortat, too:
The Dallas Mavericks plan to be among the teams pursuing Los Angeles Lakers center/power forward Pau Gasol once free agency begins July 1, according to sources close to the situation.
The Mavs’ level of interest in the 7-foot Gasol is largely dependent on his price tag, sources told ESPNDallas.com. The four-time All-Star, who turns 34 next month, is expected to take a major pay cut after making $19.3 million last season.
Gasol could well represent the Mavs’ best opportunity to upgrade at the center position via free agency. They also have significant interest in Washington’s Marcin Gortat, whom they recruited as a restricted free agent in 2009, signing him to an offer sheet that was surprisingly matched by the Orlando Magic.
Sources, however, say the Mavericks fear they’ll be priced out of the hunt to pry Gortat from the Wizards, who have ample space under the salary cap and are interested in keeping the 29-year-old Gortat as part of a young core of the team that broke the franchise’s five-year postseason drought and advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Mavs are projected to have slightly more than $30 million in salary-cap space when free agency opens, although a chunk of that will go to face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki, who has repeatedly declared his intention to re-sign with the Mavs for a significantly reduced salary after completing a four-year, $80 million contract.
The Mavs would not have enough cap space to pursue Gasol if they are successful in recruiting perennial All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony. The Mavs have long expected to have an opportunity to make a face-to-face pitch with Anthony, sources told ESPN.com, but Nowitzki said this week that it’s “not really” realistic to anticipate the Mavs landing him. The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls are also among the teams expected to strongly pursue Anthony.
Sources say the Mavs also have interest in free-agent small forward Luol Deng, although there are concerns about his durability after the two-time All-Star missed 75 games over the previous four seasons and led the league in minutes per game twice in the last four seasons.
No. 4:Impossible choice for Anthony now — News broke yesterday that Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthonywill be opting out of the final year in his deal with New York to test free agency this summer. There are plenty of rumored locations — Chicago, Houston, Miami and others — on Anthony’s map, but where he ends up is anyone’s guess. No matter what ‘Melo chooses, though, it seems he may come out a loser in the court of public opinion. Our Sekou Smith opines on that aspect of Anthony’s choice:
Anthony had to make the best decision for his future. And any future that doesn’t include the all-out pursuit of a championship situation would have been the wrong choice.
By courting free agency, though, a player of his stature also courts some inevitable backlash, too.
So welcome to impossible, ‘Melo. You lose no matter what you do.
Had you opted-in with the Knicks for a $130 million fortune that no one is sure they were going to offer, you get knocked for not chasing titles (immediately).
If you opt-out and test free agency, you get blasted for leaving the Phil Jackson-and Derek Fisher-led Knicks and chasing titles elsewhere.
This is the world your good friend LeBron James has lived in the past four years. The moment he turned his back on Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach a huge segment of the basketball public made up their minds about him. No amount of winning would change those opinions. LeBron’s gamble turned out to be a 50-50 championship proposition, with losses in the Heat Big 3′s first and last seasons together sandwiching back-to-back title seasons.
Win in New York and your star would never fade.
Bolt New York for Chicago or Houston or Los Angeles or Miami and ‘Melo takes James’ title as “the easiest target in sports” — at least temporarily. There’s also no guarantee Anthony will win it all in his new city. None!
That said, Anthony is wise to move on now and absorb whatever hate comes with his decision to test the free-agent waters. At 30, there is no planning for four and five years from now. Chase titles today and deal with the venom tomorrow.
Anthony could be lethal in Chicago, too. He’d be playing alongside a defensive stopper in Joakim Noah and an offensive catalyst of his ilk in Derrick Rose (provided Rose is back to his usual self next season after two seasons of injury woes). Any concerns about him not being a good fit with Rose or in Tom Thibodeau‘s system fade when I think of the way Anthony plays in international competitions.
That’s also why I am convinced he could co-exist without issue on a Lakers team that features Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and whatever roster is pieced together around them. Anthony has been miscast as a one-dimensional talent for far too long. Put him in an ideal situation and we’ll see from him the same things his contemporaries see in him during the Olympics: an offensive juggernaut willing to do what it takes to win.
If ‘Melo chooses right, we’ll see it soon, possibly as early as training camp somewhere like Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or even Miami.
This decision is an impossible situtation, of course … but one that you have earned, ‘Melo!
No. 5: Report: Celtics will get to see Embiid’s medical records — Top center prospect Joel Embiid saw his chances of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 Draft pretty much come to an end last week when news broke of an injury to his right foot. The big man had surgery to the foot and had two screws inserted into it to help heal a stress fracture. That injury, coupled with back injuries he suffered while at Kansas University has some teams leery of picking him. According to CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely, the Celtics will be one of the few select teams that will get to view Embiid’s medical records before the Draft:
Only a select number of teams will get a glimpse at Joel Embiid’s medical records and the Celtics will apparently be one of them, according to a league source.
Embiid underwent surgery on Friday to repair a fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot, an injury that will sideline him for at least four months.
Boston, which has the Nos. 6 and 17 picks in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday night, is expected to get some information relative to Embiid’s most recent injury, but full access to his medical records is unlikely.
Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel, had little to say when asked what the Celtics knew about Embiid’s injury.
“Probably best not to share all of that,” Ainge said. “I think we all want to know exactly what it is.”
Boston has a recent track record of success when it comes to drafting players with a less-than-ideal health status.
In 2010, Avery Bradley‘s pre-draft workout tour was cut short because of a left ankle sprain. Because of his athleticism, Bradley was expected to significantly improve his draft stock in workouts and emerge as a lottery (top-14) pick. Instead, he fell to Boston at No. 19.
And in 2012, Jared Sullinger was considered a top-five prospect before being red-flagged for a back injury that saw him plummet to the Celtics at No. 21.
And while much has been said about Bradley and Sullinger, there have been other players in the past leading up to the draft that the Celtics’ medical staff told the basketball ops folks to pass on.
“Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden,” Ainge said. “Our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: It might make sense for the Magic to trade Arron Afflalo before too long … The Knicks are still looking to get into the first round and may be dangling Iman Shumpert in trades to try and get there … Are the Cavs leaning toward taking Jabari Parker No. 1 overall? … Suns big man/stretch-four Channing Fryeseemspoised to test free agency … The Sixers might be interested in snagging Joel Embiid — injuries or no injuries — if he is available at No. 3 …