NEWS OF THE MORNING
Bulls up first to talk with ‘Melo | Report: Heat’s Big 3 discuss future contracts | Rose won’t recruit ‘Melo to Chicago | Report: Bucks offer second-round pick for Kidd | Report: Jazz to match all offers for Hayward
No. 1: Report: Bulls up first to talk with ‘Melo; Suns planning pitch to him (as well as LeBron) — As we reported in this space yesterday, the Knicks remain confident they will be able to re-sign free agent Carmelo Anthony despite the advances of other teams this summer. That notion won’t keep other teams from taking a crack at landing the superstar scorer and according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Chicago Bulls will be up first to talk to Anthony.
The Phoenix Suns, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, are also planning to not only pitch to Anthony, but also to LeBron James in hopes of wooing both out West to a team that has oodles of cap space and young talent, too.
First, here’s Stein’s report on the Bulls and Anthony:
Carmelo Anthony is planning to meet with the Chicago Bulls in Chicago on the opening day of free agency after the NBA’s offseason market officially opens Tuesday at 12:01 a.m., according to sources familiar with Anthony’s plans.
Sources told ESPN.com that Anthony is in the process of arranging a trip to Chicago to meet with the Bulls, then intends to travel to Texas for Wednesday meetings with both the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks.
Sources say Anthony is likely to visit the Rockets first on Wednesday, followed by the Mavericks in the afternoon.
Anthony, who maintains an offseason home in Los Angeles, is also expected to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers face-to-face next week.
One source close to the process told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne that Phil Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Lakers center, Pau Gasol, to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks’ front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Knicks swung their trade with the Mavericks to send out Chandler and the out-of-favor Raymond Felton to bring back a clutch of veterans in return — headlined by point guard Jose Calderon – in their belief that Anthony would relish the prospect of playing with the Spaniard. Calderon has been a perimeter threat and a beloved teammate everywhere he’s played.
Sources insist that the Knicks feel far better about their chances than Jackson is letting on. No team can match the five years and $129 million that New York can provide if it wishes to offer a maximum contract to Anthony, and while Anthony is undoubtedly intrigued by the chance to team with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, he also still loves the Madison Square Garden stage dearly.
Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.
Phoenix is determined to emerge as a legitimate destination for James and Anthony, who have privately shared an affinity for playing with each other in the NBA. Salary-cap structures make it prohibitive for teams elsewhere to fit these two stars together without completely gutting a roster, but Phoenix’s general manager Ryan McDonough has constructed a far different reality to sell them in potential meetings next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Suns have $33.5 million in salary-cap space and could shed the next $10 million needed to sign James and Anthony to maximum contracts without unloading the young core of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and center Miles Plumlee that pushed the franchise to 48 victories in the Western Conference last season.
The Suns have three first-round draft picks in 2015, and the picks could help the shape the roster with deals for veteran players, or infuse more young talent – or both – based on whatever intrigues the best player on the planet.
For now, the Suns are like everyone else in the NBA, including Houston and Cleveland: hoping against hope James will pause before recommitting to a deal with the Heat and truly bring an open mind to free agency. So far, James’ representatives have been cautious on promising meetings with teams, and Heat president Pat Riley has been working on new deals with the reps for the four players who’ve opted-out of Miami – James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem – sources said.
The Suns are banking on James’ basketball acumen and business intelligence to see the roster, financial flexibility that could sustain the Suns’ success for years. Phoenix officials believe the best chance to get Anthony away from his preferred free-agent destinations – Chicago and Houston – will be to turn James’ attention toward the Suns, and get Anthony on board with his one true chance to play with James, sources said.
For now, the Suns wait with everyone else. They want a meeting on Tuesday, want a chance to tell a story to the planet’s best player. The message will be unmistakable: If LeBron James wants to play with the biggest co-star available in free agency – along with a supporting cast of playmakers in a warm climate – the Suns have a story to tell him.