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Chicago's dilemma: Rudy, Carmelo, or neither?

Rudy Fernandez and his Portland Trail Blazers visit the Bulls this Monday. Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets are at the UC next Monday. Sam Smith says that the odds of acquiring either are slim. But if you had a chance, do you go for the easier-to-get Fernandez? Or hold back on the chance you might score big with Anthony? Or just wait it out...
"Denver hasn’t traded Anthony yet," writes Sam Smith. "Everyone assumes they eventually will. What if they cannot get Anthony to agree to go to New Jersey or Houston or Orlando or the many teams that will bid for him? What if Anthony says New York, believed to be his No. 1 choice, or Chicago, No. 2, or he just forgoes the extension and plays it out and leaves?"

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

It’s not going to be the all year drama of 2009-10 with the LeBron James recruiting tour this season. Though we will have the Carmelo-drama, as the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony is now being called, and for the Bulls, starting Monday, it’s the latest NBA fashion show.

That’s because Monday the Bulls host the 3-0 Portland Trail Blazers and Rudy Fernandez, the disgruntled Spaniard who’s made it pretty clear he wants out of Portland and back to Spain. We think.

The Bulls have had interest in Fernandez for some time and you figure even more now given their burgeoning problem at shooting guard, where no one playing there can do much shooting or guarding.

And then a week from Monday, it’s the Denver Nuggets and Anthony, the grand prize of this season who has made it equally clear he wants out of Denver with perhaps a move to Chicago or New York.

We’ve been over this many times before, but it’s worth another look since we’ll be getting a very close look at the duo at the United Center the next two weeks.

First Rudy, who, like Anthony, is probably a long shot for now to come to the Bulls, though things do change.

The Trail Blazers picked up Rudy’s option for next season the other day, which likely sent him into a huge depression despite a spate of reports now about how happy Rudy is. Nonsense, of course, given he’s playing the same bad 18 minutes that drove him nuts last season while he is anchored behind Brandon Roy and likely free agent Wesley Matthews.

Fernandez has a career average of about 10 points, but he’d likely move right into a starting job with the Bulls given his shooting range, passing and driving ability and general charisma.

The general consensus is since Portland traded Jerryd Bayless they’ll keep Fernandez. Makes sense, though all Rudy has to do is watch the Bulls Monday to know he could make a name for himself in a big city. And maybe he begins to ramp up the pressure again, though the happy face stuff likely is because he was fined $50,000 for not being so happy.

And, really, this issue isn’t going away for Portland.

But here’s the hang up and it’s not an easy answer.

The Blazers are said to want a very good first round pick. If Fernandez came to the Bulls and with Carlos Boozer returning, the Bulls pick wouldn’t be very good. But they have this potential prize, the Charlotte pick from the Tyrus Thomas deal.

If the Bulls were to give it up there’s a reasonable chance they could make that deal, or so goes the thinking.

OK, say you give it up and get Fernandez. Does that make you a title contender? Maybe you go from 47 wins to 53? Is that reasonable? Probably.

There was a study done this summer of the future prospects of every team, and the conclusion was the outlook for the Bobcats considering contracts and players was they’d be near the bottom of the NBA in five years.

So, say you get Rudy and then in 2016, you could have had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and say the next LeBron or Shaq or Duncan. And you gave that up for Rudy Fernandez.

The pick is lottery protected in 2012, then protected to 12, then 10, then eight in 2015 and then unprotected. You say the likelihood is Charlotte makes the playoffs one of those years and you get the pick. But it’s not exactly a team on the rise.

Me? I’d probably take the shot now and offer it, given I’m not big on draft picks below the top three and who knows five and six years out.

OK, but here’s the rub.

Denver hasn’t traded Anthony yet. Everyone assumes they eventually will. What if they cannot get Anthony to agree to go to New Jersey or Houston or Orlando or the many teams that will bid for him? What if Anthony says New York, believed to be his No. 1 choice, or Chicago, No. 2, or he just forgoes the extension and plays it out and leaves?

The Knicks have almost nothing to offer that Denver could possibly sell to its fans, and worse after going all out for two salary slots last summer the Knicks have basically no draft picks for the next four years. They say they can get a pick. Sure, maybe about No. 20. Nobody sells lottery picks.

But the Bulls have a potential doozey in that Charlotte pick, plus their own every year. That’s two No. 1s they can offer with, say, Luol Deng (or whom you acquire for him), Taj Gibson, James Johnson and Omer Asik. Maybe in a month or two while Denver has insisted on Joakim Noah all along they realize that two No. 1s featuring the Charlotte pick plus a usable center, a starting three and four and developing young wing player doesn’t sound so bad after all.

Now do you risk killing that deal because you traded the Charlotte pick for Rudy Fernandez, and because you have Rudy Fernandez you cannot get in the hunt for Carmelo Anthony?

So now you wait and the next two Mondays, you watch. Frankly, I think the odds of acquiring either are slim. But if you had a chance, do you go for the easier-to-get prey in Fernandez? Or hold back on the chance you might score big with Anthony? Or just wait it out knowing you have to replenish the franchise down the road and picks like that rarely come along? It’s a great one for media and fans given the mother lode of potential second guessing.

Do Howard’s Magic need help?

-- Perhaps the biggest surprise of the first week of the NBA was how uncompetitive the Orlando Magic looked against the Miami Heat. Sure, it was just one game and the Heat’s home opener. But you don’t lose like that if you are a serious contender, which the Magic assured everyone they really were and I did as well. Even the follow up headline in the Orlando Sentinel expressed panic: Howard needs help with a trade if the Magic are ever to see the NBA Finals. The notion, and it’s always had credence, is you cannot win with Vince Carter being your main — or subsidiary — go to guy. Said Stan Van Gundy to the Orlando Sentinel: "Against a good defensive team we have trouble a little bit. We don't have — and this isn't to put down anybody in our locker room — but we don't have the great one-on-one players. We don't have [Dwyane] Wade and [LeBron] James and Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.” Ouch. Sorry, Vince.

Howard actually came out with an array of shots, a bank, a drop step, apparently from offseason work with Hakeem Olajuwon. But Carter fell down and bailed out, Rashard Lewis was invisible. Yes, they miss Hedo Turkoglu’s offense that helped get them to the Finals two years ago, but Hedo hasn’t had it, either, since then. So how do you get a star perimeter player? Carmelo Anthony is out there. Would he go to Orlando, which isn’t exactly New York? Or even Jacksonville. But with Howard, that could be a heck of a rivalry with the Heat. “I’m taking my talents to Disneyworld?” Doesn’t seem likely, though the Magic have been clever in hanging onto an awful lot of so-called assets.

They could help you rebuild a team by giving up Brandon Bass, Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Anderson, Marcin Gortat, the draft rights to Fran Vazquez, who now indicates he’ll come to the NBA, and some No. 1s. I could see Denver, anyway, going for it. Would New Orleans if you threw in Jameer Nelson and took back their albatross, Emeka Okafor? Chris Paul with Howard would be amazing. And as we know, George Shinn is capable of anything as they’ll likely lose Paul, anyway. And then there’s the biggest albatross, Gilbert Arenas, whom you’d assume Washington would give up for anyone. Orlando could easily put together a package of players they don’t need, and Gilbert can make plays and, as we’ve felt, likely will get healthy if in a John Wall-free zone. The Magic likely are anxious to return to the Finals, not only like everyone else, but for benevolent owner Rich DeVos, who has been ill. They’ve refused to allow teams to take their players, like J.J. Redick and Gortat. To apparently punish Dallas for going after Gortat, they stole Bass and didn’t use him. GM Otis Smith and coach Stan Van Gundy have gotten into verbal exercises with Miami. They are gnashing their big Mickey teeth over the attention for Miami. They’ll be a team to watch for a big splash before this season goes too far.

Looking for work

-- Would this team do well: Michael Finley and Rafer Alston in the backcourt, Larry Hughes and Brian Skinner at forward and Earl Barron at center? Nah, probably not. But you can have that team with the backups of Flip Murray and Anthony Johnson or Jamaal Tinsley, Devean George, Damien Wilkins or Ime Udoka and Primoz Brezec or Josh Boone. They’re some of the NBA alumni without jobs, though guys sometimes take off for Europe to play for awhile and I admit I lose track. Some of the other guys who believe it may be too soon to retire include Mike James, Javaris Crittenton, Sasha Pavlovic, Trenton Hassell, Jarvis Hayes, Kareem Rush, Adam Morrison, Jannero Pargo, Sean May, Randolph Morris, Mark Blount and Steven Hunter. … His averages are OK, 13.7 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks, though Tyrus Thomas is shooting 38.7 percent for the 0-3 Bobcats. But it’s the same ‘ol Tyrus. So it’s the end of the Bobcats’ loss to the Pacers Friday. Charlotte is down one with 27 seconds left and Tyrus gets a defensive rebound, which is why he’s in the game. But now he’s on the right wing dribbling one-on-one, spinning and finally going baseline and throwing a wild runner over the rim as the Pacers rebound and go on to win. No excuses. He’s playing for a great coach now in Larry Brown, and he refuses to believe he’s not a guard. … I’m not disregarding the brilliant play of Rajon Rondo in averaging 16.7 assists through the first three. But I was watching some of the end of their win over the Knicks in Boston and saw Rondo basically hand the ball to Garnett, who made a long driving move down the lane and Rondo got an assist. It’s a general definition decided by courtside score keepers in each arena and generally supposed to be the pass that leads to the basket, so there is some room for interpretation on how much the player scoring did on his own. Rondo is something of the modern day John Stockton, and there often were complaints around the league Stockton’s assist totals were inflated by the home score keepers. This is not to say Stockton didn’t deserve to be the all-time assists leader and Rondo isn’t easily leading the league now and probably will deserve to. But the league might want to watch those Boston record keepers a bit if it matters that much.

Heat’s Jones has surprised; as for Bosh…

-- Sorry if the opener was a sort of fool’s gold for the Miami critics. They’ve been dominant since and perhaps the biggest surprise has been the shooting of James Jones, the erratic veteran from the University of Miami who is 13 of 25 on threes and averaging 10.3 points. … The Miami guy who is looking like the questionable one is Chris Bosh, with a season high 18 points Sunday in the win over the Nets but one rebound more than a dead man. Bosh is averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds on just 45 percent shooting. He acted erratically all summer, by most reports, in interviews and meetings, and declared the other day to the Toronto Star the important thing was: “Really, it’s all about being on TV at the end of the day. Seriously. A guy can average 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds), and nobody really cares. If you don’t see it (on U.S. national TV), then it doesn’t really happen.” If the Heat has issues, many feel it’s going to be with the guy Shaq calls the Ru Paul of big men. Bosh said he was taken out of context and was talking in general not about himself. … We generally know the media overhype for Knicks’ trades given their lack of talent. They’ve been selling Danilo Gallinari like he’s Dirk Nowitzki, which continues to get tougher with longtime booster Mike D’Antoni benching him the last two games with Gallinari shooting 18 percent on threes and 21 percent overall. Can’t imagine why the Nuggets seem to have no interest in a Carmelo deal to New York. The Bulls host the Knicks Thursday on TNT, and you better do well as the hilarious studio crew spent halftime of the Magic/Wizards game doing a Washington Generals takeoff to describe the bumbling Wizards, which pretty much gave Blake Griffin the rookie of the year award. … How about that line of Toronto’s Reggie Evans in 30 minutes averaging one point and 15 rebounds. Now that’s a dirty work player. … Bosh isn’t much of a favorite around the NBA as the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire volunteered to Toronto media Evans “is a better defensive player and a better rebounder" than Bosh. … Looks like Baron Davis is about to star in a TV series: The Biggest Loser. He’s one of nine on threes so far and shooting 34 percent overall, and the way he looked that’s probably better than expected. He’s become the poster guy for what’s wrong with pro sports with a beefy body like that and a salary of $13 million this season and, my gosh, two more years at $13.9 million and $14.8 million. If I were the Clippers I’d take Gilbert Arenas in a second for him. At least Gilbert looks like he can play and may even want to.

Favors impressive early on

-- Doug Collins had a tough love stat for his team as it lost to the Pacers Saturday and went 0-3: Not one single player on the roster has a winning record in his career as a player. Not exactly a management vote of confidence, though we knew it was a bad roster. But the early disappointment has been everyone’s favorite breakout player, Jrue Holiday, shooting 32 percent and averaging three assists. The feeling is growing that like with Curry and Ellis in Golden State, he and Evan Turner don’t fit well. Collins did find one player he liked in putting Andres Nocioni in the starting lineup. … Quietly averaging 10.3 points and 10 rebounds in just 21.3 minutes per game, Nets rookie Derrick Favors is showing along with some picks he’ll certainly be enough for the Nuggets. It just comes down to whether Anthony wants to take the contract extension in New Jersey or play it out, take less, though hardly have to go on food stamps, and go to New York after this season to join Stoudemire. Favors also had a slight edge over DeMarcus Cousins when the Nets beat the Kings last week despite Cousins’ vow he was taking names of teams who passed on him.

Will Cleveland retire LeBron’s number?

-- It was an intriguing question presented to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert by the Cleveland Plain Dealer about LeBron James: Should his number be retired? "A 25-year-old player?" Gilbert said. "I don't know if any franchise or anybody can make that kind of judgment on somebody that young until their career's over." Good way to put it off 10 years, but you figure the way the end came and as long as Gilbert owns the team, there is no chance. The Cavs have retired the jerseys of Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Austin Carr, who didn’t win anything, either. In the end, my guess is they take a pass. … Good the Bucks won their home opener as Andrew Bogut was getting nervous on that 0-2 start. Said Bogut before the Bucks beat Charlotte Saturday: "We don't want to hit the panic button yet, but it's getting close. You look at their team (loss to Minnesota), they seem to be enjoying each other. Not to say we don't, but our chemistry has a long way to go on and off the floor.” Two games in. He sounds like a fan. … Not much said about Tracy McGrady Saturday with Ben Gordon’s outburst and the Bulls comeback. The Pistons are bringing McGrady along slowly, but he looked awful, just a standstill jump shooter with two points , three turnovers and four rebounds in 17 minutes. … This to me would be reason No. 1 why I wouldn’t trade Joakim Noah (not that you could now, anyway, with base year and poison pill and all that contract extension stuff) for Carmelo Anthony. ESPN quoted Mavs coach Rick Carlisle saying of starter Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood: "They're both top-10 centers in the league. I don't think there's any question about that, so you can flip a coin (about who starts).” It’s why this notion it’s somehow easier to get a center who averages double figure rebounds is ludicrous. Carlisle is right. Chandler is a top 10 center in the NBA now. Good luck replacing Joakim Noah.

NBA news and notes

-- The Clippers are off 0-3, but Chris Kaman says he likes his new coach. "They (Vinny Del Negro and Mike Dunleavy) are both very smart coaches,” Kaman told the Los Angeles Times. “They both understand the game, played the game. Mike is quieter about stuff. I think Vinny uses his assistants way more than Mike ever did. Mike was a very proud man, very happy to be in charge to have it the way he liked it because he knew what he was doing. Vinny's a little bit more intense (Vinny?). Coach Dunleavy was like more of a thinker, keeps it to himself and then at the right time, says something. Vinny is just, 'Boom, boom, boom.' Everything is right on top of everything else. It's all in your face. And I like that. I love it. He walks around the gym talking to each guy. It makes you feel more comfortable with the coach." … Several teams have been laying back hoping with Houston signing Erick Dampier they’d release point guard Ish Smith. … Nice to see perseverance paying off as Shelden Williams, the long overlooked No. 5 pick of the 2006 draft starting for Denver and with injuries to Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen is averaging 7.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in the 2-1 start. Also hooking on with Denver was Harvey’s Melvin Ely.

-- You can do it if you’re Gregg Popovich; not if you’re Kurt Rambis. Rambis tried to make some point by benching his best interior player, Kevin Love, the last eight minutes in their opening loss to Sacramento in favor of Anthony Tolliver. This is something of a pattern from last season for the coach who couldn’t figure out how to use Al Jefferson, so they had to give him away. The Spurs surprised many with an extension for Tony Parker, then benched he and Tim Duncan the entire fourth quarter as the Spurs rallied but lost to the Hornets. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make a point to a player, especially with a championship coach. But maybe Rambis ought to not make it look so arbitrary. When asked why he’d benched his best player, Rambis said that was the questioners’ opinion. Keep an eye on that job. That said, with Wes Johnson, a nice pickup in Luke Ridnour and Michael Beasley having the pressure off, the Timberwolves should begin to turn it around some. As long as Rambis gives up his Rambo act. … Interesting to see David West decline an extension. He’s certain to opt out of his final year at $7.5 million on his declining contract and if you’re the Hornets can you afford not to trade him? … It was a huge relief the Jazz blew out the Thunder Sunday night, at least for Deron Williams, who seemed on the verge of a breakdown in already blistering rookie Gordon Hayward for not finishing a cut on offense, then blistering everyone else, questioning whether the team should be watching more film and predicting the team could lose to the Thunder by 50. With an opt out after next season, Williams becomes next year’s big free agent rumored to leave. Though it does figure to take more than two games to change an offense being run by the same guys the last five years and most now in Chicago. Williams will require some watching this season. … Michael Beasley said he washes his own jersey because he doesn’t want to risk it being stolen. He remains the No. 1 draft choice of equipment managers.

-- In case you missed it, here was David Letterman’s terrific Top 10 reasons read by Amar’e Stoudemire for coming to New York:

10. Working at Madison Square Garden gets me free tickets to the cat show.
9. It's only 60 miles from Trenton.
8. Finally get the chance to use my Yiddish.
7. I really enjoy traffic.
6. There's no better workout than running for your life in Central Park.
5. If I played in Miami, I'd never get to touch the damn ball.
4. New York is just as fabulous as it looked on "Sex and the City!"
3. I think Willis Reed is coming back.
2. Maybe someone will tell me what the hell a "Knick" is.
1. It's the home of my favorite show, "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

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