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For Carmelo Anthony, Bulls are the best and only option

If Carmelo Anthony is about winning, there is no way he could justify being traded to the Knicks or Nets. But if Anthony were to join Rose, Noah and Boozer in Chicago, wouldn’t that team, especially the way Miami has struggled already, be the class of certainly the East, along with Boston?
The Bulls close their season series with Denver Friday, and while the Bulls are not the consensus choice, Carmelo Anthony being traded to Chicago may become a bit more of a possibility.

The Bulls close their season series with Denver Friday, and while the Bulls are not the consensus choice, Carmelo Anthony being traded to Chicago may become a bit more of a possibility. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

Will this be the last time this season the Bulls are on the same basketball floor with Carmelo Anthony?

The Bulls close their season series with Denver Friday, and while the Bulls are not the consensus choice, Anthony being traded to the Bulls may become a bit more of a possibility.

First, the Nuggets are trying to persuade Anthony to resign with them with the departure of management advisor Bret Bearup, who had been leading the internal “trade Anthony” charge. Though given Anthony’s attitude and comments, few believe Denver will succeed.

So then we find out if Anthony is worth having. Because if Anthony holds out for deals to either the Knicks or Nets to get into the New York market, then we know that for all his talk, he isn’t about winning.

This isn’t a case I’m making for the Bulls as the only option. But some advisors to Anthony are beginning to suggest that he not make the same apparent mistake as LeBron James and get himself—if he wants to leave—to a team with a strong surrounding cast.

With Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, all potential All-Stars, it would seem to be the Bulls more than any team. Some around James are wondering now if he made a mistake by going to Miami with so little around him, especially no front court size as the Heat has been getting dominated on the boards, like 47-32 in their Saturday loss to Memphis, and with Dwyane Wade soon to be 29 and perhaps feeling the effects of so many falls and previous injuries and fragile pieces, like the already injured Mike Miller.

If James had gone to the Bulls with Boozer (or Chris Bosh), Noah and Rose, the Bulls seemingly would have a much superior team to Miami now. So if Anthony were to join Rose, Noah and Boozer, wouldn’t that team, especially the way Miami has struggled already, be the class of certainly the East along with Boston?

How could Anthony even think that playing with a so far underachieving Brook Lopez (averaging just over six rebounds) and Devin Harris, or Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton after what the Knicks would have to give up?

Maybe he’s just about being back East running around to the Manhattan clubs and enhancing his wife’s career. It’s OK. He wouldn’t be the first.

But if Anthony is about winning, there’s no way he could justify being traded to the Knicks or Nets. Though the Nets with promising rookie Derrick Favors have the best potential package, I cannot see Anthony going to a bad Nets team in Newark, even just for two years. The Knicks could make a pitch with the expiring contract in Eddy Curry the Nuggets want and players like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Their No. 1 picks are tied up, but if they could pick up a low No. 1 somewhere it would free up one of their higher No. 1s for trade as you must have at least one No. 1 pick every other season. But getting a No. 1 during the season is difficult. They could be in the game, but seemingly with nowhere near the Bulls talent level.

It probably comes down to Anthony seeing the Bulls as his winning salvation and declaring that intention, which he hasn’t given any indication he would. At that point, I believe the Bulls could put together a deal that would make sense for the Nuggets, given they aren’t getting anything for Anthony if he won’t agree to sign an extension.

There is one exception here. Some GMs around the league believe Anthony will opt in, like Boozer did, and take the $18.5 million due him next season. Then maybe teams like Houston, Dallas or Atlanta, who believe they could be close, might take the risk of dealing for Anthony and have him for this season and probably next. And maybe they make a run and he signs. It’s a gamble, but some GMs have been calling Denver with that in mind. For now, Denver isn’t talking trade for Anthony.

The Bulls, meanwhile, would have to trade Luol Deng into one of the trade exceptions of the Raptors or Cavs, one of whom would figure to take Deng playing at his level for nothing with the Bulls probably having to throw in a pick like they did with Washington in the Hinrich deal. Then you move Taj Gibson, who, by the way, hurt his foot at practice Sunday and is day to day for the Lakers Tuesday, Omer Asik and at least two No. 1 picks and perhaps three to Denver. It would give the Nuggets a young, starting four and backup five plus huge salary savings at a time when most expect after the new collective bargaining agreement teams will have to be offloading good players to keep their best players with tighter salary restrictions. Teams with cap room could walk into talented players.

So you give up Deng, Gibson, Asik and three or four No. 1s. But then you have four All-Star level players, and the way Rose and Noah have come on, you’d have to consider the Bulls one of the championship contenders.

Again, it’s mostly up to Anthony now to push this, and he hasn’t indicated any intention for Chicago.

Now here’s another rub to this: Denver seems in no hurry to make any deal with the word they believe Anthony will stay. But the Nuggets also want to keep Anthony awhile believing he’ll make the team he goes to better. The Nuggets would get that team’s pick in part of the deal, so they’d like it to be better. It would be if they deliver Anthony later, so some believe if they have to deal him they’ll wait until February.

But here’s the tough part.

What if you are the Bulls and you can get a starting level shooting guard to fill out your roster. Maybe Memphis decides to make a move with Zach Randolph’s resigning uncertain and O.J. Mayo is available. It might make sense for them to get Gibson and a No. 1, and then if you are the Bulls you have five high level NBA starters in Noah, Rose, Boozer, Deng and Mayo, or maybe another starting shooting guard. Do you try for that deal knowing it takes you out of the Anthony chances? Or do you run it out for a shot at Anthony and risk losing any other deal because Denver may just wait until the last minute?

Is it one more look at ‘Melo this week, or time eventually to begin fitting him for a uniform? This is not going to go away for some time.

How does Deng measure up to the best small forwards?

-- Luol Deng always is the Bull the fans want to trade with talk all the time of Deng not contributing as expected. Deng is having a good season, averaging 18.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists, so you better make that up if you decide to trade him. I decided to take a look at small forwards around the league. I have Deng rated about eighth among small forwards, but just barely into eighth in salary. So I am saying Deng is really not overpaid in this NBA.

Top small forwards in the NBA:

1. LeBron James

2. Kevin Durant

3. Carmelo Anthony

4. Paul Pierce

5. Manu Ginobili (instead of Richard Jefferson)

6. Gerald Wallace

7. Rudy Gay

8. Luol Deng

9. Brandon Roy (I had him higher than Deng until his knee problems, which are believed to be serious)

10. Danny Granger, Rashard Lewis (though he often plays power forward) or Andre Iguodala.

I don’t see in the top 10 any of these players: Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, Michael Beasley, Trevor Ariza, Grant Hill, Corey Maggette or Shane Battier.

Here are the top paid small forwards by salary (in millions):

1. Rashard Lewis, $19.5

2. Andrei Kirilenko, $17.8

3. LeBron James, $14.5

4. Paul Pierce, $13.9

5. Rudy Gay, $13.6

6. Brandon Roy, $13.6

7. Andre Iguodala, $12.8

8. Luol Deng, $11.3

9. Tayshaun Prince, $11.2

10. Danny Granger, $11.0

Upside might not be worth the risk

-- Scouting basketball talent, as we know, is a most inexact science, which I was thinking about when I saw the Nets pretty much burying Terrence Williams, a high level talent from the 2009 draft, but one who came with so-called red flags, less for potential health issues like Brandon Roy, but attitude issues. Williams is a terrific athlete, but obviously coach Avery Johnson has seen enough given Williams hasn’t even been active of late. Which is another reason why draft picks are valuable, but more so to me to use in trade, especially if you are a good team. Looking at the draft, you usually hope to get a potential star and building block from the top three, a starter from the top five or six, a rotation player in the lottery and then you hope for luck after that. But the draft has gotten more difficult with so many young, inexperienced players that it is harder to make a good evaluation of someone at 18 or 19 with one year of college.

It was that way for the Bulls in that 2009 draft with their first pick, just outside the lottery. It was viewed as a classic one player draft with Blake Griffin, who is showing his star quality.

His dunk over the Knicks’ Timofey Mogov Saturday when he basically balanced himself on Mogov’s head while jumping over him was maybe the most spectacular game dunk since Vince Carter jumper over Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympics, also using his “defender’s” head for leverage.

That draft was viewed with a big blind spot after the first eight or nine, which is when teams usually go for athletic talent figuring there can be a breakthrough if they are lucky. They rarely are. Williams at No. 11, Gerald Henderson at No. 12, Earl Clark at No. 14 and James Johnson at No. 16 all are out of the rotation. Again, that was a point guard heavy draft with Tyreke Evans—how about Memphis passing on him for Hasheem Thabeet?—Ricky Rubio, who is still overseas, Jonny Flynn, still out injured this season, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings. It looks like No. 8 pick Jordan Hill will join Thabeet in the “wish we didn’t” category. Yes, so much for top 10 picks sometimes. Taj Gibson, by the way, at No. 26, probably was the best scouting in that draft. So the lesson? Stop taking chances on upside! Draft basketball players who have performed and are hard working solid citizens who’ll be good teammates. They may never star, but there will only be a handful of stars ever. Too many GM’s draft based on trying to steal a star so they can get a contract extension. The goal should be a rotation player, and you have the best chance to get one after the top few picks by selecting one who has been a reliable player.

Considering that so-called “money ball” philosophy of going for players rather than athletes, the Minneapolis Star Tribune commissioned a piece last week by Swen Nater, the only player to lead both the NBA and ABA in rebounding. He is now a buyer for Costco Wholesale. Wrote Nater, a fellow UCLAer, of Kevin Love: “When he played at UCLA, I knew Kevin was the best player in the country. The scouts didn't think so because he wasn't a cheetah. What they didn't know was, Love has a gut that craves missed shots, the heart that will not let anyone get to that ball first, and a work ethic that refuses to be outdone.”

That's why it doesn't surprise me he entered the 30-30 club. Don't be surprised if he does it again, perhaps this season. When I see a cheetah catching a gazelle, I'm not surprised. (Love) aggressively hunts missed shots like he's going after prey that is trying to escape. And, like the cheetah, he fully expects to win. He's not as quick and fast and he can't leap like them. Then how does he grab 31 rebounds against players that are athletically more talented than he? The answer is: He's smarter and he wants the ball more. He thinks rebound long before the athletes do. He gets the early start and, by the time the others begin their pursuit, he's already got the ball in his hands. There are times he makes all the others look like they're standing around.”

Iguodala wants out of Philly

-- Doug Collins to Philadelphia reporters on his team’s slow start: "I look at my coaches all the time and I go, 'Any suggestions?'" … Andre Iguodala has missed six games in six years in the NBA and none in the last four seasons. He’s already missed five games this season with “tendinitis,” which translated means, “Trade me because I’m not saying anything and being fined, but I’m out of here.” It comes from the Baron Davis guide to being the guy you don’t want on your team. Though I still assume the Clippers would take Gilbert Arenas for Davis. The other Arenas possibility remains Orlando, where GM Otis Smith has been a Tony Dungy/Michael Vick type personal advisor to Arenas and the Magic has the Dallas formula of one star and a lot of role players, which inevitably gets you nowhere. … You don’t hear this one much from pro athletes, but you can almost hear the “I’m sick of New York” in the voice of Danilo Gallinari when he said last week, “I know you expect a lot from me, and people expect a lot from me but I’m not a superstar, I’m not an All-Star, I’m not LeBron, I’m not those great players. I’m an important player of the Knicks. And that’s what I’m trying to do, to help the team every time. Sometimes, can be these type of games (27 vs the Kings), sometimes not.” Gallinari had a good run on the Knicks’ 3-1 trip, averaging 25.5 and 12 of 26 on threes. But you hear in the comments why so many players don’t want to bother with New York, in addition to the failure to make the playoffs in a decade. The demands on you and your privacy are endless. Imagine what Steve Nash and Tony Parker would have gone through in New York tabloid headlines last week with announcements on divorces, Parker from actress Eva Longoria and Nash right after his wife gave birth to their third child. Is it worth it when you are rich no matter where you play?

Are the Heat a year away?

-- With Udonis Haslem now facing surgery for a torn ligament in his foot, interim coach Erik Spoelstra said LeBron James could play some backup power forward as well. OK, that’s point guard, small forward and now power forward. He’s still going to be the MVP. And with Dwyane Wade in and out of the lineup these days with various ills, shooting guard, as well, of course. Wonder if he wishes he were back in Cleveland with a real supporting cast? Like Chris Bosh said to Florida media of the depleted roster, "We all wanted this coming in, so we're going to have to deal with it." See, he doesn’t say all dumb stuff. It was Bosh saying earlier last week of coach Spoelstra, “He wants to work. We want to chill.” Spoelstra said it was all taken out of context as Bosh is a hard worker. … Interesting observation from veteran Heat writer Ira Winderman during the loss to Memphis Saturday: “LeBron got in the ear of both Spoelstra and Haslem after Gasol beat the Heat interior defense for a third-quarter layup. James was positively frothing.” You know he wouldn’t frothe (I know, it’s not a word) with Pat Riley. Though I’ve heard speculation Riley feels the team is a year away, anyway, given the roster situation after free agency and either rides Spoelstra or goes with some old buddy, maybe like Mike Fratello. … In breaking down that Raptors/Hornets trade, the Raptors appear to have gotten New Orleans’ crap while the Hornets got Toronto’s crap. It’s no balance of power shifter, and the surprise was the way New Orleans moved so fast on Jerryd Bayless after giving up a No. 1, though I explained the value of those things. But with the Hornets saving $5 million this season (maybe $10 million as they’re in the luxury tax) and that Jarrett Jack is close with Chris Paul and Hornets’ executives now back away after they speak to Paul so as not to offend him, I can see that. Yeah, maybe you say New Orleans could have gone for a star with Peja Stojakovic’s expiring deal. But there are so many expiring contracts around it’s a risk waiting and perhaps a long shot. Bayless is OK; nothing special. Just a shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic for the Raptors, though that trade exception from the Bosh loss could still prove a boon. … Both teams got some good wins—Toronto over Boston Sunday—after Amar’e Stoudemire ripped the Knicks and basically said he’d wished he’d resigned with the Suns but they didn’t offer enough money, and Toronto’s Reggie Evans after a loss to the Wizards advised: “We just need to go find a couple new hearts, a couple of heart surgeries or something.” So perhaps that trade was a bit of shake up as well, though many U.S. born players seem to want out of Toronto, anyway. Evans added: “Momma ain’t always there to pump you up and get you going. Daddy ain’t always there, either. Nobody’s in here to pimp for nobody.” Can you say that on TV? Well, it is a more permissive country.

Cavs the new Bad Boys?

-- A few years ago, the sticking point in talks to send Stoudemire to Cleveland while James still was there seemed to be the inclusion of J.J. Hickson, whom the Cavs deemed untouchable. Last week, he was benched after consecutive games of two rebounds as Hickson explained, "I think I've been doing a good job at boxing out, but the ball hasn't been falling my way. I can't adjust where the ball goes.” I’m not sure, but I’m guessing Bill Russell never said that. … In the latest statistical milestone dreamed up, Antawn Jamison became the third player along with Scottie Pippen and Dirk Nowitzki to have at least 17,000 points, 7,000 rebounds and 900 3-pointers. … Are the Cavs the new Bad Boys? Cleveland backup center Ryan Hollins was ejected from Saturday’s game, their third flagrant in the last two, when he knocked down Tiago Splitter going to the basket. Joey Graham had previously gotten a similar flagrant two for a cheap takedown on David West. Offered coach Byron Scott: “In the 1980s, that’s just a regular foul. Get up and play.” Ah, the ‘80s. If only, though we had a huge, anger provoking national deficit then as well. … Derrick Rose is now fourth in the NBA in scoring at 25.2 per game. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said when the Bulls beat the Mavs last week he saw Rose as an MVP candidate, and Portland’s Nate McMillan had previously offered: “Now that he's shooting—basically he has the green light—and if he's knocking down his shot, there's really no way of guarding him.”

Beware of Phil Jackson this week

-- The Bulls are in L.A. to play the Lakers Tuesday, and they better not get offended as Phil’s on a roll. After the Lakers beat the Pistons last week, Jackson noted of Detroit: "It looks like some of their guys aren't playing hard right now." That was the game Richard Hamilton seemed to purposely get himself ejected in the first few minutes. No, these guys don’t seem to want to play. Tayshaun Prince, by the way, got into it again with coach John Kuester as they almost went after one another during a game. Prince, in the final year of his deal, seems to be also basically asking for a trade without saying it so he won’t be fined. Said Prince: “I hope it doesn’t happen again. I can’t say it won’t because I’m the type of guy that if I don’t see something right, I got to say something.” The talk around Detroit is of trying to get unhappy (without a contract extension and off a benching for being late for shootaround Saturday) Zach Randolph from nearby MSU for Prince or some three way deal. Kuester had previously gotten into it with Rodney Stuckey, who was benched but is back playing now, and Ben Gordon has publicly questioned the coach, who seems OK for now with the team for sale. As for Phil, he seems to be loving the ride once again in what is supposed to be his final season coaching. I’m not counting on that, but Jackson is having fun taking his shots. When the Lakers on their trip beat Minnesota despite Darko Milicic’s 23 and 16, Jackson said he told Pau Gasol he was the second best European center on the court. Lamar Odom had a good game shutting down Kevin Love. When Love had a huge game against Odom a few weeks back, Jackson had told Odom he knew why Love made the USA team: Because he got to practice all the time against Odom. Better get ready for some “Where is Carlos Boozer” quips. … Kevin Love, by the way after that 31-31 game, was scoreless against the Lakers last week and said he had the same number of points as his grandmother. "It's safe to say that was the worst night of my career,” Love said afterward. I'm not even talking the past two, three years. I'm talking about ever, all the way back to first grade.” I remember once former Bull Dave Corzine staring at a stat sheet after a loss when he had one rebound and Michael Jordan offering, “One more rebound than a dead man.”

NBA news and notes

-- There have been some rumors of the Kings trading Jason Thompson—one rumor for Atlanta’s Jeff Teague—as Thompson’s playing time has declined this season. One reason they postulate around the Kings for Thompson’s decline to averaging 5.4 points, less than half his career average, is his size 20 feet hamper his balance and footwork and lead to missed layups. Yes, he had those same size feet before when he was playing well, though this may also explain Will Perdue’s offensive problems. … When the Knicks beat the Warriors Friday, Brandan Wright of Golden State and Anthony Randolph of the Knicks were both DNPs as they’ve fallen out of both rotations. They were the Warriors high draft pick future forward stars a few years back and both said to be available again. … Two of the most productive offseason pickups were the Warriors Dorrell Wright and the Timberwolves Michael Beasley, and both are thrilled to be out of Miami. Said Wright to Bay Area media: "I get a chance to do everything, not just be one-dimensional anymore. I'm able to handle the ball, take open shots, get guys involved, instead of every time I get the ball on the rebound, hold up and look for the point guard as if I can't dribble." … Gilbert Arenas is putting on a good audition for some teams averaging 20.4 points and 6.2 assists the last five games and starting at point guard the last four with John Wall out and the Wizards 2-2 after Sunday’s overtime loss to Detroit. Arenas had a career best 16 assists Sunday. Also, Kirk Hinrich played better with Arenas, averaging 15 points and 7.7 assists the first three with Arenas as it was clear against the Bulls last week Hinrich struggled trying to figure out where the speedy Wall was going with the ball as Wall is clearly more athlete than basketball player. … It could have been worse at shooting guard for the Bulls. What if Orlando hadn’t matched? J.J. Redick is shooting 26 percent, and 12 percent on threes, three for 25. He’s averaging 4.3 and 0.8 assists. … Magic players were amused with Hedo Turkoglu’s unending cascade of trash talk in the Magic win. Turkoglu is a noted trash talker, but the forward from Turkey doesn’t exactly speak perfect English: Said Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Sentinel: ““You can barely understand what he’s saying, but he’s saying something.” Said Dwight Howard: “It’s like, ‘Mumble, mumble, mumble basket, mumble, mumble, mumble ball.’ It kind of confuses you as much as anything.” … Michael Beasley also is known for trash talking all game and he often is talking to teammates as well, though Darko Milicic says he never can understand him. Goes both ways. What the heck is going on out there? … O.J. Mayo has been having a tough go shooting 38.8 percent on the season and two of 18 the last two with his career average down about four points and benched Saturday for being late to shootaround. But with a cheap option for next season, the Grizzlies are expected to keep him. To get an idea how they value him, they talked trade last year only with Golden State for Monta Ellis. But Sam Young figures to be available with little use. The Grizzlies are off to a tough start and had a team meeting last week—“It’s never too early for a team meeting,” said Mike Conley—but did beat Miami Saturday on a Rudy Gay jumper over LeBron James. Never too early for a team meeting? … Obviously, having Yao Ming out (big surprise) along with Aaron Brooks with a bad ankle sprain has crippled the Rockets. But this has been perhaps the league’s best team under such adversity, and much points back to the Carl Landry deal for Kevin Martin. Martin is a poor defender and cannot create while Landry became the Rockets fourth quarter go to guy and an inspiration with his toughness. They have become a team that submits easily now after a disastrous trade. … Who guessed this, that this Spurs team would be their best ever? OK, maybe not, but they are off to the best start in franchise history. The Spurs, Hornets and Heat, the latter for its early stumbles, are the surprise stories of the season thus far.

-- George Karl, who has moved free agent Gary Forbes ahead of J.R. Smith, was asked what has been disappointing him about Smith: “His practice habits, his efforts, his professionalism…” … Stephen Jackson had the first triple-double in franchise history Saturday against the Suns. Asked how difficult it was, Jackson said, "Against Phoenix, not that hard.'' Ouch. The Bulls visit the Suns Wednesday, and with Robin Lopez out their front line is tissue paper. There’s been speculation they’d look to trade Steve Nash, who’s been out on their road trip. But they curiously reloaded with overpaid role players, like Hedo Turkoglu, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress, leaving themselves little front court and now seem in position where they cannot rebuild, so they’ll have to retain Nash or become the league’s worst team. Their moves after GM Steve Kerr resigned devastated the team for years to come. Kerr, incidentally, was willing to stay, but after rebuilding the team despite having to sell off just about every one of the team’s draft picks to save money and going to the conference finals, Kerr was offered a 20 percent cut in pay. … Scott Brooks has the Thunder turning in the right direction behind Russell Westbrook of late, though Brooks is most unrated as a quipster. Before playing the Jazz after their four straight double digit comebacks, he said, “We're going to go down 10 and we're going to see how good Jerry is coaching with a lead.” Then with the Thunder without Kevin Durant and Jeff Green meeting the offensively challenged Bucks Saturday, Brooks offered Bucks coach Scott Skiles a deal: “The first one who scores in the fourth quarter wins.”

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