The Bulls continued taking steps Friday to end Carlos Boozer’s four-year stay with the franchise. That much was evident in their efforts to bring 2011 draft acquisition Nikola Mirotic across the pond.
As for getting free agent Carmelo Anthony in a Bulls uniform, the team might not get any closer than the image it put up outside the United Center during Anthony’s visit Tuesday.
While the Bulls feel confident that they still are in the running, there is a feeling that they’ve lost momentum, especially with the Knicks now willing to offer a max contract for his return, as well as the promise of more things to come in 2015, when they can free up even more salary-cap space.
Maybe the Mirotic talks are a prelude to Plan B already being underway.
After one Bulls source downplayed Mirotic’s arrival earlier in the week – most likely because of the Anthony buzz – another source said Friday that the team now feels confident that something is close to getting done with the 23-year-old Mirotic, especially after the 6-foot-10 forward had a $3 million buyout with Real Madrid paid.
The Bulls were able to pay up to $600,000 of the buyout to start discussing a long-term contract. But if they paid more than the $600,000, the difference would go against the cap and limit what they could offer Anthony.
It might not matter.
That’s why the meeting with free agent Pau Gasol on Thursday in Los Angeles was so important to the Bulls’ brass. If Anthony takes the Knicks’ max offer – after saying in earlier interviews that his decision wouldn’t be based on money – the Bulls still believe they will be well positioned in the Eastern Conference with the additions of Gasol, Mirotic and first-round draft pick Doug McDermott.
According to a source, Gasol was told during his meeting with the Bulls that there would be a starting job for him. That would mean that Taj Gibson could remain a Sixth Man of the Year candidate for another season.
It also would allow the Bulls to keep Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler. At least one of them – maybe both – would have to go to sign Anthony as a free agent.
Then there’s Boozer. Actually, there’s no longer Boozer.
The Sun-Times reported that the Boozer camp wanted an answer on his future earlier this week and was told that the team would invoke the amnesty provision. With the Knicks still unwilling to do a sign-and-trade for Boozer and no interest from other teams for his expiring $16.8 million contract, it was the only route for the Bulls to take.