LAS VEGAS — Carmelo Anthony is staying home.
The All-Star forward will re-sign with the Knicks for five years and more than $120 million after strongly considering joining the ready-to-win roster in Chicago.
The Bulls all along knew their pitch to Anthony resonated but that attempts to orchestrate a sign-and-trade to get Anthony closer to a maximum salary were a long shot. Their best offer without a sign-and-trade and with keeping Taj Gibson checked in at four years and $73 million.
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The Bulls quickly moved on, finalizing an agreement with 7-foot All-Star Pau Gasol. The 34-year-old Spaniard tweeted that he meditated a lot on his decision, which included him turning down two years and $23 million from the Lakers and overtures from the Thunder, Spurs and Knicks.
Gasol, who likely will keep Gibson in a sixth man role, has averaged 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in 13 seasons.
“I’m looking forward to this new chapter of my career,” Gasol wrote on his Blog. “I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be part of a franchise (with) so (much) tradition and play on a team with many aspirations, with such passionate fans.”
The Bulls were in serious talks to acquire Gasol in February 2007 but basketball operations chief John Paxson rebuffed then-Grizzlies GM Jerry West’s demands for Luol Deng.
His addition now gives coach Tom Thibodeau myriad big-man possibilities, particularly if the Bulls advance in negotiations with 2011 draft-day acquisition Nikola Mirotic. Gasol’s arrival also will signal the end of Carlos Boozer’s four-year Bulls’ tenure.
Barring the find of an unlikely trade partner by the July 16 deadline to use the amnesty provision, Boozer’s expiring $16.8 million contract will be excised for salary cap space to sign Gasol. Boozer then will be placed on waivers and teams with space can bid to sign him for whatever portion of the deal they choose to pay. The Bulls are on the hook for the rest, although that amount is off their cap and luxury tax books.
The Bulls also tried to acquire Gasol via a sign-and-trade, at one point trying to pull a third team into the equation.
Signing him with cap space means the Bulls will have to get creative to add Mirotic and address perimeter depth. An amnesty of Boozer gives the Bulls roughly $10.3 million of space, much of that earmarked for Gasol.
League sources indicated the Bulls are in advanced talks with the Mavericks to take Greg Smith’s expiring $948,163 off their books.
The Bulls remain in talks to re-sign Kirk Hinrich. Barring another perimeter move, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy would start at the wings with Doug McDermott and Tony Snell as backups.
“The perimeter is something we want to address,” Thibodeau said.
As for Anthony, league sources said he delayed his decision because he understood how strong the fit was for him in Chicago basketball-wise. He also connected with the organization during his in-person Chicago visit on July 1, particularly at a dinner with Gibson, Joakim Noah, Scottie Pippen and team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, among others.
Thibodeau and Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, share a close relationship that far preceded their rises to prominence. Thibodeau conveyed to Anthony how badly the Bulls wanted him. When the Bulls were notified of Anthony’s decision on Saturday, they were told how much of an impression they made.
“I feel our pitches with all the players that we’re talking to have gone well,” Thibodeau said. “You tell them about the team. The character of the players on the team is what we’re selling. It’s a great city, great organization. In the end we’re going to be fine.
“The important thing is you also have to look at the guys you do have. It’s important for them to continue to work and prepare for the upcoming season. And then whoever we end up with, we’ll figure out what the strengths and weaknesses of the club are. And we’ll prepare accordingly.”
Pau Gasol, 7-0, 227, 34, C-PF
Gasol has averaged 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds over 13 seasons. A consistent scorer and rebounder, Gasol is comfortable both in the post and at the elbow. He’s considered an excellent passer. He is not a good defender. Though he has battled injuries the last two seasons, Gasol had missed a total of two games in three of the previous four. With Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and possibly Nikola Mirotic, Gasol’s minutes can be kept at a reasonable level.