Let’s get our time machine and turn the dial back to the summer of 2014.
You’re standing outside the United Center under the Chicago sun on July 1st, and NBA free agency has just tipped off. The Bulls are in line to form one of their best rosters in years, and even they know it, all you have to do is look up at the signs hanging outside the UC.
— Steve Lippo (@SteveLippo) July 1, 2014
The Bulls' recruiting pitch to Carmelo is already underway. This is the message on the side of the United Center. pic.twitter.com/7vsu4kCpuL
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Ah, the memories.
You have to admit, that was a pretty aggressive recruiting tactic from the Bulls. And, at the time, it definitely felt like it was working. After all, rumors of the Joakim Noah doing his own recruiting of Anthony at the All-Star break filled the air. Rumors that Anthony was intrigued followed.
The NBA superstar waited until July 12th to make his final decision. And although teams like the Rockets, Lakers and Mavericks were all involved at some point, it ultimately came down to the Knicks and the Bulls.
While his comments after accepting his five-year $124 million deal made it sound as though a return to NYC was his first choice, we know otherwise. According to Anthony himself, he was packing his bags to come to the Windy City in 2014.
“i was going to Chicago.”
Melo’s reasoning for ultimately re-signing with the Knicks. pic.twitter.com/mayFO68Nih
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) August 2, 2019
Anthony specifically points out Noah and Rose when discussing his intent to come to play for Chicago, obviously confirming a lot of the older speculation that those two players were on his radar. Reports back in 2014 said the Rockets were ruled out because of the lack of accompanying talent.
All right, so if the Bulls had the talent, then why weren’t the papers signed?
“I started getting whispers behind the scenes,” Anthony said. “Yo, look, this person isn’t going to be there. Nah, that ain’t really right. This and that. It was all of that that started to come up in the midst of my decision making.”
Oh, yeah! The whole “Bulls front office thing.”
Of course, we can’t “confirm” this is exactly what Anthony was referring to, but “whispers behind the scenes” certainly makes it sound as though he was being advised not to deal with the Bulls’ executives. Also, it’s quite possible the “this person isn’t going to be there” comment was in relation to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s looming departure (was fired in 2015). We know during practically his entire tenure with the team he was butting heads with the suits upstairs.
Anthony’s comments only continue to push the fanbases longtime narrative regarding the front office’s inability to attract free agents. Over the years, the problem hasn’t been the city itself, or even the talent on the team, it’s been the perception of the team’s inner workings around the league.
Think about it, if this was the viewpoint of players and NBA-minds around the league in 2014, where does it stand now? It’s not as if this franchise has proved any doubters wrong over the last several years. If anything, the team lost the only thing it had going for it – high-impact talent.
The organization has created a framework for a potential free agent landing spot thanks to its young core, but the team is just positioning itself to be back in this similar situation. The question now becomes whether the front office can put out the fire they’ve started, getting a player to finally put pen to paper.
The sample size in the past says no, but the league is in a different place than where it once was in 2014. The Bulls have an opportunity to change their image, but it starts with winning. The more the team can put together a productive product on the court, the more it’ll convince player’s around the league that the Bulls are in a better place. But that has to start now.
Assuming we’re stuck with this front office for the foreseeable future, I can’t think of a better time for them to change their reputation than with this current squad. The team needs to prove that the young player’s they invested in can be legitimate competitors. Show the NBA you know what you’re doing.
Win on the court with what you have and maybe… JUST MAYBE… the Bulls will get another chance to reel in a big fish. And once you have that fish laying on your desk, don’t let it squirm away. Just write the dang check.