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Ask Sam is back, but, sorry, no Carmelo

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Sep 9

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Anything to the story about Carmelo having the Bulls on his trade wish list?

– John Jenkins

Well, here we go again. Me, too. I was getting ready to restart my Ask Sam feature once the USA team concluded. But here we go again with the NBA’s newest distraction: Which superstar is planning to leave his team next?

It’s been bubbling up for awhile now, and Thursday came reports that Anthony would like to go to the Bulls or Knicks (conceivable) and the Bulls are discussing trading Joakim Noah in an Anthony deal (fabrication).

I’m starting my weekly mailbag Friday and will have some more letters to go with this one up on Bulls.com. This answer will carry over, but it seemed given the frenzy already that I should address this now. I’ll publish weekly for awhile and then return to a daily Ask Sam sometime closer to the regular season.

The Bulls, of course, would love to have Carmelo Anthony. Who wouldn’t? He’s one of the elite scoring stars of the NBA.

But Carmelo Anthony is not going to be with the Bulls.

First—and they can be troubling when there are so many good stories floating around—the Nuggets have not discussed trading Anthony with any team. Not one. No name mentioned in trade. They haven’t even talked with Anthony yet about his desires. I hate being the fact police. But most of the sports sites are too busy mining for hits over facts.

First, let me deal with this Noah nonsense. The Bulls are not trading Noah. Nor should they. They are engaged in contract extension talks, and I assume Noah signs at some point before the season rather than risk going into a lockout year and a new collective bargaining agreement that could severely depress salaries.

Noah probably would have to take less than he might be worth on the open market. But he can’t get there until at least two more full seasons. He’s had injuries. Do you turn down $50 some million for five years to go for $60 some million? I’m guessing, in the end, he won’t.

So the Bulls are hardly looking to deal Noah.

Plus, Noah is likely more valuable to the Bulls than Anthony. Sure, Anthony is far more talented. But anyone who knows NBA history or Bulls history knows you need height. Did the Lakers win because of Kobe? Or once they had Pau, Odom and Bynum? How about Boston once they got Garnett. And to reload who’d they get? Both O’Neals. Size.

When the Bulls won championships, they first had Cartwright, Perdue, Grant and Stacey King. Later it was Longley, Wennington, Rodman and bringing in guys like Brian Williams.

Even Michael Jordan conceded the deal he much fought, Charles Oakley for Cartwright, was the difference in beating Detroit. The Bulls almost went to the Finals in 1994 without Jordan. Without Grant in 1995, they couldn’t beat Orlando. They needed Rodman. And while these aren’t exciting talents, they basically are first round picks, the best of the big men.

Dealing Noah and likely Taj Gibson for Anthony would leave the Bulls a poor man’s version of the Golden State Warriors. It’s one reason Don Nelson isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He put together big scoring, fun teams…that basically all lost in the first round. Or were swept if they got farther. Though mostly missed the playoffs.

It would be competitive suicide in the East to go without Noah. You can say Miami has little center size, which is true, and why it remains to be seen what they do.

Losing Noah and then likely Gibson, as all indications from Denver are if they do deal Anthony they are not taking long term deals like that of Luol Deng with four years and health issues, would leave the Bulls the East’s smallest team. Maybe you can get away with that pressing and running stuff in international ball, but you don’t in the NBA. Ask Rick Pitino.

With George Karl’s health issues and uncertainty about the futures of Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin, and a new labor deal coming, teams not in contention surely figure to try to accumulate draft picks and cap room. They aren’t taking on four-year deals for players with injury histories.

And losing Noah and Gibson, or just Noah, would leave the Bulls with no one above 6-8 but ancient Kurt Thomas and not ready Omer Asik. I’ve been up to the Berto Center frequently and coach Tom Thibodeau works with Noah constantly. I’m pretty sure he’d be devastated to lose him.

Plus, there’s way more complications to this.

Anthony makes about $17 million this season. The Nuggets have an extension out to him of about $22 million each for three years. You say the Nuggets have to deal Anthony or risk losing him in free agency next summer. But can Anthony risk walking away from $22 million annually and have a ceiling on salaries after the new labor deal be maybe half that? Plus, there’s no way anyone trades for Anthony unless he signs an extension because he could walk on them, so you cannot afford to give much.

So Anthony, obviously, wants a sign and trade. To sign for some $20 million annually, the Bulls would have to give up Deng, Gibson, Johnson and maybe Noah as well. Players signed this summer can’t be traded until December.

You decimate your team trading for someone like that.

And then if Anthony signs the extension, why should Denver trade him?

The Bulls have the kind of draft picks with the potentially unprotected Charlotte pick from the Tyrus Thomas deal that could interest Denver. I’ve written for two years I expect Anthony to go to New York given his Eastern roots and celebrity wife looking for opportunities. But the Knicks may have blown that by trading virtually all their No. 1’s the next few years to clear money for LeBron James. They have the expiring contract in Eddy Curry that would appeal to a team trying to rebuild. But if you are in rebuilding you want young players, picks and cap room.

The Bulls other issue is to get under the cap to pursue free agency, they had to dump most of their roster and limit their payroll. So they don’t have the assets now they would have had a year ago to make a more appealing deal.

I actually think the Bulls are well positioned with the team they have. Noah plays off Boozer ideally and Rose is the go to guy. Plus, Noah is the team’s most vocal leader and Anthony has had a career of often selfish play that’s never taken his team very far.

I think the only hole in the Bulls roster is with one more perimeter shooter, especially at shooting guard. So I’d be pursuing Rudy Fernandez or someone like that who can shoot from deep and spread the court for Rose and Boozer. I’d put that Charlotte pick in play. It could be the Bulls are holding it to get into an Anthony derby if that develops. Maybe that’s the way to go. I wouldn’t.

Didn’t we hear LeBron was destined to come to Chicago because it made the most sense?

I don’t see the Bulls being players without devastating their roster. Keep what you have. Give up a pick and get a shooter, and I’d be willing to challenge the best of the East.

Yes, sigh. It’s only September, seven weeks until the season opener.

Read the full Ask Sam posted Friday 9/10/10

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