Sources insist, however, that Bulls general manager John Paxson did not promise Rose that he would be staying in Chiago, as Rose said Friday in Los Angeles. If this trade does not collapse, Rose is certain to be the centerpiece.
The deal discussed most seriously Friday would have sent Rose and Donyell Marshall to Toronto in exchange for Davis and Alvin Williams. The Bulls decided to pull out of the swap, sources said, because of concerns over Williams' two ankle surgeries in the past two years and the guard's recent knee trouble.
ESPN.com has learned that a reconfigured deal would likely send Rose and Marshall in exchange for Davis, Morris Peterson, Michael Bradley and possibly one other Toronto player to meet salary-cap requirements.
Whether the trade is ultimately consummated depends on Chicago's determination to move Rose, who has clashed recently with Bulls coach Bill Cartwright, who is under pressure himself.
Davis is eager to relocate, with his wife's family based in Chicago, but another interior presence like Davis is not the Bulls' greatest need, given the presence of youngsters Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler already on the front line. For the trade to go through, then, Paxson would have to be convinced that the benefits of parting with Rose and his onerous contract outweigh the cost of giving up two of Chicago's more accomplished veterans.
That's because the acquisitions of Davis, Peterson and Bradley would not provide Chicago with much financial relief, which is generally the trade motivation for teams when they're not filling a clear-cut need. Davis has only two years left on his contract after this season, compared to Rose's three years at nearly $50 million after this season, but the other salaries involved won't lead to significant savings for the Bulls.
Toronto's motivation, meanwhile, is clear. Rose and Marshall represent two potential helpers for Vince Carter, whose presence has not prevented the anemic Raptors from scoring less than 80 points per game this season. Rose, though not a pure point guard, can also help the Raptors with their ball-handling and ball-distribution issues. And while Davis is the closest thing Toronto has to a legitimate center, it would still have Jerome Williams and fast-progressing rookie Chris Bosh to take Davis' minutes.
Yet taking on Rose would signal a major financial U-turn from the Raptors. For weeks it has been widely believed around the league that Toronto would not agree to any trade in which the Raptors were absorbing a sufficiently long-term salary commitment. Toronto's position, by all indications, has changed, given that the Raptors were pushing harder for the trade than the Bulls at the close of business Saturday.