Carmelo Anthony was probably just being polite.
But the verbal bouquet he threw at the Chicago Bulls may be a little concerning to Knicks fans, especially those worried about Anthony signing with another team this summer.
The free-agent-to-be was asked on Friday night about the Bulls’ ability to succeed despite the loss of Derrick Rose (injury) and Luol Deng (trade). Chicago is 15 games above .500 and is on the verge of locking up the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks, on the other hand, are at the tail end of a disappointing season. They were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday night following Atlanta's win over Miami. All season long, the Knicks failed to weather injuries to rotation players such as Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin as well as the Bulls did.
“I have no clue,” Anthony told reporters in Toronto when asked about the difference between the Knicks and Bulls. “Thibs [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] is a great coach. His system kind of reminds me of [Spurs coach] Gregg Popovich’s system.
"You put anybody in that system and it’s going to work. And that’s what they’ve been doing. They had guys who have been sitting out all season long, guys [have] been in and out the lineup, and they seem to get it done.”
Again, Anthony was probably just being polite when talking about the Bulls.
But if you’re a Knicks fan convinced that Anthony's going to sign with another team this summer in free agency, those comments aren't going to ease your mind.
The Bulls, Rockets and Lakers are among a small group of teams expected to express interest in Anthony this summer. Chicago is one of the most logical destinations for Anthony, who has said his top priority is to win a title.
The Bulls are perennial contenders and figure to remain so with Rose coming back next season.
Chicago would have to cut a significant amount from their payroll to have enough salary-cap space to afford Anthony, though. They could also land Anthony in a sign-and-trade involving Carlos Boozer's expiring contract.
To create enough cap space to sign Anthony to anything close to a max contract, the Bulls would have to amnesty Boozer, then trade either Taj Gibson or Noah to a team that could absorb the salary.
Anthony has said his first priority is to re-sign with the Knicks, who can offer him a max contract for one year longer and $33 million more than any other team. But Anthony has also said he'd be willing to take less money from the Knicks or another team if it meant helping them attract other free agents.
The Bulls have already tried to lure Anthony to Chicago.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported earlier in the season that Noah talked to Anthony over All-Star Weekend and told him, "Look, you could go to Los Angeles, but ... if you want to win a ring, come to Chicago."
The Bulls (47-32) will take the floor Sunday with a chance to move closer to clinching the third seed in the East. The Knicks will have nothing but pride to play for.
“It’s difficult, man,” Anthony said before the Knicks were officially knocked out of the playoffs. “Only thing we do control ... [is] winning basketball games. Our next opponent is Chicago and that’s what we’re thinking about. It’s kind of hard to even think about the situation that we’re in. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is and we’ve got to focus on Chicago.”
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Information from ESPNNewYork.com contributor James Herbert was used in this report.