Just how close were the Bulls to signing Carmelo Anthony during 2014 free agency?

Well, if you believe Anthony's comments on ESPN's First Take on Friday morning, pretty darn close.

Anthony, who remains a free agent and hasn't played an NBA game since the Houston Rockets waived him in November 2018, spoke with Stephen A. Smith on a number of topics, and Anthony's decision to remain with the Knicks in 2014 came up.

Here's what Anthony had to say about the situation.

"I was going to Chicago. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, I was there, right? I was there," Anthony said. "And then I started getting whispers behind the scenes. Yo, look, this person ain't gonna be there. It ain't really right. This and that. It was all of that started to come up in the midst of my decision making. I wasn't gonna let anything cloud that. I met with New York (Knicks) last. Like, I think it was the last team I met with because I knew that I was ready to move on from that situation because of what I was dealing with and going through in New York."

There's obviously a lot to break down here. Let's start with the whispers.

The animosity between then-head coach Tom Thibodeau and both Gar Forman and John Paxson was the worst kept secret in the NBA. Despite Thibodeau leading the Bulls to five straight playoff appearances - including an Eastern Conference Finals - and four playoff series wins in five seasons, he was fired after the 2015 season (which would have been Year 1 of Carmelo's Bulls tenure). It's a safe bet that those whispers and "this person" who wasn't going to be there was Thibodeau, who felt like a lame-duck coach during his final few seasons.


But the Bulls' pitch was obviously a good one. They were never going to be able to offer Anthony as much money as the Knicks, who eventually gave him five years and $124 million, but the Bulls had played out their entire offseason in an attempt to woo Anthony and got close.

The Bulls had just won 48 games and lost in five games to the Washington Wizards in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. But they had Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and a Derrick Rose returning from a torn meniscus that had limited him to 10 games the previous year.

Hindsight is 20/20, but it actually worked out for the Bulls. Anthony and the Knicks floundered while the Bulls used the Anthony money by signing free agent Pau Gasol, who made the All-Star Game in both of his seasons with the Bulls. It didn't result in any Finals appearances thanks to LeBron James and the Cavs, but the Bulls weren't financially strapped for five seasons like the Knicks were.

Still, it would  have been fun to see a core of Anthony/Rose/Noah/Gibson.