Wrapping up three days of practices at the Berto Center with their summer-league team and Derrick Rose, the Bulls were the picture of calm Thursday night.
A lot changed in 24 hours.
Whether it was LeBron James making the “Decision 2.0’’ to return to Cleveland and set up camp back in the Bulls’ division, the indecision of Carmelo Anthony or competing with the NBA-champion Spurs for Pau Gasol, that once calm front office isn’t so much now.
“I don’t think people realize how badly Tom [Thibodeau] wants him [Anthony],’’ a source said Friday. “He knows he needs him to win.’’
The Bulls coach never would admit it, but the source indicated that Thibodeau already has drawn up how he would use Anthony offensively and defensively, even getting into specific sets.
He could find out by Saturday if he ever will get to use them.
According to multiple reports, Anthony still was heavily weighing the decision to go with the Bulls or the Knicks, with the Lakers now out of the equation. Anthony wants a championship and knows that the Bulls give him the best chance, but he also would be walking away from about $54 million. The Knicks can give him the max offer of five years and $129 million, while the cap-strapped Bulls can offer four years for about $75 million.
And the Knicks won’t do the Bulls any favors with a sign-and-trade. The Bulls’ efforts to include a third team were unsuccessful as of Friday evening.
The Plan B in all of this is Gasol, who seemingly narrowed his choices to the Bulls and Spurs. While the Bulls can offer more money, the Spurs can push for Gasol now. The Bulls remain a bit tentative until Anthony makes his decision.
An even bigger problem is that Gasol might want to join a team that is closer to a title than the Bulls. He would find that in San Antonio.
All of the Bulls’ problems were just a blip on the radar Friday, when James’ return to the Cavaliers captivated the NBA.
It wasn’t just that he did it, but how he did it, with a heart-felt, first-person essay told to SI.com in which the four-time MVP said: “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.
“I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.’’
James wasn’t lying about the “get to work’’ part, either. The Cavs already were said to be trying to acquire Kevin Love from the Timberwolves, as well as trying to sign shooting specialists such as Mike Miller and Ray Allen.
The hottest Bulls rumor of the night was that Dwyane Wade could return home, as well. It quickly fell to the wayside when Wade reiterated that he wanted to stay in Miami, even without James.
As far as Plans C and D, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng are in talks with teams, including the Heat, so the Bulls could be running out of time on those fronts.