Joakim Noah has been recruiting Carmelo Anthony

Written By BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter Posted: 05/03/2014, 05:00pm

After a season spent diving for loose balls, playing with a bad knee and taking over as the facilitator in the Bulls’ offense, there’s little left for center Joakim Noah to do.

How about recruiter? That might be his most valuable role for a franchise suddenly at a crossroads.

According to several sources, including a teammate, Noah’s All-Star Weekend “conversation’’ with New York Knicks standout Carmelo Anthony didn’t end in New Orleans. They had discussions via text the rest of the season, including the day after the Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

“I was kidding Jo that they were boys now,’’ a source said in a phone interview Friday. “ ‘Well, get your boy to come to Chicago.’ ’’

When asked during the season about his heart-to-heart with Anthony, Noah was his usual coy self.

“What are you talking about? The gossip going on?’’ Noah said. “I feel a lot of gossip. I think we all know that we’re in a good place. We’ve got a healthy group, it’s a healthy environment, and we’re not going to let gossip get in the way of what we’re doing. We’ve gone through so much this year, so it’s not going to be a little gossip that gets out there.

“You want me to address that? I don’t feel like addressing it. I really have nothing to say.’’

Then after exit interviews Wednesday with members of the front office, Noah was asked if he expected changes this summer.

“I don’t know,’’ Noah said. “That’s not my job.’’

But he’s obviously doing as much as he can to help the process along.

Sources said Noah has been in Anthony’s ear as often as possible, and he has told other Bulls to push hard for Anthony this summer. But there is one condition: Backup big man Taj Gibson can’t be sacrificed.

And there’s the kicker.

For the Bulls to keep Noah, Gibson and point guard Derrick Rose, Anthony would have to be willing to sign a contract in the $14 million- to $15 million-a-year range, and general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson would have to get creative with the rest of the roster.

If getting Anthony means losing Gibson, Noah and the Bulls would be looking in a different direction to build.

Power forward Carlos Boozer, however, just might be sacrificed.

“Obviously, we still have the amnesty as an option that we haven’t used that a lot of teams have,’’ Forman said Wednesday.

‘‘That’s something, as we go into July, we’ll have to evaluate. If it’s something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way.’’

A source said that decision is all but made. The Bulls are looking to rid themselves of Boozer’s $16.8 million cap hit for next season.

There were whispers that Rose had been making waves about no longer wanting to play with Boozer, but sources denied that.

“There was a lot of adversity this year, but we’re just disappointed with the way it ended,’’ Noah said Wednesday. “We feel like we could have done more.’’

Noah did his part, and he might not be finished.

NOTE: Joakim Noah underwent minor arthroscopic surgery to clean out his left knee. His rehab is expected to take eight to 12 weeks.


Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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