Carmelo Anthony is staying clear of the “what if’’ game.
Not a bad method of operation heading into Thursday night, considering the Knicks forward will make his first appearance in the United Center since he was recruited by the Bulls in free agency this summer.
“If I start doing that and saying what if to myself and second-guessing and questioning myself, it won’t be right,’’ Anthony told local reporters on Wednesday. “For me, mentally it won’t be right, so I will not allow myself to sway toward asking myself what if with this situation or that situation.’’
The decision Anthony eventually made was well documented.
He took the $124 million and ran, chasing the mirage that Knicks team president Phil Jackson could resurrect the dead that continue to clumsily walk around the hardwood of Madison Square Garden.
They quickly jumped on Plan B. All 7-feet of Pau Gasol.
The Knicks will bring a 5-22 record into the second meeting of the year with the Bulls, while Gasol’s new team is 15-9. Some Plan B.
“We’d be in a much bigger hole than anyone could imagine,’’ Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy said, when asked where the team would be without Gasol this season. “He’s brought so much to the table for this team, and he’s really stayed healthy. He’s only missed a couple of games.
“Just having someone like that has been huge.’’
It also likely kept Dunleavy in town.
If the Bulls would have signed Anthony, there was strong speculation that Dunleavy would have been traded, with the Bulls needing as much salary as possible.
So when Dunleavy was asked what life would be if Anthony did sign his response was classic.
“I’d be playing basketball … somewhere,’’ Dunleavy said. “Obviously, I’m really happy to be here, but we’ve got a pretty good team.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have a Bentley, but a Honda Accord will get you there as well.’’
The final destination for this year’s Knicks is obvious. Crash and burn.
The good news for the Bulls is that destination is yet to even be determined. Injuries have forced coach Tom Thibodeau to piece different starting lineups and rotations together on an almost nightly basis, and they are still 3 ½ games back from having the best record in the Eastern Conference.
With Joakim Noah (ankle, knee) likely to return to the starting lineup against New York after missing the last four games, and Derrick Rose scheduled to start his 12<sup>th</sup> consecutive game, the surface is still being scratched on what this product could be.
“It would be nice to have the whole compliment of players, but there are no guarantees with this thing,’’ Dunleavy said. “When we get a full complement of players out here we feel pretty good with what we can do.’’
That’s why as far as the Bulls were concerned, Anthony was an afterthought.
“I’m a live-in-the-moment kind of guy,’’ Noah said. “I’m really happy with what we have now. We’re a deep team and we’re striving for something pretty different than what they’re striving for, in terms of goals for the year.’’