OAKLAND, Calif. — Jimmy Butler spoke with Carmelo Anthony three days ago.
It was a catch-up call, Butler said Wednesday.
It should’ve been a recruiting call, letting Anthony know he’s still welcomed if he waives that no-trade clause to escape the Knicks.
But don’t rule out Butler making that type of call soon.
“That is half the battle,’’ Butler said about making a player from another team feel appreciated. “And I could still do that. Everybody knows what Carmelo can bring to a team. The dude is a hell of a player.
“But we have some things that we’ve got to worry about here first in the next few weeks [leading into the Feb. 23 trade deadline] before we go down that road.’’
Anthony almost joined the Bulls as a free agent in July 2014 but opted to stay in New York, re-signing with the Knicks for five years and $124 million, almost $50 million more than what the Bulls could offer.
“It came down to Chicago and New York,’’ Anthony said later that season. “Chicago was the one from Day 1 [and] was something I was very impressed with. . . . There was one point that I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going.’ ’’
So what has changed since?
Anthony still might love New York, but New York no longer loves him. At least Knicks president Phil Jackson doesn’t.
The latest shot from Jackson came Tuesday in a tweet in the wake of a Bleacher Report article by Kevin Ding that was critical of Anthony and his desire to win. By the way, Ding and Jackson have had a close relationship for more than a decade.
“Bleacher’s Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don’t change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze,’’ Jackson said in his tweet.
Graham was a former Georgetown player whom Jackson coached in the CBA with the Albany Patroons and ended up releasing because he was basically uncoachable.
It’s obvious that Jackson wants Anthony to waive the clause so he can trade him and start the rebuild.
There have been widespread rumors about LeBron James wanting his good friend in a Cavaliers uniform, but Anthony actually has two friends with the Bulls in Butler and Dwyane Wade, and there are movable pieces that make sense, as well.
The Bulls can send Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson and their first-round pick to the Knicks for Anthony. It would give Jackson another draft pick, an expiring contract (Gibson’s) and a veteran point guard for next season with Derrick Rose a free agent.
Anthony could slide into the No. 4 spot for coach Fred Hoiberg and give the Bulls another pure scorer. More important, he could help out an organization that is perceived by many in the league to value marketing over winning. It would be a poor man’s ‘‘Big Three.’’
But Butler knows there’s only so much he can do.
“You can talk to [Anthony] and tell him all this, all that, but as far as a trade and all that stuff, that’s for the front office because there’s only so much say [players] can have in a deal like that,’’ Butler said. “There’s not too much I can do in that aspect.
“But I will say I learned a lot about [Anthony] over the whole Olympic experience [last summer], and we’ve kept in touch. I’m very grateful for the friendship we’ve built, and it will continue to grow.’’
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.