Just as a resourceful Chicago Bulls win in San Antonio can fill heads with visions of playoff victories in spring, a 29-point loss to the pathetic Sacramento Kings plunges you right back into the reality of what in the world Chicago needs to do to climb back into relevance.
And that, of course, brings us to the already-in-progress Carmelo Anthony discussion, among other possibilities. But the question on the table in this exercise isn't whether Melo is at this point seriously interested in the Bulls, but whether the Bulls should be interested in him. Whether the Bulls should go to great lengths to commit the money, players and/or draft picks to either trade for Anthony or try to sign him as a free agent. Whether Melo would do any more for the Bulls than he's done for the absolutely dreadful Knicks. Whether there's a potential fit, Anthony playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in the Bulls' version of a Big Three, or whether we're talking about an ill-advised, chemistry-killing disaster that would undo years of very smart drafting, trading and salary-cap managing.
So, it's a legitimate, full-fledged dilemma stuffed with risk. Yet if Anthony waves goodbye to the Knicks and wants to come to Chicago, I would depart from the Bulls' traditional conservative approach to free agency and try to get him (easy for me to say). It's a delicate balance to strike. John Paxson and Gar Forman knew as they accumulated those assets there would come a time to actually use them. They can't simply add Anthony to the team as we know it, so a couple of players are going to have to be dealt. But big stars win in the NBA and moving role players to make room for an All-Star of Anthony's impact is the way to go, unless a star of similar magnitude becomes available out of thin air.
There are scouts in the NBA who believe Anthony will be the same player going forward he's been the past 11 years, which is to say a professional scorer who has never been committed to defense or the nuances of being a great teammate, which just happen to be the obsessions of the coach Anthony would be playing for in Chicago. But there are others who believe that while the above assessment is undeniable, the Bulls are in desperate need of what Anthony still does as well as anybody in the NBA not named Kevin Durant: score.
As one talent evaluator told me this week, "The fatal mistake the Knicks made is that they brought Carmelo to New York to be the guy who makes everybody else better, and that's not who he is. Carmelo is a guy who needs teammates, and he'd have those [in Chicago]. He scores. He doesn't make other teammates better ... though his scoring and his presence will make the game easier for others. It would take some weight off of Rose. When Rose plays against Miami they swarm and blitz him ... What Carmelo would give [the Bulls] is an alternative. What he could do is finish games."