His re-signing was understandable and defensible, as pragmatic as it was personal. This was Anthony doing Saturday exactly what LeBron James did 24 hours earlier to universal praise, making an inspired decision influenced heavily by family concerns to play basketball in his hometown.
In the case of Anthony, the comforts of home also came with a chance to make $59 million more with the Knicks. Given that disparity, the only remarkable thing about Saturday's outcome is that the New York native considered the Bulls as long as he did. The Bulls indeed offered Anthony the best chance to win immediately, especially with the East suddenly up for grabs, but the Knicks always had history and geography on their side.
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Agreed, Anthony never should have said publicly it was all about winning but he would have compounded that mistake with another by passing up the type of money only the Knicks could guarantee. Who among us would burn a lottery ticket worth $59 million?
Branding Anthony a fraud sounds as extreme as calling the Bulls failures for not landing another free-agent target. Rip John Paxson and Gar Forman if you wish but they did everything within their control to tempt Anthony. A collectively bargained system kept Anthony in New York as much as anything.
Plan B now involves the Bulls becoming the Chicago Spurs, a championship-caliber team built around defense, depth and determination. They recovered after free-agent misses in 2010 to go from 41 to 62 regular-season victories so expect another efficient 50-plus season that will bore those fans who wanted a bigger splash.
It's not as sexy as signing Anthony but adding Pau Gasol, rookie Doug McDermott and likely Nikola Mirotic from Europe improves the Bulls offensively. Everything hinges on Derrick Rose staying healthy, but the Bulls easily can evolve into an Eastern Conference contender — alongside James and the Cavaliers, shockingly enough.
Sometimes words speak louder than actions, such as Friday, when James shook a city that knows something about getting rocked with an essay for the ages — without even stepping foot back in Cleveland.
"In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given," James wrote in a Sports Illustrated exclusive that made Twitter tremble. "You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home."
Now that is how you make an entrance. Whereas Michael Jordan used a fax machine in 1995 — "I'm back" — James utilized a ghostwriter. As poignant as it was powerful, his 952-word explanation instantly became one of the most important documents in the city's history. Encase it in glass and hang it next to Drew Carey's birth certificate. James' opus on individual responsibility made clear he seeks a legacy of changing lives, not just winning basketball games. Bravo.
We watch with our mouths agape as James dominates on the court with as much grace as force and cannot relate to what it's like to be that gifted. Yet Midwesterners can relate to the emotional pull of their past and how nostalgia nudged a man who wanted to raise his kids where he grew up. We can relate to James wanting to go home again to improve the quality of life there, something he described as an obligation he always planned to fulfill.
Sooner than anybody imagined, now James can.
Besides shifting the NBA's balance of power and giving Anthony more reason to consider the Bulls, James restored hope in a place where it can be hard to find. Not since 1964 has Cleveland celebrated a professional sports championship — think of Cubs fans living on Lake Erie — but James' return created a sense of when, not if, in regard to a Cavaliers title.
The touching homecoming narrative, while sincere, overshadowed how James fled South Florida quicker than a drug lord on the run once he lost faith in the Heat's ability to chase championships. He bailed before Heat President Pat Riley had a chance to reload and after buddy Dwyane Wade opted out of a guaranteed $42 million. Remember, James came to Miami intent on winning "not one, not two, not three" NBA rings but bolted after two. Miami always might wonder if James would have left if the Heat had won a third.
Noble intentions aside, make no mistake that James the businessman made a shrewd decision that appealed professionally as much as it did personally. And while one day James likely will establish the Cavs as front-runners in the East, that day isn't necessarily coming next season — which gave Anthony an opportunity to make the Bulls that team. James' decision instantly altered the context of Anthony's, but instead Melo found 59 million justifiable reasons to pick the Knicks.
Money talks loudly too. Can't blame Anthony for doing what felt right for his family like so many people would. Like James did.