How long will Derrick Rose's knees hold up?
That conundrum represents the other major difference between this offseason and the summer of 2010. Back then, the Bulls entered free-agency optimistic because of salary-cap space and a healthy superstar. Four years and two Rose knee surgeries later, their payroll looks less pliable and their point guard less durable. Alas, the Bulls can control the former easier than the latter.
Remember that during this monumental week for the Bulls when people start complaining about Rose needing to recruit Anthony or other free-agents more than he openly does. Rose is a symbol of doubt until he isn't, so let someone who has played in only 49 games in three seasons spend more time rehabilitating than recruiting.
Observers can rave about the way Rose dominates pickup games but until he plays against elite competition for an extended period without a setback, any assurance he will resemble his old self falls under basketball propaganda. It's what the Bulls have to say because it's what the Bulls have to believe.
Sure, the Return II could result in another MVP season one day. Or it could lead back to the training room. Nobody really knows given Rose's history. That's why having Rose chair the Anthony greeting committee rates such a low priority.
This is not the guy the Bulls necessarily need selling the stability of their organization. Even if Rose embraces the idea of adding Anthony, as the Tribune reported Friday, he never has been comfortable convincing potential teammates to join his team.
If Rose were to change now in an attempt to influence Anthony, it might come across as phony or disingenuous. What works for Joakim Noah's forceful, outgoing personality won't work for a naturally reserved guy like Rose. Rose staying true to himself should be respected more than ridiculed.
What makes Rose a reluctant recruiter makes him the ideal teammate. He defers. He surveys. He waits until a moment that feels right to assert himself, patience rewarded more on the court than when courting free agents.
Everybody says recruiting sways today's superstar, but it seems ridiculous that a 30-year-old married father like Anthony would let a multi-year, multi-million-dollar decision be affected by how much attention a peer pays him. Any free agent who weighs external affirmation so heavily might not be a leader worthy of all the money and fuss.
Who needs Rose recruiting Anthony anyway when the Bulls have team ambassador Scottie Pippen doing the heavy lifting in Paris? To give the Bulls an edge over the Knicks, and Anthony reason to doubt Phil Jackson, perhaps Pippen can recount Jackson's role in the most famous 1.8 seconds of his Hall of Fame career.
But seriously, winners don't need to be recruited. Winners worry about the likelihood of hanging banners in June more than the fun they had hanging out in July. They choose teams based on how close they are to a championship, not how far players will go to make them feel welcome. They behave and think like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant behave and think.
Rose's involvement during Anthony's visit means less than Tom Thibodeau's. The Thibodeau-Anthony camaraderie potentially influences the free-agent process more than the Rose-Anthony connection. Consider Anthony never has played for a coach as defensive-minded or demanding as Thibodeau, which likely works in the Bulls' favor if he cares most about a ring.
Just take Anthony past the six NBA championship trophies and show him the red No. 7 jersey he would wear to remind everybody how many the Bulls could have if he makes the right decision.
If winning a title indeed matters most to Anthony — his comments about keeping his family in New York reveal a man tugged in two directions like so many Americans — then the Bulls provide the best opportunity among the teams he reportedly will visit. The Bulls don't need Rose in full recruiting mode to drive that point home. All they need to do is show Anthony a list of teams in the East compared to the West. Talk about persuasive.
Become a Bull and the road to the NBA Finals in the East for Anthony appears paved. Join the Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers — the three other teams Yahoo! reported he will visit — and a Western path full of obstacles still likely goes through San Antonio or Oklahoma City.
The Bulls operated on draft night like a team that knows something. They aggressively moved up to draft ideal fit Doug McDermott and general manager Gar Forman expressed confidence he could manipulate the roster to clear salary-cap space for whomever. They promised nothing but sounded prepared for everything.
Anthony is their everything.