AP Sports Writer
DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — It is time for the Chicago Bulls to make their pitch.
Free agency opens Tuesday, and they’re expected to get an audience with Carmelo Anthony. Luring the prize of this year’s crop out of New York to team with the returning Derrick Rose would vault them right back into contention in the Eastern Conference.
Question is: Can they land him? If not, what about trading for Kevin Love?
And will Rose recruit players?
“What we’re selling is our team,” coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday. “I’m sure free agents are aware of our team, the guys that we do have and our players will be available to talk. We think we have a lot to offer. We have great depth. We have great tradition. And we’re positioned well to go forward. So we think we do have a lot to sell.”
Thibodeau spoke Monday at a news conference to introduce first-round draft pick Doug McDermott of Creighton and second-rounder Cameron Bairstow of New Mexico.
The Bulls made the playoffs with 48 wins despite losing Rose to another knee injury early last season, wiping out whatever chance they had at knocking off Miami in the East. But the Heat are looking vulnerable these days after getting hammered by San Antonio in the finals.
LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all opted out of their contracts, but even if the Big Three remain united, Miami’s grip on the conference appears to be loosened a bit.
The Bulls have the flexibility to make a major move. But they also have a big question mark hovering given Rose’s recent injuries.
“From a physical standpoint, he’s doing terrific,” general manager Gar Forman said. “He’s playing five-on-five. He hasn’t skipped any steps and there’s been progress the whole way. He looks ready to go.”
The Bulls remain hopeful that the former MVP point guard will train with the U.S. national team this summer in preparation for the World Cup of Basketball in Spain.
Rose’s participation came into question Sunday when he told Yahoo Sports he’s not certain if he will be ready.
“It’s not anything different than what we’ve said all along,” Thibodeau said. “If he’s ready to go, he’s going. That’s what he’s told me. That’s what he’s told USA Basketball. But it’s a step-by-step process. He’s coming along fine. The next step is to participate in summer league. If that goes well, he goes to USA. And if that goes well, he’ll play in those games. That’s the way we’re approaching it.”
Various ailments have limited Rose to just 49 games the past three years.
He sat out the 2012-13 season recovering from a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee. His much-anticipated comeback got ended at 10 games when he tore the meniscus in his right knee in November, and it’s not clear how his status will impact what happens in the next few weeks.
Rose has repeatedly said he can play with anyone but won’t recruit, stances he reiterated in that Yahoo Sports article while praising Anthony’s game.
A healthy Rose and Anthony could form a potentially explosive combination. The same goes for Rose and Love. If they can’t land a star, the Bulls will likely look to build depth.
They have the rights to Real Madrid’s Nikola Mirotic and would like to bring him over this summer or next if they don’t package him in a trade.
With McDermott, they added a shooter to their struggling offense and perhaps made Mike Dunleavy Jr. expendable with his expiring contract.
“I’ll do whatever they want me to do, whether it’s off the bench, starting,” said McDermott, who led the nation in scoring last season with a 26.7 average and shot 52.6 percent from the field — 44.9 percent from 3-point range. “I feel like I’m ready right from the get-go. I played four years (in college), unlike a lot of the guys who maybe went higher in the draft. I feel like that’s helped me.”
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