Carmelo Anthony gets star treatment from Bulls as he kicks off his free-agency tour

The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony while playing the Chicago The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony while playing the Chicago Bulls in the third quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden on April 13, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Chicago is Derrick Rose's town, but the former MVP was part of the Bulls brigade that made Carmelo Anthony feel like the star attraction Tuesday.

Anthony spent the first day of free agency meeting with the Bulls and their top players in Chicago and listening to their pitch on how he would be the missing piece to their championship puzzle.

It was the start of Anthony's free-agent tour that will take him to Texas Wednesday for separate meetings with the Rockets and Mavericks, and then Los Angeles Thursday for a visit with the Lakers.

The Knicks, who reached out to Anthony after midnight Tuesday, are expected to be the last team to have an audience with the perennial All-Star. But the Bulls are considered the team that poses the biggest threat to the Knicks, and they pulled out all the stops.

Anthony arrived in a limo-bus with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, his agent Leon Rose -- whose company also represents Thibodeau -- and business manager Bay Frazier.

Outside the United Center there was electronic signage with his name on it and Anthony in a Bulls No. 7 jersey with the championship trophy next to him. Inside, the Knicks All-Star met with Thibodeau and Bulls executives. Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were a part of the presentation, too.

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Anthony was then taken across the street for a tour of the Bulls' new practice facility that should open by training camp. He later went to dinner with the Bulls contingent.

But the presence of Rose and Gibson was significant for different reasons. It was out of character for Rose, who hasn't been big on recruiting players in the past. Gibson is one of the players the Bulls might have to trade to clear the money to pay Anthony. But the Bulls would rather keep Gibson and move other players.

Reportedly, Anthony would rather play with Gibson, and not join a team that had to be gutted to make room for him. After all, if Anthony takes less money and leaves the Knicks -- who many still consider the favorites in the Melo Chase -- it's to play for a team with a legitimate chance to contend.

The Bulls can amnesty Carlos Boozer, which will open up about $12 million. They would have to deal Mike Dunleavy Jr., and perhaps Jimmy Butler to get to a figure that might satisfy Anthony without decimating the roster.

The Knicks can pay Anthony the most money, a maximum five-year, $129-million deal. That's the ace in team president Phil Jackson's back pocket and if push comes to shove he may use it. Jackson has said he hopes Anthony will take less money to give the Knicks the flexibility to sign other players.

Other teams can give Anthony a maximum of four years and $96 million, and the Bulls probably won't get to that figure. But If Anthony values winning more than money the Bulls might make the most sense.

Even with Anthony, the Knicks likely won't be contenders this season unless Jackson can pull off a surprise move for a star-caliber player. The Knicks are banking on making their big splash next summer when they're set to be well under the salary cap.

The Bulls, with Anthony and a healthy Rose, could challenge the Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could structure their deals to allow Miami to sign other quality free agents, including Anthony. But he would have to take a significant pay cut.

The Rockets and Mavericks are expected to roll out the red carpet for Anthony Wednesday, and make his decision even more difficult. Dwight Howard and James Harden will be part of the Rockets' recruiting presentation. Dirk Nowitzki will try and help sell Anthony on the Mavericks. The Rockets won 54 games last season and the Mavs 49 in the loaded Western Conference, but both lost in the first round of the playoffs.

on Thursday, it's expected that Anthony's good friend, Kobe Bryant, will attend the festivities in Los Angeles. Anthony makes his offseason home in L.A.

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