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Carmelo Anthony
USA Today Sports Images

Carmelo Anthony
USA Today Sports Images

The Chicago Bulls’ pursuit of Carmelo Anthony is very real, and one player expected to be a critical part of facilitating the deal for the New York Knicks superstar is veteran forward Carlos Boozer.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, there are two avenues Chicago could take in order to acquire Anthony. One would involve a sign-and-trade, in which J.R. Smith has been named as a potential part of the package. And while sources tell Stein the Bulls will try vehemently to try and trade Boozer, there is a fallback option: the team could slap Boozer with the amnesty clause.

Per Stein:

But here’s the thing: You continue to hear rumbles that Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is adamantly against the idea of setting Boozer free via amnesty, even though the 32-year-old is finally poised to enter the final year of his contract, valued in 2014-15 at $16.8 million.

Sources briefed on Chicago’s thinking say the Bulls are going to do everything they can to try to find a trading partner for Boozer before seriously considering the amnesty option.

Bear in mind that Chicago essentially has until July 15 to craft a deal that finds a new home for Boozer after a season in which he lost much of his fourth-quarter run to Taj Gibson. The NBA’s amnesty window this summer runs through July 10-16.

Boozer is set to make $16.8 million in the final year of his contract in 2014-15. He’s 32 years old, and has taken a back seat to the fast-rising Taj Gibson. If amnestied, Stein names the Los Angeles Lakers as a potential landing spot. Boozer and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant share Rob Pelinka as an agent.

It’s hard to imagine that the Knicks would help Chicago facilitate a deal for Anthony, who the team will make a push to retain this summer. The scenario only makes sense if New York is convinced Anthony does not want to be a part of the team.

According to multiple reports, the Knicks remain the frontrunners for Anthony, though the Bulls are surely a close second. The Bulls are quietly confident about their chances to land the All-Star forward, per Stein, and the projected $5 million rise in salary cap puts them in a better position financially to make a deal.