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Could-have-been Bulls mates not shocked Anthony picked Knicks

Chicago was Carmelo Anthony’s second choice behind the Knicks in free agency.Alex Goodlett/Getty Images Chicago was Carmelo Anthony’s second choice behind the Knicks in free agency.

Most NBA followers thought it was a foregone conclusion that Carmelo Anthony would re-sign with the Knicks and all that money while he was hobnobbing with different clubs this summer in his free agency tour.

But Bulls center Joakim Noah, who reportedly talked up Anthony about the benefits of signing with Chicago during last season’s All-Star weekend, said he thought the Bulls were serious contenders to land Anthony this off-season.

“Yeah I thought we had a chance,” Noah said following Wednesday’s shootaround at Madison Square Garden ahead of the regular-season debut between the Bulls and Knicks. “So we tried our best. But he made a great decision- he made a good decision for himself and we’re happy with where we are.”

Anthony visited the Windy City on July 1 as part of the Bulls recruitment pitch.

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose reportedly was much more aggressive in recruiting former Lakers big man Pau Gasol to come to Chicago than he was in luring Anthony. But Rose said on Wednesday that he would have enjoyed playing with Anthony as a teammate if things had worked out differently.

Rose also said it won’t be strange facing Anthony, given his interest in coming to Chicago this summer.

“No, that’s over with,” Rose said. “I wouldn’t say it’s weird at all. He made his decision and like I said at the time, of course- who wouldn’t want to play with a talent like that. But he came back here. You can’t get mad at him. But our team, I mean the people who we got on this team is who we got and that’s who we have to roll with.”

Noah said on Wednesday he never spoke to Anthony during the courting process. But he said he wasn’t startled when Anthony ultimately chose to re-sign with the Knicks.

Anthony ultimately agreed to a five-year, $ 124 million contract to stay in New York, far more than what the Bulls could offer, even if the Bulls were reportedly his second choice and represented his best chance to win a championship, over Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers, his other suitors.

“Not really, not surprised,” Noah said. “Just it is what it is. I think he made the best decision for him and his family and I’m just excited for my team. I think we’re really deep.”

Rose said he wasn’t disappointed or upset that Anthony snubbed the Bulls for the Knicks either.

“You got to think about — he’s been here for a couple years, got family here, raised on the east coast, can’t forget about money, so you can’t forget those little things. It’s big,” he said.

Gasol said he was in contact with Anthony this off-season when Anthony was looking at the Lakers situation.

“We talked, but I think he made his decision after I made mine,” said Gasol, who won a pair of championships under Phil Jackson with the Lakers and signed with the Bulls this summer. “We talked before, when he was thinking of going to Los Angeles and debated staying.”

When Anthony decided to sign with the Knicks, Gasol said: “I wasn’t surprised, I was expecting it.”

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