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Bulls pursuit of LeBron James has two obstacles

LeBrJames is expected opt out his contract with Hethis summer Bulls are thought be among teams with decent chance landing

LeBron James is expected to opt out of his contract with the Heat this summer, and the Bulls are thought to be among the teams with a decent chance of landing him. | AP

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Updated: February 13, 2014 6:36AM



Like it or not, the Bulls will be players in the LeBron James sweepstakes once ‘‘The King’’ opts out of his contract with the Miami Heat this summer.

And make them the No. 3 seed
to land the four-time most valuable player, behind him re-signing with the Heat and returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers and just ahead of him joining Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers.

There are two big ‘‘ifs’’ for a James-Bulls marriage, though.

The first would be the Bulls being willing to exceed the salary cap and pay a luxury tax once again — and actually having to stay there for an extended amount of time. Even if the Bulls seek amnesty on the final season of Carlos Boozer’s contract during the offseason, they would have to pay James about $20 million in his first season and just less than $23 million by the time a five-year contract would end after the
2018-19 season.

That means James, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson would gobble up almost $60 million in guaranteed money in the 2014-15 season alone. And that’s not factoring in the $6 million to $7 million it might take to pry Nikola Mirotic away from Real Madrid in the Spanish league this summer.

The bigger ‘‘if’’ is whether Rose would be willing to take a back seat in crunch time and let James have the ball in his hands. There’s a reason James never has played with a great point guard: It’s because he’s the best point guard in the game when he moves over to that spot. Before injuring his right knee Nov. 22, Rose showed he could play off the ball effectively. But it would be different with James.

The good news for the Bulls is that James likes coach Tom Thibodeau. And the feeling is mutual.

Player of the week

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder forward: The second-best player in the league threw his teammates on his back last week, putting up two 48-point games. He was averaging 36.7 points and six rebounds in his last four games entering play Saturday.

Team of the week

New York Knicks: That’s right, the team that has put the ‘‘fun’’ back into dysfunction suddenly is starting to play better basketball. Victories against the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Heat were impressive.

The big five

1. Heat, 2. Indiana Pacers,
3. Spurs, 4. Portland Trail Blazers, 5. Thunder.

Awful for Andrew

The three teams bad enough to start tanking in hopes of drafting Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins: 1. Milwaukee Bucks,
2. Orlando Magic, 3. Utah Jazz.

Big number

6- 6 The Heat’s regular-season record against the Knicks since the ‘‘Big Three’’ came together for the 2010-11 season.

Two to watch

Thunder at Houston Rockets, 8:30 p.m. Thursday: The Rockets are sitting in the middle of the Western Conference playoff seedings and looking to add to their roster.

Golden State Warriors at Thunder, 8:30 p.m. Friday: The Warriors have made a run since late December, but now it’s test time against the Thunder.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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