Let’s make one thing clear first: the Lakers are the marquee franchise in the NBA. They have a history of attracting the league’s biggest stars, and will probably do so in the next few summers. Carmelo Anthony is already 30 years old though. He might be one of the most talented players in the league, but he hasn’t shown the ability to lead a roster far in the playoffs.
This just doesn’t make sense.
Not for the Lakers. Not for Carmelo Anthony.
A few days ago, it seemed like it would be a safe bet to assume Carmelo was going to end up either in New York, Chicago, or maybe even Houston. He would meet with the Lakers, the NBA’s premier franchise, more as a sign of respect, it seemed, than as any indication that he might sign there. And then something happened. A day after Carmelo’s visit, rumors swirled that the Lakers had vaulted their way into serious contention for Melo. Who knows what it was. The allure of LA? Perfect weather? The banners at Staples? Kobe putting a gun to Melo’s head? The last option would be the most likely, except we know Kobe wasn’t there.
But when details came out about that meeting, things made less and less sense. They told Carmelo that he’d be surrounded by Kobe, Pau (who’s also a free agent), and Julius Randle. Right, that nucleus is only one chucking one-way All-Star away from a title. Like that makes any sense. That is a team that struggles to win more games than it loses in the West. I mean, I’m sure the Lakers made it look really cool, but still.
I get it from the Lakers’ perspective, I guess. The thinking is that you do anything and everything to appease Kobe and keep him in contention these last few years before he retires. Think about it like repaying him for what he’s done for your franchise. Sort of like what the Mavs are doing for Dirk. Except they didn’t tie up the majority of cap space with their aging superstar, like the Lakers did. The Lakers, with Carmelo, would be tying up almost all of their cap room with two ball-hogging scorers. One who will be 36 next season, coming off of a torn achilles and knee fracture. The other, who hardly has a winning pedigree in the NBA and doesn’t make his teammates better.
Putting Carmelo and an aging Kobe together is obviously no recipe for success. That’s something you’d do in NBA 2K15 just for the hell of it. You’d play games against the computer and score all of your points with those two players. And you might even be moderately successful doing it. In real life though, this plan must come down to appeasing Kobe and asserting one’s dominance over the rest of the league when it comes to free agent pitches.
The Lakers shouldn’t even have a chance at Carmelo. That they are even in contention is a testament to the prestige of the franchise. If Carmelo chooses the Lakers, he will waste at least a year or two before they can surround him with legitimate pieces. By that team he will be going on 33, and who knows where his game will be at that point in his career.
The best move for Carmelo is going to the Bulls. But as we know, free agency rarely works as the fans wish it did. Going to LA would not be a case of choosing money over winning. That’s what New York would be. LA would just be a poor decision. Banking on the franchise’s history to make miracle moves.
But Carmelo should realize that is two years away, at least. And he doesn’t have time for that.