Kobe Bryant (left) and Carmelo Anthony could be an unstoppable force if they were teamed together, or the issue of not enough balls to go around could tear the Lakers apart. We might find out what could happen in the near future. Photo by Jeff Lewis
There are arguments to be made for bringing Carmelo Anthony to L.A. and leaving him in Denver. Should the Lakers pull the trigger?
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
How would Carmelo Anthony look in purple and gold?
That question was once just a fantasy topic for NBA nerds who post on message boards, but not anymore, since it was confirmed by league sources to an ESPN reporter that preliminary talks between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets have taken place.
ESPN Magazine reporter Chris Broussard said Tuesday that Andrew Bynum would be “the main part of the package that the Lakers” send to Denver in exchange for Anthony. He also said that a straight-up deal in a Bynum for Anthony swap “does work financially under the collective bargaining agreement.”
Broussard added that Denver has no interest in Ron Artest.
These preliminary talks follow a couple tumultuous weeks in Lakerland. First, two weeks back, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak hinted at a possible deal after L.A. got thumped by Boston.
Magic Johnson followed a few days later saying the Lakers needed to make a deal if the current roster didn’t improve. Then, reports surfaced last week that Artest wanted to be traded–but he shot down the rumors.
Former Lakers General Manager Jerry West went as far as saying he thought many of the Lakers players were “getting long in the tooth.”
After the Lakers defeated Memphis Monday, improving to 36-16, one would think L.A. was lottery bound judging by all of the negative talk.
The criticism and trade talk is warranted however, especially after L.A. lost at home to San Antonio last Thursday on a tip-in. Aside from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers look lethargic and ineffective at times.
The idea of this team “flipping a switch” and instantly sharing the basketball again, defending and the role players being effective role players looks suspect at this point. Fans are especially frustrated because the Lakers are not only losing to contenders such as Boston, San Antonio and Miami–but they’re not competitive.
I thought Kupchak’s announcement of possibly making a trade was all bluster. But he clearly wasn’t bluffing and thinks this team may need to be shaken up.
Is Anthony the answer? That’s the question Kupchak will have to wrestle with. Over the next several days, the Lakers will play Boston, New York, Orlando and Charlotte on the road.
How the Lakers fare on this road trip may make Kupchak’s decision easier if they are not competitive, particularly at Boston. Kupchak likely wouldn’t be able to stand-pat with this roster for much longer if the Celtics toy with them again, and San Antonio continues to widen the gap with L.A. in the fight for home advantage in the West.
Before Kupchak decides to pull the trigger on this deal, there are several pros and cons he would need to consider.
On the pro side, the Lakers recent struggles generating transition points and scoring overall could improve. At times, Bynum and Pau Gasol don’t look comfortable on the floor together. Since they’re both seven footers, their post games suffer when the offense is galloping up and down the floor.
Anthony is a natural wing player who’s effective from 20-feet and in, and could complement Bryant on the perimeter. If Bynum is traded, Gasol would be free to roam the paint, drawing the double, and then dishing to Bryant, Anthony or Lamar Odom for open jumpers and slashes to the basket.
Another positive component to this deal, depending on where you stand with Bynum, would be trading the young center while he still has value. Bynum, who missed a game last week because of injury, hasn’t proven that he can play more than 50 games a season.
It’s a hard idea that Kupchak has to consider, but if the Lakers organization feels that Bynum is injury prone and his potential will never fully be realized, they must make the deal.
Denver can afford to roll the dice and wait for Bynum to become a dominant center. As I’ve been saying for weeks, the Nuggets are not in a position where they hold leverage. Gambling on Bynum could yield a much higher return as opposed to receiving a bunch of draft picks from the Knicks and Nets.
Letting Anthony walk after this year and receiving nothing when Denver could have dealt for Bynum would be irresponsible. This is a no-brainer for Denver.
There are risks however for the Lakers. If Kupchak makes the deal, there’s no guarantee that Anthony would mesh this season with Bryant and Gasol. Everyone knows No. 24 is the No. 1 option, but who would be No. 2?
Anthony has also never played in a very structured offense in Denver. How would he adapt his game to coach Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense?
The Triangle is legendary for taking a minimum two seasons before players gain a real understanding of it.
Part of the reason the Lakers are defending back-to-back world titles is because of the size of their frontline. Trading for Anthony would lessen that advantage unless the Lakers could somehow convince Denver to include Nene in the deal.
Nene, who is a physical six-foot-ten forward and center, would play well off Gasol because he doesn’t need the ball and he can run the floor. Nene’s also in the final year of his contract and likely won’t re-sign in Denver.
There’s also no guarantee that Anthony would re-sign with the Lakers. It’s no secret; part of the reason Anthony wants out of small market Denver and yearns to play for New York is due his wife, “LaLa” Vasquez, a former MTV veejay who wants to further her entertainment career.
LaLa and Anthony are both native New Yorkers and the bright lights of Madison Avenue may prove too alluring for the couple to resist. But I don’t think that would be a problem with the Lakers. Here, Anthony would be able to showcase his talents in the second largest market in the country, with Hollywood in the backdrop.
If Lamar and Khloe can close deals on a reality show and a new unisex fragrance, what would stop LaLa and ‘Melo from doing the same?
But the ultimate question Kupchak would have to ask himself would be “when Bryant is no longer our best player and main attraction, who would better carry the torch: Bynum or Anthony?”
This potential deal looks enticing, but I wouldn’t pull the trigger. The pros and cons are pretty even, and there’s no doubt this Lakers squad needs a wakeup call. Maybe speculation about this deal could serve a purpose and convey to the current roster that their recent play won’t cut it.
Dealing for Anthony would be a knee-jerk move by my estimates and would signal that Lakers management is panicking.
I’m not saying this roster should remain intact as is, but bringing in another 25-point-plus scorer would likely disrupt the Lakers’ balance. Anthony’s a dynamic offensive player–but he’s never committed himself to the defensive end of the floor.
Along with porous defense, the Lakers’ biggest problem, which is containing opposing point guards, wouldn’t be helped by this deal.
The Lakers problem isn’t lack of talent. From one through seven, they still have the best team in the league and the best starting lineup, along with the game’s No. 1 clutch player.
If L.A. fails to three-peat, it won’t be because they didn’t make this deal. Apathy and lack of execution will be the culprits.
Check out the Sentinel Sports Section on Facebook and Twitter.
Sentinel Sports Section Facebook page:
Sentinel Sports Twitter page: