Could a banana boat reunion be on the horizon? LeBron James seems to want that, according to the Athletic’s Joe Vardon who reported on Thursday that the King is interested in teaming up with Carmelo Anthony on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Anthony has not played since November 8th, having been away from his team, the Houston Rockets, since their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets have made it clear that they are moving on from Anthony but have kept the forward on the roster while pursuing opportunities to save money on their luxury tax payments.
Anthony can be traded on December 15th, an option that would allow the Rockets to save the most money. If the future Hall of Famer finds a team that would claim him off waivers, the Rockets would have the option to waive him and save on some of his contract and ensuing tax.
Anthony has struggled over the past few seasons, looking like the shell of the former All-Star scorer. This season, the 2003 NBA Draftee has averaged only 13.4 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from behind the arc.
According to Vardon (and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne), James has not and will not formally request that the Lakers sign Melo, but this report, coming from one of few journalists who have strong ties to LeBron’s camp, is almost certainly strategic. James has faith in being able to resurrect Melo’s career (as he should
The Lakers, for their part, have seemingly not budged on their stance that they have no interest in Anthony. That was the case during the summer and when news of Melo’s leave of absence from the Rockets became public knowledge.
It makes sense. The Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season and don’t quite have a role for an aging Anthony. In effect, Anthony would have to replace someone like Michael Beasley in the rotation which would mean being comfortable with DNP-CD’s and averaging fewer than 10 minutes per game. Beasley, as expected when he was signed this summer, has not been a major part of the Lakers’ rotation but over the past few games has received more playing time and produced.
There’s no telling how Anthony would respond to such a role. Throughout the latter stages of his career, the 34-year-old has not exactly been keen on taking a step back from the spotlight, although he did not seem to have too many issues with playing off the bench for the Rockets.
In essence, two things can be true. Anthony was scapegoated by the Rockets for their slow start despite not being a locker room problem (so far as we know) and Houston having a multitude of larger problems.
On the other hand, Anthony has not been a positive player in years and would not fit in the Lakers’ scheme. His propensity to hold the ball and attempt to score in isolations coupled with his atrocious defense would likely be a disaster for the Lakers if he were to join them and play significant minutes.
The Lakers want to keep James happy because he is their superstar and the face of the franchise. But they also do not have to submit to all his wishes given that he has committed to the franchise for at least two more seasons beyond this year.
To his credit, James has remained professional and patient, routinely discussing the importance of the Lakers’ young core and refusing to pressure the front office to look to trade them for win-now pieces.
It seems like a long shot that Anthony would be signed by a front office that has not been enamored with the forward. But LeBron holds a lot of power and until a resolution appears for Carmelo’s situation, the purple and gold will always be in speculation.