The Lakers never stay down for long.
Coming off of a 27-win season, L.A. is reportedly receiving serious consideration from free agent Carmelo Anthony, who is being sold on joining Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, perhaps Pau Gasol as well as a coach to be named later. The Lakers can offer Melo a max-level deal while, in theory, providing a supporting cast that could get Anthony back to the playoffs and providing a very glamorous market for all of the off-court pursuits of he and his wife.
The other contenders are the Knicks (who have the power of money and Phil Jackson behind them) and the Bulls, who can't offer the max without New York's assistance. Melo's best opportunity to win a title would come by taking less money from the Bulls, but that's not a one- or two-year discount. He'd be cutting down his salary for at least three years as he rolls through the prime of his career, provided Jackson holds strong on his refusal to take back Carlos Boozer in a sign-and-trade.
The Knicks don't have much of a supporting cast at this point. Jackson swung one major move, sending Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Mavericks for Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and others. This trade will help make New York less miserable while providing some flexibility. But Jackson has been tied up while Melo makes his decision. There's not a whole lot the Knicks can do in free agency this summer, but in a year both Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire come off of the books. 2015 holds immense promise for New York. Can Melo wait a year?
Then we come to the Lakers. Melo would be a huge boon. The Lakers never have much trouble selling tickets when they are remotely competitive. But without a co-star for Kobe Bryant, there's little reason to believe the Lakers will be competitive in the incredible West. A healthy Kobe wasn't the difference between last season's 27 wins and the playoffs. Even if Kobe returns to form immediately, it's not enough to get that buzz back in L.A. Adding Melo to a healthy Kobe? That's enough. It might not be a team you can pencil into the postseason in October, but that's a high-octane pairing.
And let's not forget that Kobe was great in 2012-13. He averaged 27 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, and was as good as he'd been since 2010. His body has been a mess since rupturing his Achilles at the end of the '12-13 season, but we all learned to stop questioning Kobe's dedication to getting himself into shape a long time ago. Snack Mamba is a myth, much like the chupacabra or Yeti. He'll be back in force by October. He'll probably be wearing a bear-skin robe. Remember how good Melo and Allen Iverson were together in Denver? Melo's better these days, and a modern-day healthy Kobe is better than a 31-year-old Bubba Chuck. The supporting cast isn't there, but Mitch Kupchak has a magic touch when it comes to role players.
Speaking of Kupchak, there's another reason for the Lakers to be considered a top option for Melo; the books are so bare that L.A. could have space for a max free agent in 2015. Despite Kobe making $23 million next season and Melo pulling a max deal over $20 million, only Randle will also be on the books, depending on what else L.A. does this season. If the salary cap continues to increase, there could be space for a max player. Like, say, Kevin Love. Kupchak has the option of using the stretch provision on Steve Nash to add more players this season, but that would cost some future flexibility. If Melo will wait a year for a truly competitive team, as he would be in New York, the Lakers could make a huge splash in 2015, and another in 2016 when Kobe's contract expires and he'd be expected to take a severe pay cut. Aside from a fifth year and slightly larger annual raises, L.A. offers everything New York can with one exception: with the Lakers, Melo will have a worthy co-star from Day 1. It also happens to be a valued USA Basketball teammate and someone Melo is said to respect a great deal. No wonder L.A. is receiving serious consideration, despite their awful 2013-14 season.
After all, as Melo has surely learned in his decade in the league, the Lakers never stay down for long.