On Saturday, I wrote that without a miracle, the L.A. Lakers were on track to fall apart as a competitive team after losing Dwight Howard for nothing in free agency. I addressed one of those murmurs about how some Lakers fans think the team will bounce back.
Outside of Miami's trio of stars, the only other big name not in his mid to late-30s who could be available in 2014 free agency is Carmelo Anthony, but he seems to like New York quite a lot.
Indeed! Remember: 'Melo, facing 2011 free agency and wanting to sign a long-term extension before the lockout, more or less demanded a trade to the Knicks. There were preliminary talks between the Nuggets and Lakers at one point, but 'Melo clearly focused in on New York (which he calls his hometown) and wanted to be a Knick. He's been a Knick. The Knicks have been good. He's been the central piece of the rebirth of the Knicks, however flawed the finished product has ended up. He's a superstar and an MVP candidate in the biggest city in the United States. He'll take it.
To get him to the Lakers, as the Los Angeles Times speculated and as the New York Post discusses on Tuesday, he'd need to opt out of $23.7 million due to him in 2014-15 after failing to reach a lucrative multi-year extension (potentially three years, $75 million) with New York this coming spring. That's a lot of dough for a guy turning 30 next spring. So he'd be tossing away one of the fatter contracts in the league, threatening to leave a city he says he loves, leaving a top-4 team in the East for a team that might not make the playoffs in 2013-14 and has also been laughed out of the postseason the last three times they've made it. All to play with a 36-year-old Kobe Bryant.
It's hilarious in the sense that it's so outrageous. We talked about Lakers' exceptionalism last year -- this is textbook exceptionalism. The money, the locale, the history, the quality of the teams -- none of that matters because the Lakers. "We lost Dwight Howard, who left money on the table to leave us, so we'll just get another potential MVP, no matter the illogic of it all!" (See also: the LeBron James malarkey.)
But the funniest part is the idea that a 30-year-old 'Melo and a 36-year-old Kobe are the basis for a title contender, or that a 30-year-old 'Melo is the star to carry the Lakers into the post-Kobe dawn. Anthony is a fantastic player, and the Lakers would be lucky to have him. But at a price above $20 million on a team stripped off youth (and basically everything at that point) and assets in a far tougher conference? (Steve Nash is the only other Laker with a contract for the 2014-15 season right now. Steve Nash is currently 39 years old.) Howard is two years younger than 'Melo and has already shown he can be the best player on an NBA Finals team ... and commands a lower salary, and in theory meshes better with a player like Kobe on account of not being a ball-dominant scorer. After 'Melo (up to $25 million per year) and Kobe (anywhere from $15-30 million, realistically) plus Nash ($9.7 million), the Lakers are unlikely to have any room with which to operate. (Along with, again, few assets and no matching salaries to use in trades.) Otherwise, the plan sounds great!
'Melo and Kobe, in 2015 and 2016 and 2017, a contender? That's just hilarious.