Should LA Lakers Pursue Carmelo Anthony-Kobe Bryant Pairing in 2014 Offseason?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers battle for positioning at Staples Center on December 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Thankfully Dwight Howard isn't the Los Angeles Lakers' general manager, because the team has some tough decisions to make over the next year.

Upon losing Howard to the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles' plans changed. Superman could no longer be part of the Lakers' free-agency sales pitch in 2014. He wouldn't help them get a third superstar to pair with Kobe Bryant.

Attention shifted elsewhere, to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. The former is especially interesting because of his ties (LaLa, his wife) to Los Angeles. Per the New York Daily News' Frank Isola, 'Melo has already hinted his free-agency decision will come down to Los Angeles and New York.

"What other team would they say?" he said of the belief that the Lakers would pursue him. "I don’t think they would say any other team. If you look at situations, that’s the only team that they probably would say."

Mitch Kupchak, make a Post-it note: Anthony seems intrigued.

“I don’t want to go anywhere,’’ Anthony also said of leaving the Knicks, via the New York Post's Marc Berman.

Make another note, Mitch: He'll need some convincing.

But is the prospect of pairing him with Kobe worth the trouble?

Why the Lakers Should

Friends First, Co-Scoring Champs Later?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10:  Kobe Bryant #10 talks with Carmelo Anthony #15 of United States in the second quarter while taking on Argentina during the Men's Basketball semifinal match on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the North Greenwich Are
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Finding teammates Kobe actually likes, trusts to shoot and doesn't want to eviscerate after games is difficult. Asking-Howard-what-he-wants-for-dinner difficult.

Kobe has clashed with many a teammate for 17 years, including, but not limited to, Shaquille O'Neal, Smush Parker and Howard himself. Word at the "We Miss Kobe's Afro" conventions I most definitely do not attend is that he once bit a cotton-candy merchant for giving him blue instead of pink-colored samples. So, yeah.

Keeping the Mamba happy while contending for a title remains the Lakers' top priority. Until he retires, that won't change. As long as he's smiling, not seething, the sun will make repeat trips to Los Angeles.

Five titles having not been enough to create mutual love between Kobe and everybody else, Anthony's arrival would be one of the few occurrences that leaves the Mamba beaming and the Lakers in position to win more than the Western Conference's eighth seed. 

"That's my guy," Kobe previously said of 'Melo in an interview with Lakers Nation.

Pinch yourself. You're not dreaming. Kobe likes Anthony. As a friend. The kind that wear matching polos (collars up) on Saturday nights. This is groundbreaking.

"His approach to a lot of things I definitely admire," Anthony admitted of Kobe, per Newsday's Al Iannazzone, last February. "If I could take anything away from what we talked about, it was just his approach, how to approach different things, kind of how to block things and stay in his mind frame."

Anthony likes Kobe, too? And is willing to heed his advice? So, theoretically, Kobe could strut his way into Los Angeles' sales pitch next summer, instruct 'Melo on how to win and he won't seek shelter alongside a shooting guard with more facial? 

Friendships between Kobe and current players are rare. I mean real friendships. Not the kind you maintain just for show, like every Kardashian relationship ever.

Kobe isn't some closet caregiver to the NBA's stars. He looks out for himself, for his team. And apparently, Anthony, too.

Where do I sign to show that I'm cool with the Lakers asking Anthony to sign?

More Money for Kobe, Less Problems for the Lakers

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 17: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a photo as part of the 2013 Global Games on October 17, 2013 at The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong in Shanghai, China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

In another life, I broke down how much of a pay cut Kobe would have to take if the Lakers wanted to sign a pair of superstars, specifically LeBron and 'Melo, next summer. What I found was not encouraging.

Cap holds, guaranteed contracts (Steve Nash and Robert Sacre) and future draft pick included, Kobe would need to accept a salary of $5.3 million in 2014-15 for the Lakers to have the necessary spending power. Those, like myself, who actually believe the Mamba will take less to stay in Los Angeles know this is impossible.

How the Lakers Can Get Two Superstars
Steve Nash$9,701,000
Robert Sacre$915,243
Kobe Bryant$5,300,000
Carmelo Anthony$22,560,486
LeBron James$20,020,875
Draft Pick$911,400
Minimum Cap Hold$507,336
Minimum Cap Hold$507,336
Minimum Cap Hold$507,336
Minimum Cap Hold$507,336
Minimum Cap Hold$507,336
Minimum Cap Hold$507,336
Projected Salary Cap$62,500,000
Projected Cap Room$46,980
Some salary info via Grantland

This season, Kobe will earn nearly $30.5 million. Accepting $5.3 million amounts to a $25.2 million dip in salary, or 82.6 percent less. Let's move on then, shall we? Paper-mache molding will become a part of the Olympics before this happens.

Grantland's Jared Dubin outlined a number of different scenarios where Kobe would take a pay cut, one of which included the Lakers paying him $20 million while having enough scratch left to sign one top-tier free agent. A $10 million trim is far more conceivable than what we found above. Sign Kobe up for this one. But not LeBron, which is the point.

Anthony will be more likely to join a team with just Kobe than LeBron would. When The Chosen One signed with the Miami Heat, the promise of two other superstars in their prime awaited. Leaving that situation to play alongside a 36-year-old Mamba and 40-year-old Nash won't make sense.

'Melo wouldn't be leaving as much behind. If he leaves New York, he's unlikely to lament deserting Amar'e Stoudemire's contract ($23.4 million in 2014-15) and J.R. Smith's hot-and-cold play and lifestyle. 

Andrea Bargnani's accent would be tough to abandon, but he'll get over it.

LeBron Is a 'Stretch' No Matter What

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 10:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers share a word after a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on February 10, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE T
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

LeBron won't want to increase Kobe's ring count the way he has Dwyane Wade's.

"You don’t want to help someone else kind of increase their ring count," Kobe explained to Lakers Nation's Serena Winters, "but he’s already increased Dwyane’s, so I don’t think it’s that big of a stretch."

Except it is. 

Kobe is one of the players LeBron is chasing. Wade was never someone he was constantly pitted against. Not like Kobe and Michael Jordan. Bolstering Kobe's count by one or two before he retires would be bad for business, even if LeBron plans to play another decade.

Anthony will have no such qualms. I'm going out on a limb here: Anthony isn't going to win more championships than Kobe. Or even the same number as Kobe. The way things are going, I'll be shocked if he gets two.

"For me, it's all about having and being involved and being a part of a winning organization, a winning atmosphere," Anthony disclosed at Knicks Media Day, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger. "You've got to want to be a part of a winning situation."

'Melo just wants to win one. At some point he won't care how he wins it, be it with the Knicks, Lakers or Utah Jazz. He just wants it. 

If strengthening Kobe's legacy is a way to get it, then so be it.

Why the Lakers Shouldn't

Is 'Melo a Good Fit?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 18:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks reacts during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 18, 2013 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

Combining Anthony's career average of 25 points per game with Kobe's 25.5 is a no-brainer, right? Right? Bueller? Captain Planet? Anyone?

Pairing Anthony and Kobe isn't as easy as adding up their point totals and screaming from a rooftop that "the Lakers have more than 50 points a night coming from two players." If only it were that easy, then perhaps that whole Stephon Marbury-Steve Francis marriage would've gone better.

The reason LeBron and Wade have been so successful together is 1) LeBron accounts for exactly one half of that tandem and 2) they fit.

Wade's playmaking is secondary to his on-ball scoring, but he's still a playmaker. LeBron's the league's best point guard trapped in a small forward's body while sporting the hairline of an infant. They just work.

Kobe and 'Melo aren't LeBron and Wade.
Kobe and 'Melo aren't LeBron and Wade.Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Kobe and Anthony don't instill the same sense of confidence. Both are scorers who prefer to work on the ball, and while Kobe can play off it or create for his teammates if asked—he tied a career high with six assists per game last year—neither is his first instinct.

Anthony's distance shooting has improved a great deal—career-best 37.9 percent from deep in 2012-13—but he's not known for his unselfishness either. It stands to reason both would make concessions to play with the other, but the question remains: Will there be enough touches to go around?

Another question remaining: Would 'Melo play for Mike D'Antoni again?

Yeah, so...
Yeah, so...Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The two didn't work out in New York. There's little reason to believe it would be different in Tinseltown. 'Melo has become more of a three-point chucker, so maybe. More likely, maybe not.

Los Angeles could fire Magic Mike. That could happen. Lakers fans aren't particularly attached to anyone who doesn't bear the name Phil "11-Ring" Jackson. But while the team might not mind, phrases like "coach killer" will be thrown 'Melo's way.

And that's no way to begin a "fresh" start.

Should They Go After LeBron First?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat stands during free-throws against the Washington Wizards during the pre-season game at the Verizon Center on October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Ned Dishman/Getty Images



Ice Baths All Around

Come summer 2014, Kobe will be going on 36 and Anthony will have turned 30. Long story short, they'll be old.

Had Kobe not already showed signs of being human by rupturing his Achilles, and Anthony never said things like "I’ve never been 100 percent in my life," maybe this wouldn't be a problem. But Kobe is only part alien and 'Melo isn't made of steel, so it is a problem.

Though the length of Kobe's next contract will vary depending on how he feels and how generous the Lakers are, Anthony's isn't up for negotiation. The Lakers will have to give him four years and roughly $96 million, which is a lot.

It's a lot for any player, but it feels like more when said player takes a beating daily, has passed 30 and isn't LeBron. The way Anthony and 'Melo play, the Lakers will have to create special-sized buckets to fill the tub with ice fast enough.

Attached to LeBron or another younger star not named Rudy Gay, this duo seems more promising. As the primary core, the be-all and end-all of a storied franchise, they're just too damn old and fragile to win the way Los Angeles has come to expect. 

Survey Says...

Don't do it. Unless the Lakers have to. Which they don't.

Too many variables are at play once Anthony and Kobe become actual partners in crime. There, inevitably, will be mediocrity. The Lakers won't do anything other than feign contention if they're the two they build the next era around.

This may not be a match made in basketball heaven.
This may not be a match made in basketball heaven.Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Toss LeBron into the equation and everything changes. It always does when he's involved. By pursuing both Anthony and Kobe, however, the Lakers would make that almost impossible. Anthony is unlikely to take any kind of pay cut (see how he joined the Knicks) and Kobe won't accept 20 percent of his current salary so two other stars he probably believes he could destroy get paid like kings.

Less than one year from now, the Lakers may feel backed into corner. With the end of Kobe's career quickly approaching, they could be compelled to do something brash, something counterproductive.

Pairing Kobe with Anthony if LeBron isn't involved would be that something. They'd be better off gambling on someone(s) else they could package as part of a blockbuster later on. 

Hopefully it won't come to that. Anthony is more likely to stay with the Knicks and collect $30-plus million more from his boy James Dolan than he is to leave for the Lakers or another team. His decision to stay in the Big Apple would save the Lakers from making a difficult decision of their own, one that could end in an expensive mistake.

"Six," Kobe said of what keeps him motivated during an August interview in China.

Six, as in six championships. As in the same number as Jordan. As in the same one the Lakers won't get him if he and 'Melo team up on their own.


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