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Should Lakers Fans Get Their Hopes Up About Carmelo Anthony?

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Should Lakers Fans Get Their Hopes Up About Carmelo Anthony?
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After a contract offer and a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, Carmelo Anthony might seem like a realistic possibility to don a purple and gold uniform by the end of this offseason. 

Except he won't. 

"A person who was in the Lakers' pitch said they thought it went 'really well' and added, 'I don't know how big of a shot we have, but I think we have a shot,'" reported ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne after the meeting drew to a close, allowing optimism to pervade the discussion.

If you'd like to reference Dumb and Dumber now, feel free to do exactly that. 

Yes, there's a chance. No, there's not a realistic one, even in the wake of Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Lakers have moved back into contention:

They still shouldn't be the ultimate destination. Not if Melo is operating rationally and doing what's in his best interest. 

If you're a Lakers fan, do what you can to repress the optimism you feel swelling up about the possibility of Melo joining forces with Kobe Bryant for the next few years. It's a feeling better saved for other free agents. 

 

The Lakers' Pitch

Noah Graham/Getty Images

In three words—money and prestige. 

Only a few teams have the financial means necessary to offer Anthony a max contract, but fewer still are willing and able to do so. His lack of success in the postseason, as well as his proclivities for lackluster defense and ball-stopping play, makes the max a questionable offer. 

Not for the Lakers, though. According to Shelburne, general manager Mitch Kupchak is willing to hand Anthony as much money as possible: 

That's half the appeal. 

After all, it's tough to beat that payday, even if there's been no indication that Melo would only accept a max offer. Money does matter, especially when it's accompanied by the pride of being a member of the exclusive fraternity of max players in the NBA

Nonetheless, the other part of the pitch might be even more important. 

The Lakers have an unmatched tradition of winning. They're actually one of only three franchises in NBA history that can say it has as many titles as regular-season exits, which is quite an impressive claim. 

Thanks to the 2014 title, the San Antonio Spurs have five championships and five missed playoff appearances in their shorter history. The Boston Celtics have 17 titles and 17 seasons in which they fell short of the postseason. 

But the Lakers? They've earned the right to call themselves champions on 16 separate occasions, and they've missed the playoffs only six times, despite being one of the oldest franchises in the league. 

Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

That's significant. The Lake Show can show off trophies galore, as well as point toward a number of retired jerseys that remind players of the legends who have graced the franchise. Remember how Dwight Howard was pitched to last summer, even if it was unsuccessful? 

Here's ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi, writing about how D12 was introduced to the home he'd spend only one season in: 

Sitting on the Lakers' practice court with 10 Larry O'Brien trophies staring down at him from Lakers executive vice president Jennie Buss' office and 12 championship banners and eight retired jerseys surrounding him on the walls, Howard quickly was introduced to the expectations that now will be placed on him before he even addressed the media.

Not only does Los Angeles have that historical appeal, but it puts Melo in a great situation moving forward. 

This franchise isn't going to lose its worldwide appeal, as the Purple and Gold are still associated with unbridled success, even after a few disappointing seasons. They remain one of the most valuable organizations in sports, and there's plenty to look forward to in the future. 

Not only will Melo become the face of the franchise when Kobe Bryant retires, but the Lakers look poised to reload rather quickly. They'll have plenty of cap space when a new crop of stars hits the open market next summer, and Julius Randle was a great find at No. 7 in the 2014 NBA draft, as Zach Buckley broke down for Bleacher Report. 

Optimism can reasonably prevail. 

Money, past appeal and future optimism? Sounds like a great pitch. 

But it's still not the No. 1 way to recruit Melo into his home for 2014-15 and beyond. 

 

If Winning Matters...

M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

"Anthony is expected to make up his mind over the weekend, which should allow for a slow-moving and dull free agency period to finally start picking up," writes Michael Lee for the Washington Post. "But his choice really comes down to two things: Does he want to get paid? Or does he want to win?"

If it's the latter, it's hard to make a case for Los Angeles as the No. 1 destination. 

Yes, the Lakers, much like the New York Knicks, have an opportunity to complete a quick rebuild in the summer of 2015, but there are no guarantees. Should Melo sign on, he'd be banking on other stars joining him, ones who would become complementary players and ideally lead to titles. 

There are better options, and they also happen to be safer ones. 

The Chicago Bulls, for example, offer Melo a discounted contract but also an opportunity to immediately chase a title while remaining in the Eastern Conference. They could conceivably throw out a five-man lineup comprised of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Anthony, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, forming a team capable of playing devastating basketball on both ends of the court. 

That's an unbeatable starting five, at least among the realistic options at Anthony's disposal. 

And while Rose might not have been a part of the meetings with the marquee free agent, he may well have done something even more effective. 

"Rose, Chicago's star point guard, happened to be in the middle of his daily workout routine when Bulls officials brought Anthony into the United Center on Tuesday afternoon, according to sources with knowledge of the situation," reported ESPN's Chris Broussard

"Happened to be" completing his routine? Sure, because that was totally a coincidence. 

Maybe it's too much of an assumption, but the best pitch of all involves Melo seeing a healthy Rose looking like his former self. That can't happen during a meeting; it can while he's working out.

But the Bulls aren't the only option with a better shot at winning a title. The Houston Rockets present a similar situation, allowing Melo to team up with Howard and James Harden while mitigating the lesser contract with some tax-free income. Say what you will about the defensive capabilities of that Big Three; it's still a deadly troika.

Could Anthony overlook those teams for the appealing pitch—read: contract—made by the Lakers? Sure. 

However, it's impossible for the Lakers to emerge as the favorites so long as the Knicks are in the picture. 

 

Knicks Still the Favorites

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

All the stars are aligning for New York. 

First, it seems as though Melo and the organization led by Phil Jackson are on the same page, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski

In the meeting that included general manager Steve Mills, Jackson dispelled doubts that he was indifferent about Anthony staying with the Knicks, sources said. New York officials have made it clear to Anthony that they need him on the roster to have a chance to attract star players in free agency, sources said.

After a week of franchises fawning over him during recruiting trips to Chicago, Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony needed to hear that enthusiasm out of the Knicks' top management—and of course needed that max contract extension made available to him.

It's hard not to have confidence in the Zen Master after his early offseason moves. Not only did he bring in Jose Calderon as an upgrade at point guard over Raymond Felton (though it cost Tyson Chandler), but he also flat-out nailed the 2014 NBA draft, which New York wasn't even supposed to participate in. 

Now, the Knicks have offered Melo the biggest contract he could possible receive—five years and $129 million, per Marc Berman of the New York Postand it's getting awfully difficult to see him going elsewhere. 

Should there be pessimism for everyone else? 

Without question. 

Even if we assume the Lakers are the No. 2 team on his list (which is a big assumption given the win-now appeal of Houston and Chicago), they can't offer anything that New York won't match or exceed. The Knicks have the bigger contract offer, they allow Melo to keep his family in The Big Apple and they're capable of rebuilding just like the Lakers. 

"If we've learned one thing from all of this, it's that players—good ones, especially—tend to end up on teams that are willing to pay them as much money as possible," writes Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.

Turning down such a monstrous contract is difficult, especially when discussing a player who has consistently sought big paydays throughout his decade-plus in the Association. 

"He's not going to leave $35 million on the table," claimed an anonymous NBA executive, per Forbes.com's Mark Heisler. "He's going to take the money in New York for the same reason Kyrie Irving took it in Cleveland [signing a $90 million extension.] It’s a lot of money."

Other sources agree. 

"Everywhere I'm hearing is Melo still is a lot about the money," one league source explained to Berman. "That's why people think he'll end up in New York."

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

But let's not allow money to stand as the sole argument. We can't overlook Anthony's off-court motivations, as that's an area in which New York leads the field by a huge margin. 

Remember these comments from Anthony, as relayed by ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein

The average person just sees the opportunity to say that, 'Oh, Melo should go here, Melo should go there. I think he should do this, I think he should do that.' But they don't take into consideration the family aspect of it. Your livelihood. Where you're going to be living at. Do you want your kids to grow up in that place? In that city? Do I want to spend the rest of my career in that situation in that city? So all of that stuff comes into play.

My son goes to school [in New York]. He loves it here. To take him out and take him somewhere else, he has to learn that system all over again, he has to get new friends. And I know how hard it was for me when I moved from New York to Baltimore at a young age. Having to work your way to try to make friends.

This next statement is not hyperbolic. 

Nothing points toward anyone but the Knicks being the favorites in the chase for the high-scoring small forward. While that could change in the coming days with some savvy roster movement and promises, they have all the advantages.

Are the Knicks the prohibitive favorites for Carmelo Anthony?

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The Knicks possess off-court appeal that trumps the historical excellence of the Lakers. They're filling Anthony's ears with Jackson's witticisms and claims that New York has a strong vision for the future. And they're doing this while offering the most money. 

If you're a fan of any other team, avoid getting your hopes up. You'll only be disappointed. 

 

Where do you think Melo goes? Discuss it with me on Twitter and Facebook.

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