The Los Angeles Lakers have assembled perhaps their most star-studded roster ever for the 2021-22 season, even if many of those stars have dimmed in recent years.
Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan and others have decided to join (or re-join) LeBron James and Anthony Davis in L.A. in an all-out push to win the franchise's 18th championship. This version of the Lakers has a combined 57 All-Star appearances, and six members of the team can call themselves NBA champions.
So how does a blockbuster roster like this come together? A couple of the newest Lakers are shedding light on that process.
We'll start with Anthony, the well-traveled scoring machine who is playing for his sixth team since joining the NBA in 2003. He and James have been friends for years now, but this is the first time the two will be playing together outside of the Olympics and All-Star games. The way Anthony tells it, James reached out to him directly this summer, per the Million Dollaz Worth of Game podcast (h/t NBC Sports' Dan Feldman):
"It was a real call. I wasn't expecting it from him. I mean, we talked about it years before, about getting with each other. But I heard it, and that's my brother. I've known him since we was 15, 16. I heard it. 'Yo, I need you.' Say less. You ain't gotta say nothing. I already knew what time it is when you hit me direct."
Anthony already made similar comments about his bond with James earlier in September, telling the New Yorker's Vinson Cunningham that partnering with James "didn't take that much convincing, because I knew this was our chance to do something special together."
It's going to be tough for the Lakers to find balance on a roster full of ball-dominant players, but having strong existing relationships should help with chemistry as the team shapes its identity. Anthony, a 10-time All-Star, proved he can be an effective bench scorer last year with Portland, scoring 13.4 points per game on 40.9 percent shooting from the beyond the arc. He'll almost certainly be asked to play a similar role this year.
Wayne Ellington might not be as big of a name as Anthony, but he could have a better shot at cracking the starting lineup. The 33-year-old shooting guard is in his second stint with the Lakers after playing for the purple and gold in the 2014-15 season.
For Ellington, returning to L.A. was an easy choice because he saw a need for a sharpshooter in the lineup, per the Noble and Roosh Show podcast (h/t Silver Screen and Roll's Jacob Rude):
"I felt like what I bring to the table was needed with the roster that was being put together, the roster that they had especially after Russ came on board. My shooting and my movement without the ball is something that will definitely be a complement to this roster.”
Ellington, who shot 42.2 percent from three-point range with Detroit last season, also mentioned on the podcast that he looked at joining the Brooklyn Nets this offseason, but he noted the team "already has some shooters that do some similar things like I do" and decided to cast his lot with L.A. He's not a lock to make the starting lineup, but his ability to provide spacing will be critical in a backcourt featuring Westbrook.
Even if Ellington doesn't end up a starter, he isn't likely to care. Both he and Anthony are NCAA champions, but an NBA title has remained elusive. There are only so many ticks left on the clock for them, as Ellington is entering his 13th season and Anthony is on his 19th. If they can accept potentially reduced roles on a talented, veteran-heavy roster, it will only increase their chances of getting a ring.