Tuesday night, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were already reeling from a disappointing road trip capped off by a loss to former point guard D’Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets. The drama increased when a report about James’ desire to play with Anthony Davis surfaced while the game was still being played, and then James responding to yet another question about Carmelo Anthony once the game was lost.
The thing is, though: James didn’t really say anything that should warrant that speculation.
Maybe I’m missing something, but James saying it’d be “amazing” to play with Davis should be about as surprising as finding out he’d like Denzel Washington to appear in Space Jam 2. Interestingly enough, various other platforms seemed to ignore the literal “duh” that James added in his original quote about Davis.
James’ comments on Melo were a little more specific as he didn’t add “duh” as part of his response. But again, Anthony remains one of James’ closest friends in the league, is all-but unemployed and in the midst of a multi-year epiphany around the NBA that his skillset and mentality are a fatal combination for any team hoping to win with him on the roster.
When James said “There are obviously things that need to be worked out on both sides,” most jumped to the conclusion that he was referring to the Lakers’ roster and some of their on-court troubles. But as Anthony remains a Houston Rocket, there are literally two sides that would need to come to an agreement, and it isn’t like the Lakers or any other team are falling over themselves to offer up anything of value for a net-negative player just because he used to be good, or because he’s James’ buddy.
Even if Houston fails to find a trade partner and simply waives Anthony, there would once again be two sides (Anthony’s camp and the Lakers front office) who would need to come to an agreement not only on a contract but on what role the Lakers would be willing to offer to Melo and whether he could swallow his ego enough to accept it.
As a result of James’ quotes, all kinds of experts on how to translate Bronish (Bronch? Bronan? Bronese?) starting popping up to inform everyone of what he actually meant and, quite frankly, I can’t think of a more useless exercise. And I hate any and all exercise.
What everyone seems to be ignoring is that this isn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers. James signed a longer-term deal that alleviates some of his leverage against the rest of the organization. Jeanie Buss is not Dan Gilbert. Magic Johnson is not Koby Altman. There isn’t the annual threat of James leaving at season’s end and him demanding a trade not even halfway through his contract would be almost as big a knock on himself as it would be on the Lakers.
So if you are going to take up the task to read between each and every line of his quotes, you should probably take those differences into account — and I’ve yet to see that in anyone’s analysis of his responses Tuesday night.
Now, could James have said he was happy with the roster right now? Of course! Could he have said that while he’s pulling for his buddy Carmelo, that he’s also focused on the squad he has around him right now? Absolutely! Could he have said that while playing with Davis sounds fun as hell, he wants to see how this season goes before we get into this summer’s dealings? Okay let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “Duh” it would be fun to play with Davis.
You also have to take into account the context under which last night’s comments came.
Again, the Lakers played shorthanded for an entire road trip and came up well short of expectations for it all the same. James has had to take up more offensive and creative responsibility this season than he probably hoped for just to keep pace in the insanely-competitive Western Conference playoff picture.
Hell, in last night’s game alone, he dealt with his own mortality at the rim a couple times as Jarrett Allen repeatedly either turned him away outright or forced him to at least change his course. All that frustration may have boiled over. Patience has turned into a goal that must be worked for this season, and in that moment, he may simply have taken a step back.
As things currently stand, the Lakers don’t have an empty roster spot and it would be stupid to offer up anything for Carmelo while he’s on Houston’s roster. New Orleans isn’t going to trade Davis until when and if he has official passed on inking a $239 million contract extension this July, and maybe not even then.
Hell, even with the Lakers roster James has to work with now, they’re about to get three key components of the rotation back (Brandon Ingram, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo should return to action in Friday’s game against Davis’ own Pelicans).
This is the roster James has to make work. Thus far this season, they’ve mostly successfully done so. After every loss, these same kinds of questions are going to come back up, and so long as James states the obvious, attempts to translate anything he says into drama seem to be as fruitless as they are tedious.
But as the last 24 hours and the discourse since July have shown, that won’t stop anyone from trying.
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