The internet — and NBA Twitter specifically — just about exploded with schadenfreude on Thursday night when a report dropped that LeBron James wanted the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Carmelo Anthony.
Things are a little more complicated and nuanced than that, but before we get into that, first we should look at one tidbit in the report from Joe Vardon of the Athletic that is worth taking a closer peek at: Some anonymous NBA executive saying that Magic Johnson should “fight” James if he actually is actively trying to get the Lakers to add Anthony (and it’s not clear he is, but more on that in a second):
In the coming days, it will become clear if any market still exists for Anthony, whether it’s L.A. or elsewhere. Multiple league executives questioned it to The Athletic.
“Not really, no,” said one rival exec, granted anonymity to discuss the Lakers’ situation. “If LeBron really wants him, it might not matter. Magic should fight him on it. I know I would.”
One read of this is fairly simple: Despite this exec clearly wanting to sound super-duper tough while not putting his name to something, Johnson may not have to “fight” James on anything, because Vardon’s report and the reporting of others also made it clear that James isn’t actually asking, or planning to ask, Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka to sign Anthony anyway.
That noted, if James’ stance ever changes, and he actually does start actively pushing for the Lakers to sign Anthony — or if that leak was his way of doing so — Johnson and Pelinka absolutely should fight him on it.
Anthony is a future hall-of-famer and was at one time one of the better scorers the NBA has ever seen, but he’s not that anymore. Making things more complicated is that over the past two seasons and in two new situations, Anthony hasn’t shown any level of willingness to subjugate his ego or shot selection in order to better fit into a team construct.
Anthony laughed about the idea of coming off the bench with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and lasted less than 10 games with the Houston Rockets. Maybe the presence of his good friend in James is enough to get Anthony to suddenly transform himself into a role player, but until he does so, his last two stops have offered enough evidence that he won’t that the Lakers should absolutely be skeptical about his addition.
James has a lot of pull with the Lakers, and it’s admirable that he doesn’t want to see his friend’s career languish, but with all due respect to both players and their achievements, that’s also not Johnson’s problem. If James ever goes from wanting Anthony to actively campaigning for him, this executive is right that Johnson should “fight” that. However, based on everything that has been reported so far, that executive is wrong in assuming things will come to that.