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Lakers still ‘linked’ to Carmelo Anthony, but concerns about if they could open a roster spot and Anthony’s ‘conditioning and the overall state of his game’ remain

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The Lakers can’t quite seem to shed themselves of reported interest in Carmelo Anthony, but signing him definitely isn’t a certainty.

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Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Despite having just beaten one of the two teams that improved following his departure, the Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly still interested in Carmelo Anthony, who hasn’t played an NBA game since early November.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Anthony is getting ready to make a decision on what he wants to do next in the NBA, and the Lakers’ fan base still isn’t all the way in the clear:

The Lakers, who have a full roster and would have to waive someone to sign him if he was waived, continue to be tied to Anthony more than any other team. But according to a Lakers source, the fact that the roster is full is not a small obstacle.

Per Amick, it’s also not the only obstacle:

Not only is it unclear how they would clear the roster spot to add Anthony, or if there’s a possible trade to be made there with the Rockets, but a source close to James said Anthony’s conditioning and the overall state of his game are considered key factors here in terms of convincing the Lakers to add the player who had the worst season of his career with the Thunder and wasn’t any better with the Rockets.

But wait there’s more.

Amick goes on to mention that Ivica Zubac’s uptick in productivity will probably save him from being the odd man out if the Lakers were to waive someone, leaving guys like Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley as the most likely candidates to be ousted due to the addition of Anthony. And before anyone asks... No, the Lakers would never waive or trade Moe Wagner or Isaac Bonga in a Carmelo Anthony deal.

As Anthony is still on Houston’s roster, it’s possible they could insist on a trade rather than merely waiving or buying him out. But Houston can insist all they want, it’s still more likely Melo comes back and helps their team than they get anything of value for him (which is to say they absolutely are not getting anything of value for him).

In terms of how a trade might look for the Lakers, Anthony’s and Stephenson’s salaries don’t match up, making things even more complicated. Beasley’s and Anthony’s do, but it’s hard to see the Lakers trading Beasley (who is very close with Kevin Durant and has also shown a skillset that fits within how the Lakers want to play) for Anthony given all the question marks there.

Another thing to keep in mind here is LeBron James. Remember how James said he was willing to play center despite all evidence pointing to the contrary over the course of his career? If not for Chandler’s sudden availability, the Lakers would be in a completely different spot right now. They should keep this in mind if Melo has a sudden change of heart and claims that he is now ready to play defense and/or take on a bench role.

If a player has shown over the course of their career an unwillingness to do something, it’s probably unwise to believe they’ll suddenly realize the error of their ways for your team — especially if giving said player the opportunity to do so costs you a rotation player (speaking of Beasley, and not Stephenson here, of course).

Could Anthony make sense if he’s taking Stephenson’s spot on the roster? Maybe, though it should be pointed out Stephenson hasn’t made any noise about minutes, and it’s probably unlikely Anthony would approach that role similarly. This is really the only way Anthony makes sense. But if acquiring Anthony costs the Lakers Beasley, that’s probably too high a price to pay.

Thus far this season, the Lakers have correctly shown a reluctance to add Anthony to an already somewhat unstable roster, despite LeBron’s public pressure (yes, that’s what it’s been). They should continue do so.

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