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Laker Trade Talk: Is Carmelo Anthony Coming to Hollywood?

With the NBA trade deadline just two weeks away (February 24th) the trade jabber that surfaces early in the season generally intensifies around the all-star break and this season is no different in regards to the talk and rumors. However, this year is a little different because of the publicity and how public the trade talks have become in the Carmelo Anthony saga.  Anthony who is in his final year of his contract with the Denver Nuggets stated publicly that he would be interested in “teaming up” with other NBA superstars just like his buddy Lebron James did when he went to South Beach and the Miami Heat to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. After learning about Anthony’s desires, the Denver Nuggets began to engage in trade discussions (to assure that if Anthony was going to leave, they would at least get something in return) and the talk centered around three teams the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Now, after three months of the season have passed by and the Nets out of the trade discussions (owner Mikhail Prokhov ended the discussions a little less than a month ago) Anthony is still a Nugget (mainly because Denver wants a couple of first round draft picks and young players in return). With the Knicks struggling to come up (after New Jersey pulled out Anthony stated that he would only sign a contract extension with the Knicks) with a suitable trade package, the Nuggets reached out to Lakers recently. According to league sources, the trade discussions center on Lakers Andrew Bynum just as it did before the season started.  The talks between the Nuggets and Lakers are in the early stages there a plenty of hurdles and contemplations to overcome.

Why is Denver talking to the Lakers now?

There are a couple of reasons why Denver wanted to involve the Lakers, the first and foremost reason being that as mentioned above the Nuggets are running out of time (trade deadline) if they are going to get anything in return for Anthony. Second, knowing that Anthony wants to go to New York (his hometown; though according to reports a move to the Lakers would acceptable) and with the talks with the Knicks moving at a snail’s pace Denver probably figured it could use a little leverage in the discussion to entice further discussions. It helps Denver’s situation that just a week or so ago former general manager and all-time Laker great Jerry West, former minority owner and all-time Laker great Magic Johnson and current Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak stated that the Lakers might need to make a deal. Early last week Kupchack following the Lakers dropping four of the previous seven games including  two straight to Boston and Sacrament conceded publicly that he was open to making a deal, “Yes…I may have to look into a trade but I’m not saying we have [yet]. We have not been playing up to our level and I don’t know why. Maybe its complacency. I’m not sure.” According to sources last week the Lakers contacted the Charlotte Bobcats about a potential Ron Artest trade for either Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace (I’ll discuss other Laker trade talk and rumors in another blog).

 Could Kobe and Melo co-exist?

The answer is yes and according to ESPN Carmelo and Kobe became friends during the US’s Olympic Gold Medal run in 2008. I really can’t believe that this is even a issue, first and foremost Kobe wants to win (I’m not saying they need or should make this trade, that will be discussed further down) and second of all I haven’t heard too many rumblings from Gasol and Artest about Kobe being selfish since they have joined the squad. I’m not saying there haven’t instances where Kobe hasn’t tried to do too much because there have been (however, some cases the problem has been the team being stagnant and some players such as Artest have struggled so in those cases Kobe has asserted himself even more).  Also, Kobe is 32 years old and though he probably has a few years left of playing elite basketball he can’t carry the team consistently anymore.

Why would the Lakers complete the deal?

If I was Mitch Kupchak or was in his position, I wouldn’t partake in the deal unless Denver or a third team would be willing to give up a reliable big-man to essentially replace Bynum (it wouldn’t have to be a starter because Gasol could start at center and either Anthony or Odom at power forward.) However , to answer the question who wouldn’t want a four-time all-star and all-NBA performer that puts up career numbers like Anthony’s 24.7 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG, 45.6% FG, 30.8% 3PT and 80% FT (this season Anthony’s numbers are similar to his career numbers: 24.6PPG 7.8 RPG 2.8 APG, 44.2 %FG, 82%FT, 30.6% 3PT). Anthony, who will turn 27 years old in May, has been a prolific scorer throughout his career and has many dimensions to his game. Anthony is hard-nosed player who always plays hard, can post on offense, hit spot-up three pointers and explode to the rim on drives. Also, Anthony has the ability to rebound (has 80 career double-doubles) and is extremely strong allowing him to play the power forward position if necessary. A concern about Melo’s game is his defense, though he has the ability to play post defense against most opposing small forwards (with the exception of possibly Lebron James and Paul Pierce) Anthony’s lack of defensive intensity and foot speed hurts him.  Anthony has never garnered all-NBA defense acclimation in his seven years of NBA service. However, Anthony is an extremely clutch player and has an uncanny ability to perform in intense pressure situations. Anthony’s career playoff numbers are similar to his regular season numbers 24.5 PPG, 81.8 %FT, 42.4% FG and 33.9% 3PT though he stepped up last year and produced 30.7 PPG 8.5 RPG, 3.2 APG and 2 steals (a game). Another possible concern is Anthony hasn’t played 80 regular-season games since the 2005-06 season.

The only other reason that I can think of, is that the Lakers brass doesn’t think the Lakers can win the title as currently constructed (right now I’m 50-50 on that probability; I’ll discuss the Lakers chances in an upcoming blog).  Apparently, some of the Lakers front office personnel believe that Artest  (Artest has produced career low numbers so far in minutes 28.4, rebounds 3.1, points 8.2 and assists 1.9 (actually it is slightly above his career worst which is 1.8))won’t be able overcome his early struggles and be a key component in this year’s playoff run. As I said in other blogs, Artest has picked up his defensive intensity in the last few games (Artest played well defensively against San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and reportedly hounded Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who leads the league in scoring) and had a decent game offensively versus the New Orleans Hornets.

At the end of the trade deadline will Anthony be a Laker?

Extremely doubtful, though the deal is practical as Anthony for Bynum straight-up is doable under current NBA trade rules. Even though Anthony is a league superstar and would allow the Lakers do different things offensively, the way the Lakers are constructed their best asset is their height and length and defense which Bynum is a big part. Though Bynum’s health is always an issue (he’s missed 25 games this season and 187 games in his six year career), Bynum is still only 23 years old and is the low-post threat (both offensively and defensively) the Lakers need. According to the Kamentzky brothers of ESPN Los Angeles, Bynum still has strong support from inside the organization starting with VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss who drafted Bynum out high school. Bynum has produced 70 double-doubles in his 305 career games (213 starts) and averages 10.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.2 ORPG, 1.5 BLK and shoots 56.8% from the field. Besides his health, Bynum’s achilles heel is his free throw for his career Bynum is shooting under 70% though he shot 70.7% and 73.9% (respectively) from the line the last two years.  In addition, according to a source, Lakers coach Phil Jackson would prefer the Lakers not make a dramatic move until the conclusion of the current road trip which still include trips to Boston (Thursday), New York (Friday), Orlando (Sunday), Charlotte and Cleveland.

Information from the OC Register, ESPN Los Angeles, Yardbarker.com, LA Times and ESPN.