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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers: Striking Out On Carmelo Anthony May Lead to Pursuit of Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

The Carmelo Anthony saga has played out much more favorably for the Los Angeles Lakers than previously anticipated. Anthony’s brass met for nearly three hours with several figures of high stature in the Lakers’ organization and the meeting reportedly went extremely well. Mitch Kupchak concluded the meeting by walking Anthony out to his car, leaving the Lakers feeling confident in their chances to land the superstar.

Anthony finished out his day meeting with Phil Jackson in Los Angeles to discuss his plan for the New York Knicks moving forward as well, which also reportedly positively impacted Anthony. When things began to calm down for the day, Los Angeles wanted to be clear in their willingness to pay Anthony the maximum contract of 4 years/$97 million. Certainly a hefty contract for a player who has never made the NBA Finals, but is mandatory if the Lakers have any shot at landing him. What is even more remarkable is that in the final year of the maximum contract, Anthony will be owed nearly $27 million, accounting for close to half of the entire current salary cap. Furthermore, Mark Medina suggested Anthony is intrigued by Kobe Bryant‘s recent contract extension stating:

Whether Anthony decides to sign in Los Angeles remains to be seen, but the Lakers must have a plan to fall back on if he decides to sign elsewhere. This plan may include certain player who goes by the nickname of “Born Ready” and that is none other than the infamous Lance Stephenson.

Coming off an outstanding season, in basketball terms, Stephenson lead the struggling Indiana Pacers through the rough second half of the season to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In the Playoffs, Stephenson continued his stellar play in attempts to mask Roy Hibbert‘s embarrassing struggles in the beginning rounds to face off against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Due to his childish actions however, Stephenson scared off a bunch of potential suitors when he hit free agency on July 1st. Despite his actions, Stephenson is still seeking his enormous payday, but I’m not sure Indiana is willing to pay him his requested $10 million per year salary.

The Pacers originally offered him an overly generous five-year/$44 million contract to remain in Indy under Larry Bird‘s tutelage. When Stephenson declined, the Pacers went out and signed CJ Miles to a rich four-year/$18 million contract, possibly to foreshadow the departure of Stephenson in the near future. This deal has out ruled the possibility for Stephenson to receive the $10 million per year due to the contracts Indiana is already tied up in. Of course, a few roster moves can free up the space, but I do not expect Bird to give in anytime soon.

Therefore, the Lakers are in perfect position to pursue the exciting Stephenson if they end up striking out on the superstar players of Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Kobe Bryant along with every Laker fan refuses to have a repeat of last season, so management is basically forced into improving the roster no matter how free agency pans out. Shooting for the mid-tier free agents will become the plan of action, leading to a possible negotiation with Stephenson very soon.

Mitch Kupchak is unlikely to offer him a contract with as much longevity as Indiana, but overpaying him in the short-term could be enough to persuade Stephenson to sign a contract. A 2 year/$24 million contract seems to make the most sense as this gives keeps flexibility for the future, while making the Lakers more competitive until Bryant’s contract expires.

Additionally, it opens the door for at least one more mid-tier free agent such as Luol Deng, Isaiah Thomas or Trevor Ariza. There would likely even be sufficient room to convince Pau Gasol to remain in Los Angeles for a couple more years.

Joseph Crevier covers the Los Angeles Lakers for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RealJoeCrev, and Facebook or add him to your network on Google.