L.A. Return? NBA Execs Predict ‘Wide-Open’ Future for Lakers’ Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony, Lakers

Getty Carmelo Anthony, Lakers

When the NBA season ended for the Lakers this month, forward Carmelo Anthony looked ahead to his future with a level of uncertainty appropriate for a 37-year-old who had just wrapped his 19th year in the league. Would he be back with the Lakers? “I don’t even know,” Anthony said. “I haven’t thought about next season at this point. I’m speaking very truthful and honest here. I haven’t even started thinking about my decision about next season, or what’s gonna happen, or where I’m at.”

Retirement is a possibility. Around the league, though, it’s believed that Anthony will play at least one more year, having shown himself to be a useful option as a backup forward who can shoot, having knocked down 37.5% of his 3-pointers this season, after making 40.9% in Portland last year. That could be in Los Angeles, even with the rough season that the Lakers underwent after entering with such high expectations. He was excellent, remember in home games for the Lakers, shooting 42.7% from the 3-point arc, making only 31.9% on the road.

“There is a comfort level with living in L.A. and playing there,” one NBA source said. “The starting point on him coming back and not retiring is signing on with the Lakers and hoping that they fix the roster and the coaching situation. But it’s wide-open.”

Anthony could slide to the other locker room at Crypto.com Arena and suit up with former Thunder teammate and friend Paul George with the Clippers, especially if he thinks that team is championship-ready. But the prevailing thought is that if Anthony is in Los Angeles, it will be with the purple-and-gold.

Knicks a Longshot but Nets a Real Possibility

What if he plays and decides to exit L.A.? It has been suggested that Anthony could seek to close out his career with the Knicks, the team for which he played seven seasons, earning an All-Star spot each year. If the goal is to return to his roots, that makes sense. But not if he wants to win and be part of a long playoff run before he hangs up his sneakers. Anthony has been out of the first round of the playoffs only twice in his career, and made it as far as the conference finals only once, in 2009 while with Denver.

There’s not much incentive for the Knicks to pursue Anthony, either.

“With the Knicks, it does not make a lot of sense to bring back Melo if they’ve got Cam Reddish and (Julius) Randle and (R.J.) Barrett and Fournier and Obi Toppin,” one East GM told Heavy. “It’s crowded for minutes. But if they move one of those guys, then obviously he could be a fit, he would be a positive story for them. Until Thibs benches him like Kemba of course.”

If Anthony wants to get back to his roots, according to executives around the league, the Nets stand out as the big opportunity. Anthony was born in Brooklyn.

“If he wants to go back to the area, the Nets stuff will pop up again,” the GM said. “He’d probably rather be there than back with the Knicks. He won a gold medal with Kevin Durant and Kyrie (Irving) and they wanted to sign him (in 2019) but the front office wanted more defense. Now, he’s kind of shown he can play a role as a 3-point shooter and they need to add more shooting because they’re worried about Joe Harris to start the season. If he leaves the Lakers, there will be interest on both sides with him and the Nets. He could win there.”

Harris had a setback after ankle surgery this season.

Anthony was prepared to sign with the Nets in 2019, after Durant and Irving landed in Brooklyn as free agents, and both stars wanted to bring him aboard. Brooklyn never made a move on him, though, and Anthony wound up starting the season as a free agent before later signing with the Blazers. He would be a fit as a stretch-4 off the bench and could be a useful player at least until Harris returns.

Could Celtics, Heat Have Anthony Interest?

There probably are not too many other opportunities for Anthony to find a spot with a contender. We can be sure he won’t land in Denver, where he asked out in 2010, leading to his eventual trade to the Knicks. And we can be sure that the Sixers are out—Anthony blamed, and perhaps rightly so, general manager Daryl Morey for the way his career unraveled after just 10 games in Houston in 2018 (Morey had brought him to the Rockets), which led to a one-year exile from the NBA altogether.

Two other East teams were mentioned as darkhorses: The Celtics and Heat.

Anthony certainly would be amenable to a season in Miami, playing with veterans like Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, as well as Bam Adebayo. “That is one place I could see both sides saying it makes sense,” a Western Conference executive said. “But only if Miami makes a trade. They have a lot of young guys who need minutes and they have to figure out how that will be sorted. If it is Melo or, say, Caleb Martin, they’re going to keep building up Martin.”

And the Celtics? There was some consideration of signing Anthony from the Celtics in 2019, when some in the organization felt that team needed more veterans on a youth-addled bench. Team president Danny Ainge was not among them, though, so the notion of bringing Anthony to Boston never got too far.

That could change under Brad Stevens.

“If they make a run here and get to the conference finals or the Finals, he’s a solid option as a veteran shooter who can fill a small role,” the West executive said. “If you’re (Jayson) Tatum or (Jaylen) Brown, they’d welcome a veteran like that. They have young shooters that they are not playing and maybe they prioritize those guys. But he’d be a security blanket.”

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