This time, it’s the right time.
When the Lakers made a free-agent pitch to Carmelo Anthony in 2014, they envisioned him as the next superstar to wear their uniform, that he’d be a perfect complement to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, that he could be a Hollywood star off the court and a winner on it.
Instead, he went back across the country and returned to New York.
The miss on Anthony accelerated the Lakers’ path into despair. They won only 21 games the following season. But the Knicks, who signed him to a five-year maximum deal that summer, wouldn’t sniff the playoffs during the length of that deal either.
This time, the two sides reunited without any fancy movie trailers, linking up seven years later with a clearer set of plans and, probably, a better sense of timing.
Here are seven reasons why this version of Carmelo Anthony is a better fit:
1) Anthony found himself in Portland, nearly forced out of the league because he was kind of caught between stations in the NBA. Was he a star? Was he a role player? Injuries and changing roles with the Trail Blazers opened the chance for him to iron that all out.
2) In Portland, Anthony had two straight seasons of at least 38.5% shooting from three-point range at a decent volume. Plus, at least in the NBA’s bubble, it felt like every time Portland needed to make a big shot and the ball swung to him, he drilled it.
3) He only started three games last season and still didn’t see his production suffer a serious dip. He wasn’t able to do this in 2018 with the Rockets and it knocked him out of the NBA’s universe for more than a year.
4) At this stage in LeBron James’ career, any extra motivation for winning is a welcome addition. Helping get Anthony his first NBA championship would be, sentimentally at least, a special achievement for a player like James who has already seemingly accomplished it all.
5) With the expectation that Anthony Davis will need to play more center this season, using Carmelo Anthony in lineups with AD and James should help provide some defensive cushion for a player who will crack 42,000 career minutes this NBA season.
6) The early returns on free agency have a lot of people looking for a favorite in the West, the fallout from last season’s injury-riddled playoffs leaving a blank slate for a team to slide in. The Lakers added a lot of firepower on Tuesday, putting them, at least talent-wise, back near the top.
7) The most important thing is that Anthony seems to understand what this deal is all about. He knows he’s a bigger name than the role he’ll need to play. Coming to peace with that in the NBA is much harder than people realize. Learning to operate in a way that helps winning while not dominating the ball takes time — the Lakers will need to work through this with Russell Westbrook too. And in the last two seasons, Anthony seems to have found his way.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.