The call could go something like this.
“What’s up, Melo? Man, you won’t believe who they’re giving Lakers jerseys to these days. We should change our name to the Los Angeles Charmins.”
“Don’t even get me started, Kobe. You should see these stiffs I have to play with every night. We’re not the New York Knicks. We’re the New York Knick. I’m good, but I ain’t good enough to win playing one-on-five.”
As far as we know, such a conversation hasn’t actually happened between Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
Maybe it should.
Bryant deserves to go out better than this.
Anthony needs to realize that the prime of one’s career comes with an expiration date.
For now, these two superstars are bogged down on storied franchises enduring truly wretched seasons. If the NBA had relegation, Kobe’s Lakers and Melo’s Knicks would be candidates for the D-League. Things can change quickly, of course (just ask Cleveland), but a championship for either Bryant or Anthony looks far, far away.
Given their hefty contracts — which, by their own doing, is part of the problem — it would be tough to work out a trade for either of them. Even if there was a championship-contending team willing to take on one of the game’s top players, any benefit would likely be more than offset by having to give up half their roster to make it work under the salary cap.
But considering all the road kill that’s taking up roster space in New York (the Knicks were 4-20 and losers of 10 in a row heading into Friday night’s game at Boston) and Los Angeles (the Lakers were a slightly less terrible 6-16 as they prepared to face the NBA champion Spurs), perhaps one of those teams could find a way to make a Bryant-Anthony partnership work.
If it’s the Knicks, there would be the added perk of Bryant reuniting with his coach from the Lakers’ championship years, Phil Jackson, who’s now running things in New York.
Barring a New York-LA trade — and, we’ll admit, it doesn’t seem likely to happen — Bryant will have to be satisfied with individual achievements playing for a Lakers franchise that has become a dysfunctional mess.
Going into the game at San Antonio, he was just 30 points from tying Michael Jordan for third place on the career list at 32,292. If Bryant has a couple of more seasons like this, he’ll make a run at the second guy on the list, Karl Malone (36,928). Not even Kareen Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) is totally out of reach.
One thing’s for sure: Bryant still has plenty of game after missing most of last season recovering first from an Achilles injury, then going down with a knee injury.
Granted, his shooting percentage is ugly, but that’s to be expected given every opponent knows he’s about the only player on the Lakers who can beat them. Bryant was averaging more than 25 points a game, which is essentially unheard of for someone his age. Of the NBA’s top 10 career scorers, only Karl Malone managed a season with a 25-point average after his 36th birthday.
While Bryant has professed to remaining patient during the Lakers’ rebuilding process, his emotions boiled over at a practice Thursday when he ripped into his teammates, calling them “soft as Charmin” during an expletive-filled tirade that was caught on video.
Critics will say that both Bryant and Anthony are getting what they deserve for signing huge contracts that hampered efforts to assemble a talented roster around them. Anthony, especially, is ripped for not pursuing a discounted deal from another team this past summer — even Bryant’s Lakers — rather than signing a five- year, $124 million deal to stay with a team he had to know was still far away from being a title contender.
Anthony’s deal includes a no-trade clause. The New York Post reported Friday that the 30-year-old would be willing to waive the provision if the right deal came along. Anthony denied the report, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility given the Knicks’ record and further reports of a rift with his teammates.
Under NBA rules, anyone signing as a free agent can’t be traded until Dec. 15.
For those who say one ball wouldn’t be enough on a team that included Bryant and Anthony, remember how well the two friends meshed when they played together at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where they helped lead “Team Redeem” to a gold medal.
Come on, someone, make it happen.
These guys are too good for this.
They deserve each other.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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