Even if they could, should the Lakers go after ‘Melo to pair with Kobe, Nash? No.

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We start this exercise in the hypothetical with this grounded in reality caveat — very few people around the league think Carmelo Anthony is leaving New York next summer as a free agent. Yes, he certainly will opt out of his current deal as he told the New York Observer, and anything can happen in a year, but the conventional wisdom around league front offices is he stays put. He worked too hard to get to NYC and would leave a guaranteed year and $30 million on the table to bolt.

That said, if he leaves, the Lakers are the most likely landing spot. Kobe and Anthony are buddies, he lives there in the off-season, his wife loves it there, the Lakers have cap space… we can go on if you want.

Yes, Dallas is a potential landing spot as are a bunch of other teams with cap space (Charlotte, Philadelphia, Orlando and so on). Plus other teams with trade chips could try to get in the mix (Greg Monroe in Detroit?). But the Lakers are the team most people point to when they talk about ‘Melo leaving the Big Apple.

To me, the bigger question is: Would that really a smart idea for the Lakers?

No, not really.

Not if they are trying to build a title contender.

First, it’s going to take a salary cap high wire act to get Anthony to the Lakers. While it well documented the Lakers only have $12 million on the books next season ($9.7 million of that belonging to Steve Nash) they have massive cap holds for Kobe Bryant ($32 million) and Pau Gasol ($20.2 million). (This assumes the Lakers do not trade Gasol mid-season.) There are also cap holds for Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and others the Lakers might renounce.

The only way for the Lakers to use all that cap space to bring in Anthony is to either renounce the rights to Kobe or Gasol, or get one of them to take a reduced contract and let the other one walk. That second option is the more likely scenario — the Lakers aren’t going to let Kobe go but they will ask him to take a Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan pay cut down to the $10 million range (and despite his earlier comments I expect he will). If that happens the Lakers can sign ‘Melo to a max deal, pair him with Kobe and Nash.

Again, there are a host of ways it could go down but that is the most likely scenario….

And it’s a  terrible one if the Lakers are chasing a ring.

Look at what LA would have: The Lakers would start the 2014-15 season with 30-year-old Anthony, 36-year-old Kobe Bryant and 40-year-old Nash surrounded by a bunch of role players. The best part is all of them are likely running Mike D’Antoni’s system that Anthony chaffed against in New York.

Even if they change systems it wouldn’t matter. The Lakers would have two unconscious gunners who love (and make a fair amount of) bad shots, plus they would be a defensive mess. Their best players would be old, injury prone and in a deep West this roster likely is a middle of the pack seed that would be one-and-done. Even if they keep Gasol somehow it doesn’t change the dynamic. Then in a few years they could try to rebuild around Anthony and his massive contract as his skills are deteriorating.

How would this seem like a good plan to anyone?

The Lakers can take a meeting with Anthony next summer, but he is a terrible rebuilding plan. They can find a better one.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.