Kobe Bryant flies back to Los Angeles for Carmelo Anthony’s Lakers visit

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Carmelo Anthony’s free agent tour – which has already hit Chicago, Houston and Dallas – continues to Los Angeles today.

The Lakers can offer a max contract, a glamorous city and a proud tradition of winning.

And, for better or worse, Kobe Bryant.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Los Angeles Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant flew in late Wednesday night from a European vacation so he could attend and play a key part in the team’s pitch to free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony on Thursday, sources with knowledge of the situation said.

Sources indicate the Lakers are enamored with his game and believe he would complement Bryant well. The Lakers hope to pair the two wings with center Pau Gasol, whom they met with on the first day of free agency

the Lakers can pay Gasol more than any other team, and his fondness for the city and playing with Bryant should not be discounted. If the team can add to its roster with Anthony, sources said, Gasol would be far more inclined to re-sign with the Lakers.

Melo and Kobe are friends, so Kobe might actually be a plus here unlike with other free agents.

I’m just not sure Kobe is a total positive selling point. He’s 35 and hasn’t shown he can stay healthy. He’s still inclined to dominate the ball more than he should. And his massive contract extension will limit the Lakers’ ability to upgrade further.

Los Angeles has Pau Gasol’s bird rights, so keeping him is a little easier, but adding new pieces going forward won’t be so simple. And given Gasol’s prominent suitors – Heat, Spurs, Thunder and Bulls – retaining him is no cakewalk, even if Melo joins the fold.

Kobe, Melo and Gasol might be a solid team next year – though aging leaves potential for a massive 2012-13-level disappointment – and the Lakers would probably be thrilled with that trio. I doubt they’re willing to tank hard enough to keep their 2015 draft pick, which goes to the Suns unless it falls in the top five. At that point, nearly any steps toward immediate winning are worthwhile. The Lakers need to draw fans and sell their high-priced tickets.

But what’s in it for Melo, who could earn far more with the Knicks? Los Angeles has an advantage over many markets, but it’s not bigger than New York. And neither team faces a clear road to title contention.

If the Lakers have an edge, it’s Kobe, which is why he’s showing up today.