LeBron James was addressing a youth team.
But it sure sounds as if the Lakers superstar could have been talking to his friend Carmelo Anthony.
Hall of Famers and some of the best players to ever play the game came off the bench – or didn’t play. That don’t mean you ain’t good. There’s guys in the NBA that don’t play. Does that mean they’re not good? They got to the NBA because they were sorry? They’re just playing a role. If you don’t want a role, play tennis or play golf. Because then you can do what the f— you want to do, and then you’ve got nobody else to blame because it’s only an individual sport. If that’s what you want to do, play tennis or play golf. But if you want to play a team sport, there’s going to be things that you’ve got to give up to get what you want.
Maybe that will change in Houston.
Anthony admitted he initially thought getting bought out carried a stigma. His family had to convince him to take a buyout so he could join the Rockets. Anthony gets more money and a spot on the team he desired all along. But he was worried how it’d look.
It seems he carries similar reservations about coming off the bench. It’s not as glamorous as starting. Perhaps he’s past those hang-ups, too, though.
But Anthony explained he came to view getting waived as a fleeting moment. Coming off the bench would happen game after game.
Again, it’s unclear how his prior worries will affect him in Houston. James Harden is convinced he’ll bring out the best in Anthony. Chris Paul is another friend who might connect differently with Anthony than Russell Westbrook and Paul George did. Mike D’Antoni – who coached Anthony with the Knicks – will bring a different element than Billy Donovan did, for better or worse.
And LeBron is implicitly normalizing the idea of Anthony not starting.
At this point in his career, coming off the bench probably maximizes Anthony’s contributions. He can lead a second-unit offense without taking as many touches from more efficient teammates like Harden and Paul, and Anthony’s defensive limitations will be less exploitable. Maybe it won’t work as hoped, but Anthony being willing to try offers his team its best hope of winning.
But he still sounds like someone who, to borrow from LeBron, who should play tennis or golf.
To be fair, this also easier for LeBron to say. He’s so good, he doesn’t have to sacrifice much. Teams maximize their output by bending other players’ roles around him.
But I don’t think Anthony can match LeBron’s level of play, so Anthony must figure out something else.