In the space of three minutes, Carmelo Anthony showed what made him one of the greatest goalscorers in league history… and what made him desirable for the Lakers this summer.
Whether it was a jumper drifting to his right, exploiting a shift in the post, or knocking down a midrange fade, Anthony exhibited a scoring ability that the Lakers did not have outside of LeBron James. and Anthony Davis in recent seasons and that will prove to be invaluable this season.
“We brought him here for a reason,” said head coach Frank Vogel. “He attacks the good games. He’s going to get the green light. He will also help us in this regard. Obviously, he’ll also be a ground spacer when the ball is in the hands of Russ and LeBron, a lot. That’s what we love about Melo is that it has this versatility.
The Lakers ultimately lost two 0-2s this preseason with a 117-105 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday as James and Russell Westbrook watched from the bench for a second straight game. And in the grand scheme of things, Anthony going 4 out of 10 for eight points in 17 minutes won’t make the ticker at ESPN’s low on Thursday.
But Anthony’s skills are ones the Lakers didn’t have in the James-Davis era outside of the Big Two. Never has a player existed alongside James and Davis who hasn’t relied heavily on them to score in one way or another. In his debut alongside Anthony Davis on the front row in the starting lineup, Anthony showed an ability to create his own shot – especially in the position where he has been so proficient in his career – an option that will prove useful throughout the coming year. .
“He looked good,” Vogel said. “He didn’t have space to work in the station because we didn’t have the space properly. We didn’t do a lot of post-offensive attacks in our training camp. We’ve kind of opened things up and played more for the movement this year. So when he brought the ball down low, he didn’t have the proper space. We’re going to clean this up. But I thought he was moving well.
Anthony did not play in the Lakers’ loss to the Nets on Sunday, Wednesday being his debut. As will be the case throughout the preseason and regular season, Wednesday has been a felt process for Anthony, especially alongside Davis as the pair learn to complement each other.
“I think there’s a lot of positive in that,” Anthony said of playing alongside Davis. “It’s different playing against him and scouting him rather than being on the pitch with him. Get a feel for where he likes the ball, a feel for how we can play together. Often in the field, we are very interchangeable in our positions. It’s just an idea of the game, something we have to get used to.
If the Lakers commit to playing small with Davis at center this season, which remains unanswered, Anthony’s playing time could directly increase. Once one of the best small forwards in the league, Anthony’s game has evolved with the modern era as he has become a viable ground-spacing striker in the later stages of his career.
For a Lakers team that will have a spacing bounty with James and Westbrook sharing the floor for big chunks this season – and in the wake of Trevor Ariza’s injury announcement on Wednesday night – Anthony will be of great value to this team.
“It was good,” Davis said of playing alongside Anthony. “But me and him, working together trying to figure out why we’re doing it on both sides of the floor, a little hesitation from both of us.” We’ve never played together before, so we’re trying to figure that out. But we talk to each other constantly. We have the bench that speaks to us. The more we communicate about what we want to do, the easier it will be as the season progresses. “
The Lakers certainly know they need to improve after another frustrating performance in many ways on Wednesday. But the preseason remains on the process and veterans Lakers, who have yet to see James make his season debut and Westbrook make his debut with the Lakers, aren’t rushing things.
Anthony, as much as any Laker, constantly preaches patience for the Lakers in this regard.
“At this point in the season it’s about understanding and solving the problems and trying to get everyone back on the pitch at the same time,” said Anthony. “So different formations, different styles of play with the staff who are there. We’re just making it out, man. This is the second preseason game. We don’t even have two weeks to do training camp and preseason, so everything will be fine. We will find out.
The Lakers will continue to slow things down this preseason. But with each passing game, they’re revealing a bit more about who they’ll be this season. Anthony finally made his debut in the purple and gold on Wednesday and offered another look at what could make this Lakers team special this season.
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