Kobe’s Extension Incorrectly Blamed For Lakers Free Agent Failures

Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Melo Anthony

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In the same article on ESPN.com, Verrier wrote that the Lakers are now “the type of team with the brand power and influence to score one of four sitdowns on Carmelo Anthony’s free-agency world tour, but not one he would ever seriously consider playing for.” I found it strange that Verrier proves his point that Melo would “never consider playing” for the Lakers by linking that same sentence to a Jeff Goodman story on ESPN.com that contains the following quote from Anthony:

“I was flip-flopping,” [Anthony] admitted. “It was hard. It was Chicago, but then after I met with L.A., it was L.A.”

Even if Verrier doesn’t believe him, even if he believes it was either the Bulls or Knicks from the start and that Melo must be lying, how can he ignore that Melo also declined to join a Bulls team that unquestionably had a better roster than the team he ultimately re-signed with? There was no realistic scenario that would have allowed the Lakers to sign Melo to the max, retain Pau, and still put together a more talented roster than the one the Bulls currently have. By choosing to remain in New York, we can safely assume that it wasn’t because he felt their roster was better than the Bulls. So why is it fair to say that Melo passed on the Bulls because the Knicks offered him more money but when it comes to the Lakers, he passed on them because of Kobe’s contract?

You can make a similar case with Bosh, who opted to sign a max deal to stay in Miami and passed up the chance to be a title favorite with the Rockets. We don’t really know how much of a chance the Lakers had at signing Bosh. What we know is that he, like Melo, signed with the team that offered him the most money over the one that had the better roster. If Bosh was swayed by the money and the chance to not have to uproot his family, why can’t that be a good enough for reason for why he’s not a Laker either?

At least Kyle Lowry was willing to go on record with his concerns about the Lakers. Here’s what Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling wrote:

In the case of the Lakers, Lowry was concerned because there wasn’t a coach in place, the structure of the team was unclear and winning right away didn’t seem likely.”

The only problem with Lowry’s statement is that he agreed to stay with the Raptors on the second day of free agency. I have a hard time believing that the Lakers would have been willing to offer him that much money or been willing to offer it on the first or second day of free agency. The Lakers were not going to make an offer to Lowry before getting answers from LeBron and Carmelo and those guys took their sweet time before announcing their decisions. Therefore, we can’t blame Kobe for the Lakers not signing Lowry either. I can’t understand why, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, Kobe is being blamed for the Lakers lack of improvement but nobody is blaming Dwight Howard or James Harden for the Rockets inability to sign Melo, Bosh, or Lowry or blaming Derrick Rose for the Bulls missing out on Melo and Kevin Love. Before the start of free agency, Bulls bloggers flirted with the prospect of adding both of them:

 

Instead they signed Pau Gasol, a 34-year-old who missed 55 games over the past two seasons due to issues with his knees and feet, as well as a bout with vertigo. They also signed Nikola Mirtoic and journeyman point guard Aaron Brooks. In order to pull off those signings, they were forced to amnesty Carlos Boozer and are now responsible for around $13 million of his contract for next season. Despite the steep drop-off from expectation to reality, it was still enough to give them the second-best offseason of any team, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge. How is it that the Lakers and Bulls both whiffed in pursuit of the best players available, but David Aldridge has the Lakers with the seventh-worst offseason and the Bulls with the second-best?

**Sidenote: Aldridge ranked the Celtics fourth and the Lakers 24th. Despite their owner hinting “there could be some fireworks” at the start of the offseason, somehow the Celtics drafting Marcus Smart and James Young, signing Evan Turner, and trading for Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller was enough to rank them ahead of 26 other teams, including 20 spots higher than the Lakers? If that’s all it takes to have the fourth-best offseason then why even bother ranking them? 

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