Lakers News: Carmelo Anthony Explains Pros & Cons Of Centerless Lineups With Him & LeBron James
(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

The discourse over the Los Angeles Lakers’ small-ball lineups continue as injuries and the coronavirus (COVID-19) forced LeBron James to play heavy minutes in the center position.

In the last two games, the Lakers had only one nominal center available to play in DeAndre Jordan after COVID-19 sidelined Dwight Howard for a week and a knee injury ruled out Anthony Davis for at least a month.

In those games, the Lakers averaged 23 minutes with the All-Star forward on the floor and Jordan sitting on the bench, and just 13.4 minutes with both players sharing the court.

L.A.’s centerless lineups usually include Carmelo Anthony sliding into the power forward position. That makes the units particularly undersized but facilitates floor spacing, which Anthony thinks can give the Lakers an advantage over their rivals.

“The strength of it is we can switch everything, we’re active out there, we force other teams to get their big men off the court,” the 37-year-old said. “We have the ability to space the court and create mismatches with the way that we’re able to think the game out there when we’re on the floor together.

“But on the flip side of that, sometimes we get caught into the action on the ball or away from the ball and offensive rebounds for other teams,” the forward pointed out.

Anthony says the lack of size puts extra pressure on the Lakers’ backcourt to run back and help rebound the ball.

“We might be really small at times with me and LeBron out there at the four/five with three other guards, so we put a lot of onus on the other three guys and the other guards to come back and rebound,” Anthony said.

“50/50 basketballs, loose basketballs, the hustle game, those are things that I think teams see and say OK, let’s try to attack it from that point. Keep them in the pick-and-roll, keep them on the ball so the backside is a smaller guard having to box out and rebound on the defensive end.

“So those are just some of the things that I would say that may be a disadvantage.”

Trevor Ariza believes in Lakers’ lineups with James at center

Although the Lakers’ centerless lineups come with disadvantages, Trevor Ariza thinks L.A. can still benefit from using the units thanks to James’ physicality and basketball IQ.

“I think that would be an advantage. He’s just as big, just as strong,” Ariza said after the 115-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

“He’s used to playing physical and playing through contact. I think it would be a pretty easy adjustment for him. He’s a student of the game. Very smart individual, smart player. I don’t think it would be much of a challenge for him to convert to doing the things that he was doing today.”

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