The Los Angeles Lakers remain the second favorites for the NBA championship in 2022 on the back of their slow start. The 2020 NBA champs are 5-3 after a victory against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.
The Lakers had a major offseason that saw them bring in Russell Westbrook while returning Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard to the roster following their contributions to last year’s title run. The likes of Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk and Kent Bazemore also signed on in the summer.
Frank Vogel’s side is only second to the New York sports betting sites favorite Brooklyn Nets on the NBA odds chart and Kyrie Irving’s vaccination holdout could end up strengthening their chances if the point guard opts to forego the entire campaign.
It will be interesting to see how things play out for Los Angeles, with the Utah Jazz and resurgent Golden State Warriors looking quite strong out West. In the Eastern Conference, 2020 NBA finalists, the Miami Heat, are making a strong case while the Chicago Bulls are off to a surprising start following their acquisition of DeMar DeRozan.
Another player who joined the Lakers during the offseason: Carmelo Anthony. This move was several years in the making and Anthony will have what could be his final shot at a title alongside close friend LeBron James.
The veteran forward has made a great start to life as a Laker. He scored 23 points in a win against the Houston Rockets on Sunday and followed that up with 15 on Tuesday in a close 117-115 win. If the Lakers are to come out of the West and win a title this season, Anthony’s play will be important.
There were questions over his willingness to adapt when he joined the Lakers, given how things went during his short tenure with the Rockets, despite showing his value as a bench player for the Portland Trail Blazers over the span of two seasons.
While there’s been no drama over Anthony’s role for a while, he’s still criticized on that front and attempted to clear things up in a recent interview.
“I think people don’t really understand me,” he said, per ESPN. “I think there’s a misconception out there about me and not being able to adapt to situations. But I’m easily adaptable, man, to any situation.”
Anthony, the No.3 overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, averaged over 20 points for the first 15 years of his professional career and has since broken into the top 10 NBA all-time scorers list. He was given the superstar treatment in Denver and in New York with the Knicks. However, things have changed since the failed partnership with Paul George in OKC.
The 37-year-old would join the Thunder in 2017/18 after six seasons with the Knicks, playing 78 games as a starter for the team before they got bounced from the playoffs in the first round. He frowned at taking up a bench role back then, letting a reporter know that wasn’t something he was willing to do.
He would play 12 games for the Rockets the following season, starting just two of them, before getting cut. He spent over a year without a team as it appeared he had the reputation of a player unwilling to settle for anything less than a starting role in the NBA.
The Blazers brought him back and made him a starter before having him play from the bench last season. He’s finally in Los Angeles and has the best chance of winning a title since a Kobe-led Lakers side defeated the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals in 2009.
Carmelo is averaging 16.7 points on 50.0 percent shooting and 52.2 percent from three-point range for the Lakers this season as a bench player. He’s even doing work on the defensive end too, much to the surprise of his coach.
“I didn’t expect him to have a defensive performance like he did tonight,” Vogel said after the first win over Houston on the weekend. “It was great. I mean, forget about the steals and blocks and strips. He’s always good with his hands. But he’s in the right position. When you watch him on tape coming into this year, Iike, the effort’s there. He plays hard on that side of the ball. …
“And when he’s providing that kind of performance on the defensive side of the ball, with the way he’s shooting it, he’s a huge part of our win tonight.”
“I think for me now it’s just about being mentally prepared for whatever is being thrown at us. And the rest will take care of itself,” Anthony added. “It’s basketball at that point. If you’re open, shoot it. If not, make a play for yourself, make a play for others. The more that I can simplify the game of basketball, the easier the game becomes, especially at this stage of your career.
“It was all about me being able to adapt. I’m always going back to just being able to adapt to whatever situation that I’m put in.”