LOS ANGELES – Carmelo Anthony realized the time was finally right to join forces with his friend LeBron James.
Whether James and the veteran-led Los Angeles Lakers can help Anthony win his first NBA championship remains to be seen.
“Most people will say we should have gotten together years ago, early in our career, but we were on two different paths. It just felt like right now was the best time,” Anthony said.
He and James have known each other since high school and were part of the star-studded 2003 draft class. James went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers out of high school, while Anthony was the third pick by the Denver Nuggets after leading Syracuse to its first NCAA title.
“Bron came to me and said the time is now and that we have to make it happen,” Anthony said. “I took my time with it and weighed my options.”
James won a pair of championships in Miami with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who went fourth and fifth to the Toronto Raptors and Heat, respectively, in 2003. He added two more titles with Cleveland in 2016 and LA last year.
Anthony's teams, meanwhile, have gone 3-13 in playoff series, and the closest he got to a title was a trip to the Western Conference finals with Denver in 2009.
With James, Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis headlining the Lakers, anything less than a championship would disappoint.
“I’m coming in with a championship in my mind. This is the one thing that I’m missing,” the 37-year-old Anthony said. “I want to experience what it is like going through the ups and downs of a championship season.”
All four players were part of the U.S. gold medal squad at the 2012 London Games. Anthony wants to make sure their camaraderie is consistent even when times get tough.
“I’m more excited about the journey of this season. We are going to win games. Let’s be quite frank: We have to win games,” Anthony said. “The basketball part will take care of itself. It’s how we all come together and support one another. When it’s always sunny, it’s cool, but when it starts raining, then what happens? That’s where the expertise and experience come into play.”
Anthony — the 10th leading scorer in NBA history — joins his seventh team as he enters his 19th season. He averaged 13.4 points and made 40.9% of his 3-pointers coming off the bench for Portland last season, revitalizing his career by proving he can contribute to a solid team as a reserve.
He's likely to have a similar role with the Lakers.
Anthony's 3-point shooting should be valuable on a team that has struggled from the perimeter for the past two seasons and added Westbrook, a point guard with a balky outside shot.
The recent additions — which also include Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk — have the Lakers with the second-lowest odds to win the NBA title, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Talen Horton-Tucker, who re-signed, is one of the few returnees. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris are no longer around after the Lakers’ bid for a repeat championship was derailed by Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.
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