The Los Angeles Lakers will end the impending season with a lot of uncertainty but a lot of cap room and money to spend on the free-agent market in the summer of 2014.
One of the top prospective targets is New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, but in a brief run-in with TMZ on Tuesday evening (h/t USA Today's For The Win), he expressed doubt that he would ever play in LA.
That certainly isn't a great start for the Lakers as they brace for a likely drastic change that will have a heavy effect on the long-term future of one of professional sports' most renowned franchises.
According to Hoopsworld.com, Los Angeles will only have point guard Steve Nash and center Robert Sacre under contract in 2014-15. While that should leave plenty of room for expenditures, it doesn't account for the space occupied by Laker great Kobe Bryant and All-Star Pau Gasol.
Those two alone eat up nearly $50 million of the $58.679 million allowable salary cap space for the upcoming campaign. Bryant will likely have to take a rather large pay cut to ensure Gasol and another marquee player could come in and team up with him for another NBA championship push.
Anthony may not have an ideal future cut out for him in New York, but it appears leaping to the Lakers is a dubious proposition at the moment.
Things could change, of course, because Bryant is all about winning rings, has five of them and could potentially play a couple years alongside Anthony.
In his brief encounter with the TMZ paparazzo, Anthony noted how he owned a pair of purple and gold Michael Jordan sneakers and how he played very well with LeBron James on the USA national team.
As ESPN LA originally reported, the Lakers are interested in Anthony and James in the summer of 2014—assuming both players are available.
However, Anthony did say that he hasn't had any conversations about building a "superteam" or joining up with James, which would be an attractive pitch—but one the LA couldn't possibly make.
With the aging nucleus of the Lakers and a time of instability within the organization, which endured a tough 2012-13, the stars with designs on testing the free-agency waters will likely tread with extreme caution.
But losing out on Anthony would be an even bigger blow if this is truly how he feels.
Outside of James—who would be hard-pressed to leave the two-time defending champion Miami Heat if they even come close to the Larry O'Brien Trophy again—Anthony should be the most sought after star free agent in 2014.
If the Lakers' legacy can't lure Anthony to the City of Angels, the team's immediate and long-term future may be direr than expected.
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