Carmelo Anthony has drawn support from his fellow players in his quest to return to the NBA, but that support has largely been vague. Players have said that Anthony deserves to be in the league, but they haven't been specific about where he should play or whose spot he should take.
Royce White, a former first-round pick of the Houston Rockets who currently plays in the BIG3, cut through that ambiguity in defending Anthony. He not only argued for the former superstar's place in the NBA but blamed LeBron James for failing to get him a spot on the Los Angeles Lakers' roster. He even named the player whom Anthony should replace in his mind: Jared Dudley.
😳😳😳 "LeBron is walking around here like he's the face and voice of the players. How is he letting his Banana Boat brother hang out there in the wings and they go sign Jared Dudley and not Carmelo." - @Highway_30— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) August 20, 2019
Full explosive interview:https://t.co/vm5OZzOXMi pic.twitter.com/XrrobSUgPB
"If anybody thinks Dudley can hold Carmelo's jockstrap, I'll slap them," White concluded. Dudley initially posted a response to White's comments but quickly deleted it. He had little reason to do so beyond tact, though, because White is wrong on virtually every front.
On the LeBron James front: it is obvious based on almost everything that has happened this offseason that he does not have the leverage to force his team to make any decisions. If he did, Ty Lue would likely be the team's head coach right now. But he isn't. Marc Stein reported for the New York Times in April that the Lakers were worried about appearing to give too much control of the team to James, who has a reputation for palace intrigue. Their offseason so far suggests that they are making decisions independent from his input.
That puts the onus squarely on the Lakers, who reportedly consider signing Anthony last season. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the two sides ceased contract negotiations after a losing streak in March "left the organization and Anthony's camp wondering if it made sense to bring the veteran into an unsettled environment." While the decision may not entirely have been Anthony's, it appears as if he had a say in the matter and chose not to pursue a deal with the Lakers when he had the chance.
And as far as the rest of their offseason moves go, signing Anthony and Dudley never needed to be mutually exclusive. The Lakers have a full roster for training camp, but only 14 of their players have guaranteed contracts, meaning that for all intents and purposes, they still have an empty roster spot. They've had months to consider using it on Anthony even with Dudley in place. They have chosen not to. It is not a matter of the Lakers having too many forwards, either, as most reports indicated that the Lakers had been saving that spot for Andre Iguodala, another forward, prior to DeMarcus Cousins' injury.
The Lakers haven't signed Anthony for the same reason that 29 other teams haven't signed Anthony: they don't believe that he makes their team better. That is the point that White is fundamentally missing. Anthony was, at one point, a dynamic and irreplaceable scorer whose flaws were worth covering up. The past two seasons have suggested that is no longer the case.
Dudley, on the other hand, has a skill set and personality that lends itself to aging in a way that Anthony's hasn't. He is a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter who rarely needs the ball in his hands, and he was just nominated for the NBA's Twyman-Stokes award given annually to the league's best teammate. Dudley is widely considered one of the best locker room presences in all of basketball. That is a stark contrast to Anthony, who has publicly fought against the idea of coming off of the bench, and blamed the teams that asked him to do so for failing to properly communicate that desire to him in a recent interview with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN's "First Take."
If Dudley were to play Anthony in a game of one-on-one, he would probably lose. But the NBA is not a one-on-one league. Rosters run 15 deep and are complex ecosystems. Players are expected to fill specific roles both on and off of the court. At this stage of their careers, Dudley is more able to do that than Anthony is. The entire NBA saw that. White, apparently, does not.