The Morning Column: August 10, 2021
Carmelo Anthony feels as if he was destined to be a Laker one day. "It seems just throughout my whole career, I've always been connected to the Lakers some way, somehow."
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1. 🏀 Carmelo Anthony destined to be a Laker
The first time I remember seeing Carmelo Anthony in a Lakers uniform was 2010. He was with the Denver Nuggets at the time and one year removed from facing the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. There was no logical reason to think Anthony would join a Lakers team that had just won back-to-back championships and had played in three straight NBA Finals. Then again, logic has never stopped Lakers fans from using Photoshop to put every great NBA player in a Lakers uniform.
For the next decade, the above Photoshop image would be the closest Anthony came to being a Laker. He ended up being traded to the New York Knicks in 2011 and spent the prime of his career there. He was later dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017 and bounced between Houston, Chicago (he was waived before ever playing there) and Portland the last three seasons. During his entire career, the lure of becoming a Laker and playing with Kobe Bryant and later LeBron James was always there.
“It seems just throughout my whole career, I've always been connected to the Lakers some way, somehow,” Anthony said on Monday. “Whether it was through my brother Kobe, regardless of what it is, I've always been connected to it some way, somehow.”
That connection finally turned into something last week when Anthony signed a one-year contract with the Lakers. After thinking about wearing purple and gold and playing in Los Angeles at various points in his career, it was an easy choice to make.
“It wasn't really no pitch this time,” he said. “I think it was really just more of an understanding. Like, 'OK, the time is now. The time is now for both parties to merge, for both parties to agree to come together, and let's put this thing together.'”
Anthony and James have been friends for over two decades and entered the league together as two of the top three picks in the 2003 draft. They have long talked about one day being teammates and winning a championship together. While James has won four NBA championships and played in 10 NBA Finals, Anthony has only advanced as far as that one Western Conference Finals against the Lakers in 2009.
“Bron just came to me one time and said, 'Yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,’” he said. “I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should’ve gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths and everything comes full circle.”
There was a time in his career where a starting role would dictate Anthony’s decision to join a team. But as a 37-year-old in the twilight of his career, there’s only one thing that matters to him going into what could be his final season.
“I’m coming in with a championship on my mind,” Anthony said. “I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don’t have it. I want that experience.”
2. ⛹️♂️ Russell Westbrook press conference set for Staples Center
The Lakers conducted virtual media availability with all of their recent acquisitions over the past four days but they saved their one and only in-person press conference at Staples Center today for Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook will address the media today from the Chick Hearn Press Room at Staples Center at 1 p.m. along with Lakers coach Frank Vogel and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. I mentioned yesterday how special the moment will be for Westbrook, who grew up going to Lakers championship parades and rallies at Staples Center.
It will be the Lakers’ first in-person press conference at Staples Center since the Brooklyn Nets beat the Lakers, 104-102, on March 10, 2020, which was 17 months or 518 days ago. Here’s the last Lakers in-person press conference held at Staples Center.
3. ⛹️♀️ Nneka Ogwumike returns to the Sparks
The Los Angeles Sparks will hold their first in-person media availability at Staples Center on Friday ahead of their game against the Indiana Fever on Sunday when the WNBA season resumes. Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike is scheduled to return to the court after being sidelined since June 1 with a knee injury.
It has been a difficult time for Ogwumike, who was shockingly left off the U.S. Olympic team and later denied an exemption to play for Nigeria in the Olympics; dashing her dreams of playing in the Olympics. She got emotional as she described the ordeal during a press conference on Monday.
“It's been a lot about figuring out how I want to come out of this,” Ogwumike said. “When you endure situations that are tough in life, you can choose many different routes. I'm just grateful to be on a team with people who care about me. I've always been described as resilient, and I think I had to tell myself that a lot, to make sure that I believed it. Because it's been a few weeks of feeling unvaluable or unworthy.”
4. 🏈 Troy Polamalu’s hall of fame bust
There are 354 busts displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, but the one created for Troy Polamalu is perhaps the most unique with his signature flowing mane on full display.
The bust was sculpted by Blair Buswell, who I wrote an ESPN feature on in 2015.
Buswell sculpts most of the Pro Football Hall of Fame busts in his studio in Pleasant Grove, Utah. He isn’t just an accomplished sculptor but was also a football player when he was younger. He was a running back at BYU from 1979 to 1981 and the team doctor actually designed pads to protect Buswell's hands.
“The old standing joke is I played with Jim McMahon and Steve Young, so as a running back I never got the ball,” Buswell told me. “I didn't get the ball anyway. When they put me in, I'd block.”
5. 🐐 Summer League sensations
While the Lakers offseason acquisitions have been the talk of the NBA, Lakers fans are also excited about the team’s Summer League squad, primarily Austin Reaves and Mac McClung. Reaves, who was a first-team All-Big 12 shooting guard at Oklahoma, was signed to a two-way contract with the Lakers last week, while McClung, who was a Big 12 Newcomer of the Year at Texas Tech, was signed to the Lakers Summer League team after going undrafted in this year’s draft.
Against the Sacramento Kings, McClung hit two free throws to get the Lakers to within two points and then hit a midrange jumper with 16.7 seconds left to tie the game. Reaves then nailed a game-winning shot as both players celebrated the comeback win. Lakers Twitter responded accordingly after the win and the performance by the new fan favorites.
6. 📆 Aug. 10, 1995: MLB’s last forfeit at Dodger Stadium
The MLB’s last forfeit took place 26 years ago today at Dodger Stadium when Dodger fans, who had received souvenir baseballs upon entering the stadium, started hurling the balls onto the field in the bottom of the ninth inning following the ejection of Tommy LaSorda and Raul Mondesi. Here’s a great read on that crazy night from MLB.com and Craig Kilborn describing what happened on SportsCenter.
7. 🎂 Happy Birthday Andre Drummond
Happy birthday to former Lakers center Andre Drummond, who turns 28 today. Drummond’s stint with the Lakers didn’t last that long (just 21 regular season games) before he left for the Philadelphia 76ers in what was essentially a swap for Dwight Howard. Perhaps the highlight of his time in Los Angeles was discovering his nickname was “The Big Penguin.”
8. 🎟 Ticket Time
Here are the “get in” prices for tickets if you’re thinking about going to a game this week:
⚾️ Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels – $9 (Tuesday-Thursday)
9. 📺 On The Air
⚾️ 3 p.m. – Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels – Bally Sports West (Doubleheader)
⚾️ 4 p.m. – Los Angeles Dodgers at Philadelphia Phillies – SportsNet LA
⚾️ 7 p.m. – Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels – Bally Sports West (Doubleheader)
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On yesterday’s show, we discussed Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony’s arrival to Los Angeles for their press conferences and how he will fit in with the Lakers alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., following The Rich Eisen Show. The Mightier 1090 has the second strongest radio signal in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow!