Hopefully, though, the two future Hall of Famers will bring back their quirky tip-off ritual from their one season as teammates with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017-18.
New surroundings — and time apart — may mean a new routine. Of course, any post-jump ball interaction is contingent upon Carmelo Anthony starting for the Lakers, which is far from guaranteed (admittedly, even if he isn’t the regular starter, he’ll probably get a few nods).
starting 5 if it were up to Russ? pic.twitter.com/0pb5sKurXR
— The Lakers Review (@TheLakersReview) August 5, 2021
Alternatively, Anthony could run with Westbrook on staggered second units and help carry the scoring when LeBron James is off the floor.
During their one season together in Oklahoma City, lineups with Anthony and Westbrook posted a net rating of +4.8, which was the team’s third-best high-volume two-man combo (Paul George, if you recall, was on that squad).
Generally speaking, Anthony’s ball-stopping was detrimental when on the court with Westbrook. Melo relatively struggled with his shot while in OKC and averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds on .404/.357/.767 splits in 78 games.
In his defense, it became readily apparent that Anthony was being asked to play a role he was no longer capable of in his mid-30s. (Westbrook, by the way, averaged a measly 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game in 2017-18.)
In Los Angeles, Anthony will be asked to continue what he did in Portland — embrace a bench role and hit open shots. Anthony shot a career-best 40.1% from three-point range with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019-20.
LeBron is an elite pre-game hand-shake artist, too.
At Lakers’ exit interviews in June, Ben McLemore (who will replace Anthony as a long-range threat for the Blazers) told me that LeBron enthusiastically came to him with a personalized dap shortly after McLemore was signed that referenced McLemore’s “ice-in-my-veins” 3-point celebration. (With Carmelo and possibly Wesley Matthews, the Lakers have a chance to have two of the league’s best 3-point celebrations, too.)
“He’s a guy that — he loves to handshake, he loves that interaction with his teammates, his players, his brothers,” McLemore explained. “And I’m the same way. So, the day I got here, when I met them in Miami right away…he actually came like, ‘I got a handshake for you. I got it!’ And that was it. It was amazing.”
The Lakers have plenty of questions to answer about how Westbrook, Melo, and the rest of their free-agent signings will fit. LeBron, in fact, would like you to keep bringing that up. At this moment, though, we can say one — and only one — thing for certain about the 2021-22 Lakers: Between LeBron, Westbrook, Melo, Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore, and probably Jared Dudley, expect to see a steady stream of goofy gestures and amusing antics from the Lakers this season — pre-game, mid-game, on-the-court and from the sidelines.
Now, the Lakers just have to use their final two roster spots on Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.