LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have a well-documented friendship that goes back nearly two decades.
On Saturday night they faced each other in James’ home debut as a Laker — continuing what has become something of a tradition.
James’ first NBA home game came in 2003 against Anthony’s Denver Nuggets. James had seven points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a loss; Anthony had 14, six and two. James’ first home game in his 2014 return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was a loss against Anthony’s New York Knicks. James scored 17 points with five rebounds and four assists while Anthony scored 25 with six assists and two rebounds.
“Once he gets in the game — whenever that may be — it’s going to be the same as always,” James said before Saturday’s game against Houston. “Just that brotherhood, just knowing how far we’ve come in our career to still be at this point in our career.
“But it won’t be strange. It was strange the first time I played against him when I was in a Heat uniform and he was in a Knick uniform. That was kind of strange. But after that, no.”
Anthony is on a one-year, minimum deal — the kind the Lakers doled out to several veterans on their roster. When James was asked if he and Anthony spoke this summer about teaming up in Los Angeles, James was coy.
“There was a lot of conversation between basketball, between life, everything,” James said. “We had a lot of conversation. That’s just who we are; we talk all the time.”
When Mike D’Antoni coached the Lakers from 2012-14, he coached a high-profile team with superstars and big expectations.
Now that D’Antoni is the coach of the Rockets, he was asked what advice he’d give Lakers coach Luke Walton on how to deal with the outrageous expectations that only have increased with James here.
“Well, obviously I shouldn’t say,” D’Antoni said, laughing. “I didn’t get through a lot of years.”
D’Antoni coached an injury-plagued team that included Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. He resigned on May 1, 2014 with the Lakers at 27-55.
“So, I wouldn’t be a good one to tell him,” D’Antoni continued. “But he’ll figure it out.”
There were times when D’Antoni had to hear the derisive chants of “We want Phil” from fans who yearned for Phil Jackson to return.
D’Antoni was asked what the difference is in coaching the Lakers as opposed to other teams.
“Um, it’s the same,” he said. “It’s pressure, but there’s pressure in Houston. The NBA is got a lot of pressure. You got to win. Obviously there is a little bit more glare [in L.A.], but it’s like New York … We just try to deal with it. But it’s fun. It’s a great atmosphere when you play [in L.A.] — obviously living in a great city. Yeah, it was very positive.”
Another South Bay chance
The Lakers’ developmental affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, will start training camp Tuesday with a familiar face: Andre Ingram will return to their roster.
Ingram was a feel-good story last year when the Lakers called him up for their final two games. It was the first time Ingram, who has played in the developmental league since 2007 and turns 33 next month, ever played in an NBA game. Ingram scored 19 points in his debut against Houston.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli