Why Carmelo Anthony stepped into the void left by LeBron James’ ejection

Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony reacts after a play.
Forward Carmelo Anthony, reacting after a play Sunday night in Detroit, helped rally the Lakers following the ejection of LeBron James.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

A calming voice was needed for the Lakers during a time of chaos in Detroit on Sunday night when LeBron James, the heart and soul of the team, was ejected from the game following his flagrant foul for throwing an arm that bloodied the face of Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart.

The Lakers were reeling in the face of adversity. Into that void stepped Carmelo Anthony, his words soothing, encouraging and defining.

Yes, they had lost James with 9 minutes 18 seconds left in the third quarter after he struck Stewart’s eye, which caused the Pistons forward to charge after the Lakers forward before both were ejected. Yes, the Lakers fell behind by 17 points late in the third quarter after the altercation and looked lost. Yes, they had lost three straight games and were on the verge of another loss against a four-win Pistons team.

The moment called for Anthony to speak up.

“It wasn’t something that was premeditated,” Anthony said on Zoom with reporters Monday. “It was just at that moment, gather everybody up together. We understood and we saw what was happening. And I said this last night, the game could’ve went. … It could’ve been worse. And I just felt like we needed to all come together, we needed to believe in the bigger picture. And I think at that moment, the way I was just able to grab everybody’s attention in that moment, we were looking for something like that. And last night, it just so happened to be me.”


As the Lakers waited to hear from the NBA about James’ fate before Tuesday night’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Anthony didn’t want to speculate on what it would mean for his teammate to not play at one of his favorite arenas if he was suspended.

Lakers star LeBron James is ejected after elbowing Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart in the face, drawing blood, before they win 121-116 after trailing by 17.

Nov. 21, 2021

“Well, we’re not going to put that energy out there,” Anthony said.

The NBA announced later Monday that James has been suspended one game and Stewart two for their roles in the altercation.

The Lakers, Anthony said, want to ride the positive energy from Sunday’s comeback win over the Pistons.

His voice was uplifting for the Lakers group.

“Tomorrow, it might be somebody else. But at that moment, last night, it was time for something to be said to kind of just get the car rolling,” Anthony said. “We needed that. It’s unfortunate that we had to go through that situation, but we needed something like that to jump-start us. We haven’t been tested like that all season, and that was a major, major test that we passed last night.”

As a 19-year veteran and future Hall of Famer, Anthony’s voice still carries weight.

His role has changed over the years from the alpha male dog on previous teams to more of a role player — a prominent role player, to be sure — with the Lakers.


Still, he’s respected by his Lakers teammates and Anthony remains productive.

He’s fifth on the team in scoring (15.2 points per game) and is shooting a career-best from the three-point line (46.1%) while playing 28.8 minutes per game.

“I’m still seeing the game from a different perspective, but I’m in a different role,” Anthony said. “And I think being a leader, being a go-to guy for so many years in this league and being where I’m at now, it makes it easier for me to adapt to the game. So, I think that’s why I’m having the success with this team and this offense and what we’re trying to do and what we created.”



When: 4:30 p.m. (PST) Tuesday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.

Update: Former Laker Julius Randle is the do-everything player for the Knicks, leading them in scoring (20.4), rebounds (10.0), assists (5.1) and minutes per game (35.5). The Knicks hold teams to 42.9% shooting, the third-best mark in the NBA.