After Dreaming of LeBron, Melo, Lakers May Wake Up to Much Harsher Reality

LOS ANGELES — For much of the past decade, the Los Angeles Lakers have wished upon LeBron James. And now, for the first time, the Lakers have the salary-cap room to get in the ballpark at the same moment James is a free agent.

They are owed congrats on getting at least that much accomplished, as timing just that much has been heretofore impossible—except the Lakers probably won't even get in the batter's box to take a real swing at James, much less connect squarely with him.

James is the guy the Lakers have tried to leave their door open for in the past, present and future. Yet there are no indications that the Lakers are contenders to land him—if he even seriously considers leaving the Miami Heat after four Eastern Conference titles in four years.

If James re-signs with the Heat, that might be that as far as the LeBron-to-Lakers dream goes. It was in Jim Buss' mind as far back as 2005, when the Lakers had traded Shaquille O'Neal and were rebuilding around Kobe Bryant, but they were unwilling to guarantee any contracts besides those to Bryant and Lamar Odom beyond '07.

The Lakers were eyeing James' free agency in 2008, while also hoping to land big fish Yao Ming or Amar'e Stoudemire in '07 if they didn't extend their deals with Houston and Phoenix, respectively.

None of that came to pass, obviously—and the Lakers rebuilt on the fly in fantastic fashion anyway, which just goes to show that there are always other fish to fry in the assembly of a championship roster.

With James still an unlikely get now, the Lakers are looking at his Heat teammate Chris Bosh to a far lesser extent and the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony—remember, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday about this free-agent class that "in terms of the best of the best, there is only a couple (or) three"—with Anthony at least looming as a remote possibility.

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