Friday, May 14, 2010

Knicks fans: Don't get your hopes up for LeBron

I've been saying it all season but now that the Cavs have been eliminated from the playoffs, it's time to reiterate my feelings: LeBron James is FAR from a guarantee to come to the Knicks next season.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a skeptic in general, so you can take this with a grain of salt if you want. But the FACT is that there are just as many reasons for James to stay in Cleveland or go to Chicago, New Jersey or Miami than there are for him to come to the Big Apple. Here's my list:

Reasons for LeBron to come to New York:
-The Knicks have the cap space to sign TWO max free agents, a luxury afforded to no other team in the summer of the NBA's most impressive free agent pool ever.
-The Knicks have a great basketball history, albeit one without a championship since 1973. LeBron could help restore the franchise to the greatness it once saw, plus he would get to play 41 games a year in the the World's Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden.
-New York is the media capital of the East, if not the entire U.S. If LeBron wins in New York (and even if he doesn't), the endorsement money he could make would shoot through the roof. But then again, he's Lebron James. He'll make millions in endorsements wherever he goes.

Reasons for LeBron not to come to New York:
-The Knicks suck and they suck HARD. They have just four players under contract next season: Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas and Eddy Curry. No offense to the first three, who were all first-round picks and have bright NBA futures, but I doubt the thought of playing with Chandler and Gallinari makes LeBron salivate as much as the thought of playing with Derrick Rose in Chicago, Devin Harris and Brook Lopez in New Jersey or Dwayne Wade in Miami (if he stays).
-The Knicks don't have draft picks to build a team around LeBron. Their 2010 first-round pick belongs to Utah in the Stephon Marbury trade circa 2004, while Houston owns their 2012 first-round pick and has the right to swap picks with New York in 2011. All in all, the Knicks have just one first-round pick in the next three seasons. Why would LeBron come to a team that lacks a good young nucleus and can't build one around him through the draft?

Cleveland can attract LeBron with a six-year, $125 million deal while other teams can only offer five years and approximately $96 million. LeBron was also born in Akron, Ohio and has plenty of hometown ties to Cleveland. But their struggles to build a successful team around the league's most talented player (notice I didn't say best - KOBE!) could spell doom for their hopes of keeping James around.

Chicago is a solid young team with a future superstar point guard in Derrick Rose. They are light years ahead of the Knicks in terms of being competitive, as they made the playoffs this season (and promptly lost to Cleveland). I'm sure James was paying close attention to his opponent in that series.

The combination of Rose and James could win multiple championships, especially with developing role players like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson in tow. A starting lineup of Rose, Deng, James, Gibson and Noah is definitely solid enough to be one of the top teams in the East for years.

New Jersey is one of the few teams in the league worse than the Knicks but they have more attractive young talent on their roster not to mention all of their draft picks, which are sure to fall in the top 3-5 in the next few years. James is also friends with Jay-Z, who owns part of the Nets and will be sure to do everything in his power to woo James to the sewage capital of the country. And if the Nets hire John Calipari, that could tempt LeBron even further.

If Miami can't keep Wade, they have no chance at signing LeBron. But there has to be a temptation for two of the league's top five players to play on the same squad and dominate for years to come. If they can keep their egos in check (Wade can, I'm not sure about LeBron, who is becoming more of a prima donna as he ages), they would be a nearly unstoppable combination. Of course, they could always take their act to NYC, making Miami the definite longshot in this scenario.

Currently, Bodog has the odds of the Knicks landing LeBron at 5-1 (or 16% for those who don't understand gambling odds). As much as I would love to see #6 in blue and orange, I think those odds are pretty accurate in determining James' future home.

If the Knicks cannot convince another big free agent (Wade, Chris Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire) to join LeBron in the Big Apple, 2011 might be just like 2010 for the superstar-less Knicks, maybe even worse. And I doubt many Knicks fans think it can get much worse. I certainly don't.

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