The stage might not be as flashy as MSG, the media might not be as loud and agressive, but Lebron James and the Cavaliers are preparing to win their 10th straign game in their favorite arena, infront of loudest and favorite fans in hte NBA when they host the New York Knicks tonight at the Q.
I have been emailing a noted Knicks fan/blogger at “What Would Oakley Do?” blog and asked him few questions about the “Summer of Lebron” to get a fan perspective on this Lebron-Knicks issue.
You can read my responses to some of his questions around the Cavaliers and Lebron at his blog.
The Knicks went after Michael Jordan when he was a free agent in 1996-97 season and failed to sign him. Unlike today and probably for the next few years, the Knicks were a good team with Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston and Jordan’s best buddy, Charles Oakley. Do you think the Knicks have a better shot at Lebron in 2010?
WWOD?: You know, I’ve been seeing this Jordan-to-the-Knicks story around the Interwebs and I’ve got to say that it seems like some awfully revisionist history to me. At the time I never really thought that Jordan was coming and the whole thing seemed like a leverage-move on behalf of MJ’s agent rather than a legitimate thing. I really don’t think that I actually thought (take that Peter King) Jordan was going anywhere and I don’t think that most people did. And, I didn’t want Jordan on the Knicks. Those Knicks/Bulls playoff matchups were Hatfields/McCoys. It was a blood feud and no title that we won with him would have meant anything. During that era you had to BEAT Jordan not buy Jordan. And, Jordan had already won. His thirst was slaked. He wasn’t still questing for a title, he was solidifying a brand. I think the stage of both players careers makes all the difference in the world. Lebron has already solidified the brand but he is searching for the titles.
So, long story short, I do think the Knicks have a much better shot at Lebron than they ever did at Jordan. And, I think that most people do agree that Lebron will at least dip his toe in the free agent waters. But I don’t think it’s a done deal. Not even close. Even if I were to say that the Knicks have the best shot to sign him then I still wouldn’t say it was higher than 40%. Which means our best-case scenario means a 60% chance of him signing elsewhere. In other words, odds are that Lebron won’t be a Knick. The team, however, still needs to be overhauled one way or another.
According to ESPN writer J.A. Adande, Lebron is making more money in endorsement living and playing in Cleveland than “Yankees superstars Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter” combined. If that is the case, why should LeBron James choose the Knickerbocker over the Cavaliers?
WWOD?: Well, I think that the math can be misleading. Being a Knick can be more than the sum of its parts. As irrelevant as it is for fans, there is no denying the cache that playing at the Garden holds among ballplayers. The building is special to them. The lighting is different. The sound is different. The crowd noise is different. I know that it may sound idiotic to someone from another city but it’s really, really the truth. There’s also something to be said for winning basketball games in New York City. We may have two football teams and two baseball teams but this is a basketball town. Pro hoops grew out of the successful college hoops doubleheaders that Ned Irish used to put on at the old Garden and this town embraced basketball from jumpstreet. The player(s) who win the Knicks next title will ascend to a level of respect and adoration that I can’t really comprehend around here. Bigger than other local sports stars and I don’t think that is true in most cities. Paul Pierce will not outdraw the Red Sox. NBA players implicitly know this about New York even if they only play one game in NYC a season.
And aside from all those unproveable, NYCentric reasons that probably make you want to punch me in the face, the team that the Knicks are going to be able to field going forward from 2010 is going to be out of this world. With or without Lebron. There is enough salary cap space to sign two marquee players. And a Mike D’Antoni-coached team with two huge stars will be the club that every solid veteran is going to be willing to take a paycut to play for. No matter how the Cavs (or any other team) reconfigure their roster during the next two seasons it is incredibly unlikely that they’ll be able to put nearly as good a group of 7 players around Lebron as the Knicks will from 2010 through 2014.
Other than Lebron James, who would be the top 5 choices for the 2010 free agency?
WWOD?: Whether or not Lebron comes I do think that the Knicks have a chance to acquire Steve Nash at a good price that offseason and I see that as the tone-setting move. I think that we pair Nash with a younger, scoring point guard (maybe a resigned Nate Robinson) and then the big choice is then Wade/Lebron. We’ll still have Wilson Chandler and (hopefully) Danilo Gallinari at the 3/4 but I say we supplement them with a shooter like Mike Miller who will be a free agent whose price tag is depressed by the fact that he is like the 10th best that offseason. And, then as far as Big Men the choices are Bosh and Amare. I would think that both are options depending on the status of Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries, both of whom will still be under their current contracts.
Ok, here we go, the Walsh-Marbury fiasco, how long before it is over? As a Knick fan, how do you like to see it resolved?
WWOD?: At this point, I think that the Knicks really, really need to just buy Marbury out sooner than possible. It’s a disaster. I don’t know how representative this opinion is, but right now I think Marbury has gotten absolutely hosed by Walsh and D’Antoni. Since those two took over this guy has done all that was asked for. He came into camp in great shape, worked hard, and even said all of the right things about coming off the bench. He didn’t press about a contract extension or a trade and was content to work his butt off to earn his next contract, which would obviously be elsewhere. And, then he didn’t see a minute on Opening Night and was deactivated a day later. While I think that Marbury is a strange, strange person with a shocking lack of savvy off the court, I don’t think that he should have been benched to start the season. I mean, he was (and is) the best player on the roster.
Mike D’Antoni is an offence first coach who failed to win with Phoenix. Do you think you have a chance with him even if you get your wish in 2010?
WWOD?: My whole life I’ve been a fan of defensive teams. My favorite Knicks squads wanted to hold teams under 80 points a night during the 1990s. So, I definitely think you need to play defense to win a title. And the Knicks will need to play defense to win a title (with or without Lebron James). But after watching Pat Riley go from the Showtime Lakers to the lunchpail-carrying Knicks I’m convinced that good/innovative coaches are smart enough to adjust based on their roster. So, I don’t think that D’Antoni’s rep as an offensive-minded coach means he can’t win a title. After all, the most noteworthy strategic thing in Phil Jackson’s repertoire is the triangle offense and that didn’t slow him down when he had the game’s best players (MJ, Kobe, Shaq).
What makes the 2008—2010 seasons a success for the Knicks?
WWOD?: That’s a question that I don’t even know how to answer. On one hand, the next two seasons are a success if they allow the club to overhaul the roster during the 2010 offseason. With that in mind, what happens on the floor in those seasons is virtually irrelevant.
On the other hand (the one wearing the foam finger), I don’t want to spend hours and dollars watching bad basketball for two years. Before trading Z- Bo and Crawford I would have said that this team could win a playoff series while waiting for Lebron or whoever to arrive. And, that could still be true. But, I’m not so sure anymore. In the short-term we need to get healthy (and cut Marbury) and then try to stay close to .500 because if that happens then this season will be a success. Especially, since .500 gets you into the playoffs. So, I guess that meaningful games into April makes this season a success. If the team is at least fighting for a playoff spot then the season will be an improvement from last year and will keep the natives sated as we prepare for the feasting ahead.