Tag Archives: New York Knicks

NBA Season Preview Part II (Teams from 30-16)

The NBA season is upon us and with that, its time to preview the season.  You can find part one here.  For this preview I decided rather than write some long winded thing about how Kobe Bryant is ruining the Lakers franchise (more on that later), I would rather structure it in a crowd pleasing way: go reverse order in rank of all 30 NBA franchises heading into the season and list one player to watch and one subplot over the course of the season.  Hope you enjoy it and hope you learn and hope you care enough to curse me out over the internet and tell me I don’t know crap.  Here is part I:

30. Sixers logoPhiladelphia 76ers-

Player to Watch- Nerlens Noel (C)- Noel is in his second year out of the NBA training academy in Kentucky known as the Wildcat collegiate program.  He’s a long armed, afro-d rim protector sent to the Sixers to play with the emotions of players hoping to score in the paint.  Obviously this season is lost in the midst of the biggest, most open tanking party known to sports (as the NBA Twitteratzi will have you believe), so the most important story on the court will be Noel’s development along with MCW’s development playing with Noel and then maybe if we’re lucky we may even see a Joel Embiid sighting!

Major Subplot of the Season- Tankapalooza- Technically the Sixers won their first game of the season when major lottery reform was shot down by a vote of 17-13.  Zach Lowe of Grantland expertly outlined what was at stake for this vote.  The NBA and its righteous police will surely devote thousands of words and twitter memes to symbolize what a horrible thing this is, but I’m all for any careful, thought out process of becoming good again.  Fans will come back once the team starts winning.  Suffer for a few years, but beware when the tag of losers are ripped off.  That’s when the fun starts.

29. jazz symbol Utah Jazz-

Player to Watch- Dante Exum (PG?)-  I put a question mark because the Jazz and rookie coach Quinn Snyder will likely use him in a variety of roster spots.  But he’s a natural point guard.  Exum is the baby of a youtube highlight clip, reared by Twitter GIF’s and raised by the blessing of the NBA Twitterverse.  Which is to say he’s a completely digital creation.  Now comes the human element: actual games.  I like what i’ve heard, and I’m more intrigued by the few highlights I’ve seen from Jazz preseason games.  I’m not going to venture a guess on his ceiling because nobody knows, but a point guard that can fly and has court vision?  Should be fun.

Major Subplot of the Season- How Toure Murray and Steve Novak will save the Jazz!  Young and the Restless- The Utah Jazz have the youngest roster in the NBA.  Twelve of the 15 players that will suit up for the Jazz are 25 and younger.  Talent wise, they have three Top 5 Picks (Exum, Kanter, and Favors), six lottery picks (+ Hayward, Burks and Burke), and nine first rounders (+Booker, Hood, Govert), pedigree which suggests they should be good.  They are like Philly three years into their tanking program, but the feeling is that there will be more losses piling on for the Jazz.  They play in the ultra-competitive West where there are legitimately 10 teams vying for the 8 playoff spots.  So it gives Utah liberty to continue piling on assets before they have to make their first big move, which likely will mean either Kanter or Favors is on their way out.  Bet on Kanter, but definitely lay money on the fact that the Jazz will look very Spurs-ian on offense (don’t we all aspire to) while running exciting rotations which should keep hoop nerds in the East up long hours watching this young 20 something line up explore themselves like a young teenager watching porn for the first time.

28. Lakers-Logo Los Angeles Lakers-

Player to Watch- Kobe Bryant (SG)- C’mon, as if there was anyone else.  I honestly don’t know how Kobe’s season will play out but after this article by Henry Abbot (a journalist of the highest order) where he lists anonymous sources within the Lakers organization who believe that Kobe is the reason they are bad and will continue to be bad.  Not helping matters was Jeannie Buss going all Steinbrenner-ish by publicly criticizing these anonymous sources and calling any player who doesn’t want to play with Kobe a loser anyway, I can’t help but feel uneasy about predicting anything but a ton of back and forth between Kobe’s fan base (long one of the most fierce in NBA history) over Twitter that could get nasty.

Major Subplot of the Season- Byron Scott and the National Advanced Stats legion- Not only are advanced stats here to stay, but they have crept into every crevice of NBA operation and major NBA writing which will likely skew your thoughts on the matter.  Fact is, Byron Scott is wrong based on all the statistical evidence we’ve seen (see!  its happening to me!).  To be fair, Scott came to Cleveland on July 2nd, 2010.  We all know what happened on July 8th when Lebron tap danced on Cleveland fans hearts and went to Miami.  Well, he comes to Los Angeles, the place of his greatest trumps RIGHT as Kobe is entering a “prove you’re still great” season where he’ll launch a ton of shots while playing a bunch of one on two or threes and giving below average defense and demanding minutes.  Also, the best free agents the Lakers got were Jeremy Lin, who will now be pushed into more minutes with Steve Nash being done for the season, and Carlos Boozer who’s biggest contribution the last few seasons was this.  Things could get bad in Tinseltown fast.  But hey, at least they will sell out!

27. bucks logoMilwaukee Bucks-

Player to Watch- Jabari Parker (SF)- Carmelo Anthony clone.  Number two draft pick in a loaded draft.  Thought to be a franchise player.  There’s tons of things here to like, but let’s call it what it is.  Here is the season for the Bucks right here:

Major Subplot of the Season- Jason Kidd dealing with a young roster- In Brooklyn he was a rookie coach trying to get the most out of a veteran roster.  He flipped the script, jumped ship (there’s really no other way of saying it) and went to a team with a bunch of young pieces.  Kidd had plenty of lows in Brooklyn but the fact is, he did it his way which is how you can accurately describe his NBA career.  He’s a natural leader and he will be the voice the players turn to when they are down in a crunch time situation and youth and inexperience will drive them to the Fountain of Kidd.  This may not be a good team, butut expect them to be hungry and give teams a good scare down the stretch.  Expect them also to be very busy come trade deadline.  Shoutout to John Henson who I saw give everyone elbows because he still hasn’t figured out how freakishly long his limbs are.  You can’t teach that.

26. Magic logoOrlando Magic-

Player to Watch- Elfrid Payton (PG)- Many expect Payton to challenge Jabari Parker for the Rookie of the Year.  Payton is that mix of rangy athleticism with a good body that compares well to Exum, only he played in the States.  While he did play in the Sun Belt Conference, the experience of playing States-side players is very critical when seeing how he projects and he’s proven in both Vegas (7.2 APG) and in 27 MPG in the preseason (5 APG) that he’s up for the challenge.  It also helps that everyone has been glowing about how mature and wise beyond his years he is.

Major Subplot of the Season- They can play but can they shoot though?- The stats suggest not.  Jacque Vaughn is in a weird spot.  They already have lost Victor Oladipo for an extended stretch when he broke his orbital bone.  They brought in Channing Frye to help spacing but you can almost make the case that 60% of their starting lineup not only can’t shoot, but are historically bad.  Aaron Gordon doesn’t project well as a shooter, and neither does Tobias Harris who the Magic have to make a decision on whether to extend.  How can you create space for Payton to drive, or Oladipo to drive or Gordon to roll to the basket if NOBODY is afraid of them from 10 feet and beyond?  That’s the question for them to  ponder.

25. CelticsLogoBoston Celtics-

Player to Watch- Rajon Rondo (PG)- In my 10 bold predictions for the upcoming season, I wrote that Rondo would not be traded and that Jeff Green would be.  Most may think I dislike Rondo which is far from the truth.  I love Rondo.  I think having a competitor like him can only help your team and he has the playoff chops to take your team over the top.  Even if he isn’t a fit in the triangle, I would welcome him to my Knicks.  But this season the Celtics, who drafted Marcus Smart specifically to take over the mercurial yet talented point guard of the Celtics mantle that Rondo held firm for so many years,  are continuing their rebuilding and transition.  They have quality pieces to give away in trades and Rondo being the big chip.  I just don’t see it happening, unless the Celtics find a very anxious bidder who’s willing to overpay which is exactly how Danny Ainge wants to play it.  But Rondo isn’t the cookie cutter and he comes with hard edges that will make him a very tough add to any team hoping to add Rondo to their team easily.

Major Subplot of the Season- Can Danny find a home for Rondo?- I realize I’m doubling up on this but let’s face it, the Celtics will try like heck to trade him.  Getting back value will be completely up to Danny Ainge.  Will he hold on to Rondo even though he knows retaining him will take repairing their relationship?  We still have yet to see Rondo and Brad Stevens collaborate in an 82 game season which is something that could be fascinating.  But Ainge’s responsibility first and foremost will be to trade Rondo and get back draft picks, salary relief, and young players.  I don’t know that he will accomplish that goal but the season will likely be in limbo until Ainge either trades him or pays him. You know who’s the x-factor on how this plays out?  Rajon Rondo.  Who knows if he wants to stick it to Celtic management?  Who knows if there’s resentment or bitterness on how the Celtic saga ended with the smearing campaign when Ray Allen left?  Coming to NY won’t help that but you can see how a change of scenario will help.  If Ainge has Rondo after the trade deadline, all the leverage will return to Rondo and that’s the scenario that Ainge does NOT want to see played out.

24. Timberwolves logo Minnesota Timberwolves-

Player to Watch- Andrew Wiggins (SF)- He said all the right things about how he was looking forward to the challenge.  How he’s motivated.  How he wants to play for a team that wants him.  Those are all fine and well.  He and Anthony Bennett will be compared in the impossible microscope of the Kevin Love trade.  That’s tough for any rookie, no matter how heralded.  Now comes the proving ground.  There’s no question about the defensive ability already.  His offensive game still needs a lot more work and he will get plenty of minutes to develop it.  Now’s the time rook.  Now.

Major Subplot of the Season- How does Flip Saunders deal with making a good deal?- Look, when you’re losing the quality of big man in Kevin Love, the fact is, there is no such thing as equal value.  So reality has to set in and accept the best deal possible.  Saunders did as decent a job as he could given the position the team was in.  They got a guy in Wiggins who could wind up being a generational talent, another number one pick who could be who knows what, and wound up with a quality NBA big man in Thaddeus Young.  Its not perfect, but its something.  They drafted Zach Lavine.  The Love departure will open up minutes for Gorgei Dieng who in limited minutes and then in international competition opened eyes.  There’s plenty to like about what the Love trade did for the franchise, but really it opened things up for a young group.  Now, Flip has to make sure Flip can coach them up.  This is the roster Flip gave Flip.  This is the roster that Flip will die with even if Flip doesn’t like it.

23. Kings logoSacramento Kings-

Player to Watch- Boogie Cousins (PF/C)- Count me in on the Boogie bandwagon.  The question becomes: is he a franchise player?   The Kings extended him, but that’s a referendum on a small market team desperately holding on to its best talent by offering him the most any team can offer, rather than the seal of approval by a brand new ownership/front office.  Talent has never been the question.  Its his inability to keep his emotions in check or be a leader that folks can draw from.  Well, I’m all in on the Boogie breakout season, which is saying something because he’s one of 5 players to average 20 and 10.  I’m all in on the goal of ONLY drawing 5 technicals.  Let’s go Boogie.

Major Subplot of the Season- Does Mike Malone have the pieces and/or time to make this work? Malone was a highly regarded assistant and son of Brendan Malone who served as a Knicks assistant in the Warriors when Vivek Ranadive, majority owner of the Kings, was a minority owner in Golden State.  So, it seems curious when the Kings head honcho came out and said now its about wins and losses. Regardless, the Kings will struggle by sheer virtue of geography (maybe they should’ve moved huh?).  They won 28 games and while improvement would be winning 30, that’s not the kind of improvement this Kings team wants.  Their cap is pretty clean and they have all their draft picks which is the good news.  The bad news is again, they play in the Western conference.  Dave D’Alessandro, the Kings GM, has turned this roster over aside from two players, and sees the turnover as a way to get better.  Losing Isaiah Washington was tough but I understand them not wanting to devote too much cap room for too many years to him.  Rudy Gay posted some of his best numbers playing alongside Boogie and they didn’t want to kill each other which is a major plus.  The Kings are a match for the Celtics if they are looking for draft picks and salaries to throw in a trade without too much of a long term commitment.  Add in the fact that Rudy Gay and Rondo are buddies, there’s definitely smoke there to start a full on fire.  But adding Rondo without the assurance of a contract being signed would be silly.  But with an edict like the one given to the Kings from ownership- do they have a choice if Ainge comes calling?

22. Hawks logo Atlanta Hawks 

Player to Watch- Al Horford (PF/C)- He’s quietly been one of the best PF/C’s.  People forget that he came from back to back national titles in Florida playing alongside Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah on those great Gator teams.  But he’s playing on a team that has been playing for the 6th-8th spot in the league since the days of Iso Joe offense.  Horford is due $12M this year and the next.  It will be interesting to see how both the Hawks and Horford play contract negotiations after a terrible winter.

Major Subplot of the Season- Change is coming- The Hawks under Danny Ferry have done a good job in retaining flexibility while signing solid veterans to decent deals.  How Danny Ferry’s racist rants and owner Bruce Levenson’s racist email plays into the Hawks future is clear: change is coming and its going to come quick.  Once Levenson’s email was leaked, and audio of Ferry making racist remarks were made, the clock officially began on their collective tenure expiring in Atlanta.  But this is a particularly interesting case.  Atlanta is a semi-big market that players love coming to because of its, umm, night life, and when the salary cap explodes in two years, this will be a team with almost 3 max salary slots available- one of them that will likely be filled by Horford unless something funky happens during negotiations.  There will be plenty of offers from more rich white guys (including a group headlined by Chris Webber) and a presence by Dominique, the former Hawk great, which is all but a certainty given how much positive press that would generate for any incoming group.  Until there is a new owner, plenty is up in the air about this franchise.

21.Pistons logoDetroit Pistons-

Player to Watch- Josh Smith (PF)- With Stan Van Gundy as the head coach and GM, its likely that Josh Smith will really have to mind his P’s and Q’s.  But here’s where Stan Van has the edge.  He’s already dealt with Josh Smith’s old pal Dwight Howard and knows how to get the most out of a talented big man who may just need direction.  Smith signed a 4 year contract worth $54 million last year when Detroit threw money around like a 24 year old with daddy’s new Black card.  Smith will be asked to play closer to the basket which goes against Josh Smith’s version of events that sees him as a stretch 4.  Of course real world statistics don’t bare that out, and that’s Stan Van’s mission: to convince Smith of who he is. There are talks about putting Smith as a sixth man In the end, this is more about developing Smith so that Stan Van can develop Andre Drummond into Dwight 2.0, only one that’s nicer to Nickelodeon stars they have relations with.

Major Subplot of the Season- Can Stan Van the exec agree with Stan Van the coach? SVG has long been regarded as one of the brightest minds in coaching.  His looks and personal style have left much to be desired but we haven’t minded.  He singlehandedly outed Dwight Howard as the biggest D-bag on the planet after we were duped with all the stories of farting and those big smiles that made us all think he was a swell guy.  So he has a history in player management.  But a coach can convince himself that he can right a player.  This is Stan’s first go-round as the top of the food chain.  No longer will he be told from execs within the organization about a player’s dislike of him, the information will have to be funneled through him.  Don’t think that teams won’t reach out to pull a fast one on him either.  Greg Monroe signed a qualifying offer but only because nobody else came calling with a max offer which shouldn’t shock him.  Nothing about Monroe’s game screams max-contract guy.  His skill set takes a backseat to the stylings of Andre Drummond and Monroe may seek greener pastures elsewhere where teams don’t have an Andre Drummond to shine light on his physical failings.  Bringing him in as a sixth man to help spacing, which was discussed as well with Josh Smith, could be the final nail unscrewed to make Monroe walk through the door, but there’s reason to believe he was headed out anyway.  Plenty of decisions for Stan Van the coach and Stan Van the GM, but can they both agree to help the team?

20. Pacers logoIndian Pacers-

Player to Watch- Paul George (SF) Roy Hibbert (C)- Last season’s fun ride and good times stopped because Roy Hibbert forgot how to be Roy Hibbert from the Knicks series.  The Great Wall of Roy who swatted everything with ferocity the likes of which had not been seen since Patrick Ewing roamed the center position for the Georgetown Hoyas.  So it goes without saying that this season will be extremely important to his development.  This season will likely feature Hibbert a whole lot (possibly in hopes that they can deal Hibbert for some financial freedom).  Frank Vogel may even run the offense through him.  If he wants to procure a big contract during the suddenly scorching Summer of 2016- he had better develop this year into the guy he showed in the Knicks series in 2012.

Major Subplot of the Season- Will the band be broken up?  My guess is that they will trade pieces, go for the lottery and then try their luck with a young piece next to a recovering Paul George.  George is their everything.  So if they go this route, it will allow Indiana to bring George back slowly rather than rushing him back.   They have seen in their division how a roster full of complementary pieces without a bona fide superstar and a very good coach can only achieve so much in the Chicago Bulls. It remains to be seen what it would do to a fan base that was only beginning to fill up the stands again, but its understandable and in my opinion the right move.  My guess is that David West gets moved and they shop Hibbert  as well, dangling George Hill with both players to net the best possible return.

19. Knicks logoNew York Knicks-

Player to Watch- Iman Shumpert (SF)- Phil likes him.  We know this because he told Charley Rosen as much.  Shumpert’s athleticism helps him play on both ends.  His defense is at times overrated and his offense is nowhere near where it is.  Last season his minutes began to get slashed because of some reported rift between he and Coach Woodson so its important that he get off on the right foot with rookie head coach Derek Fisher.  Entering Restricted Free Agency, Iman could play himself into bigger bucks, a trade that could bring back a huge package or an enigma that has the tools to be great but none of the actual stats to back that up.

Major Subplot of the Season- Will the Triangle be a success in NY?- There are enough questions about Derek Fisher being able to handle the media spotlight of New York, and handle a star laden lineup that features several players that think they should have the ball a lot, but implementing a system that has been a failure everywhere else but when the current GM was the coach?  I worry for Fisher.  He played in Los Angeles which is a different type of pressure than the one that New York presents.  But if Fisher is going to be successful, and believes 100% in the triangle, and I believe he does, he will have to be patient.  Yes, players are who they are and many won’t change, some like JR Smith may even find the transition a lot more difficult than they ever thought,  and there are others in the basketball community who believe that it isn’t about system that its about the players at the end of the day.  All are true and a reality of the Knick season.  How quickly they adapt to the system will be the true test.

18. nuggets logo Denver Nuggets-

Player to Watch- Jusuf Nurcic (C)- He’s 20 years old, from Boznia and he’s got the Nuggets fan base buzzing along with several personnel folk.  Zack Lowe gave a shoutout during the Grantland NBA hour.  He’s intriguing enough but this speaks more to the rest of the roster more than Nurcic’s potential.  There’s so many B+ guy with one A- in Ty Lawson that its tough to pinpoint one player, so we go with the unknown here in the spot.  At some point these Eastern European giants will put together a season right?

Major Subplot of the Season- Is now the time to break up the roster or do we keep playing this game that the Nuggets can be a contender in the West?- Judging by the level of snark in that sentence you get the sense of where I’m going with this.  I don’t think so.  As a matter of fact, I think that the Nuggets with all of their traceable pieces could go so many different directions.  They could make a trade, and still be a mid-tier contender status.  They could trade a Gallinari and Foye for a pick that could eventually be a lottery pick if things end up right.  There’s so many different ways this could play out for the Nuggets a.k.a. the Knicks of the West, but the truth here is that in a stacked Western Conference, it will be very difficult for THIS version of the Nuggets to make noise.  Just so its clear, I tried really hard NOT to put Wilson Chandler and Danilo Galinari in the players to watch section.

17. Brooklyn-Nets-logo Brooklyn Nets-

Player to Watch- Brook Lopez (C)- No team’s destiny is tied to one player’s health like Nets to Lopez.  If he’s healthy, and the rest of the roster, this is a playoff team that can give a top 4 seed a scare in the East.  They have a solid front line in Garnett, Lopez and Plumlee that can cause problems.  But if Lopez doesn’t play, this is a lottery team.  Again, the Eastern Conference is chock full of mediocre to below average teams that could eventually make this a moot conversation.  But Lopez’s health will ultimately decide the fate of the Brooklyn Nets.

Major Subplot of the Season- Are there bigger shakeups in store?-  They don’t have the assets to get a big superstar so they may have to stand pat.  But there are enough signs that point to a major shake up of the entire organization including rumors popping up that Mikhail Prokhorov has begun gauging interest in selling the team in the wake of Steve Ballmer paying $2 Billion for the Clippers. I don’t blame him.  He has political aspirations for 2016 and sees the NBA’s latest TV deal as a sign that he could fetch a very healthy sum for his team.  Add that to reports that the Nets lost $144 million due to operating costs and there’s motive.  Prokho has been silent for some time which leads people to believe that he’s already planning his exit.  If so, it could potentially lead to large scale changes.  Billy King might be asked to sell off assets to make the books look a lot cleaner than it is and who knows what could be had and for what.  King has never struck me as an awesome deal maker, save for the Deron Williams trade which was an all time hammer move.  Either way, Brooklyn’s activity come deadline time could be a sign of potential ownership changes to come.

16. Suns logoPhoenix Suns-

Player to Watch- Eric Bledsoe (PG)-  All that needs to be said.  And to think, they were playing a staring contest over a contract extension:

Major Subplot of the Season- Can a two point guard system work full-time?  The Suns are betting on it.  Big time.  They re-signed Eric Bledsoe.  They signed Isaiah Washington, and drafted Tyler Ennis.  Initially you could’ve said that the last two moves were in case Bledsoe left, but when the restricted market was a dry patch of pavement, Bledsoe came back to the Suns at a reasonable price for both sides.  Looking at that contract from the perch of a huge TV deal that could make the salary cap explode to close to $100M that means the Suns could be major players for free agents with all the assets they have and the cap space.  Consider they still have Minnesota’s 1st rounder protected 1-12 in 2015 or 2016 and the Lakers 1st round pick protected 1-5 in 2015 and 1-3 in 2016.  Add to that the miracle workers that is their training staff, and a young smart head coach its easy to see why this can be a destination for would be free agents or a good trade partner for teams trying to get young guys and unload veterans. The Suns who streaked their way 48 wins running a fast paced offense surrounded by shooting might want to look at the advanced stats that show that when Bledsoe or Dragic played with Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye, PJ Tucker, and Gerald Green, their offense flew.  Maybe they see another market inefficiency that they can exploit and try and go two point guards and pick up the pace.  Either way, Hornacek’s rotations, coaching and outright defiance against tanking have led me to lay upon them the unenviable title of my favorite Western Conference team.  Let’s see how this plays out!

Part II coming soon.

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NBA Season Preview Part I (10 bold predictions for the 2014-2015 NBA season)

With the NBA season on the horizon I figured I would take a stab at the foolish exercise of making 10 bold predictions rooted in reality as I could.  This is part I of the NBA season preview.  These are ten reasonably based yet bold predictions I’m guessing will come to pass after staring at that crystal ball I have:

1. The Celtics won’t trade Rondo, but will trade Jeff Green- I’m working without any knowledge of how the television deal will affect the salary cap moving forward but I expect an announcement will come midseason.  The trade deadline will either be super busy with teams absorbing big salaries from teams trying to add cap space for the future, or teams hoping to gather assets to make a bigger trade down the line.  In theory, most teams could use a Rondo.  When healthy and motivated, he can hold his own with the best the league has to offer and is NOT afraid of the spotlight.  You can thank Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for ultimately helping him flourish.  However its clear that his time in Boston is about to come to an end.  He may go to New York or go to Sacramento, or even Houston who would love to add Rondo as their third star, but the question remains who will bite the bullet to trade for such a mercurial spirit Rondo?  Boston’s asking price for the point guard is pretty high and teams have shied from giving up future number ones without any assurances Rondo would re-sign with them.

Green on the other hand, is owed $9.2M this season and next.  His salary would definitely make a team bite on an expensive asking price and I think the Celtics could get back more.  When Green is on, he’s a force that can play big and constantly attacks the rim.  The Cavs are all in for the next few seasons so trading away future first round picks will be nothing for them.  I think the team that makes the most sense for Green in the East would be Atlanta as Al Horford insurance and another quality big to help space out for Budenholzer’s scheme to have every person on the court be a threat from deep.  Atlanta perpetually maintains flexibility and they have picks to throw at Boston too.

2. Dwight Howard will re-emerge as an MVP candidate- Howard has gone from superstar center, perennial defensive player of the year candidate, and Top 3 player to, not even mentioned at all in these kind of discussions.  The popular name to throw into MVP discussions is Anthony Davis, the soon to be best player in the league in 3-4 seasons.  But I think Dwight is poised to have a breakout season in his second year in Houston.  For the first time in three seasons, he’s not exploring ways to skip town or avoid Kobe’s death stare or playing on a bad back.  Howard’s entering age 29 where he should be at the peak of his powers and playing on a team that will likely boast at least two to three players at a time that shoot 35% or better from beyond the arc.  That was the kind of roster he played with in Orlando.  When Dwight is playing regular minutes without any distractions, he’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.  I’m betting on Dwight to have a big year.

3. The Indiana Pacers will NOT make the playoffs and subsequently will trade David West- Technically this is TWO bold predictions for the price of one.  Consider yourselves lucky.  The Pacers lost their best offensive threat when Paul George went down in a scrimmage for Team USA and Lance Stephenson took his services to Charlotte to play for Michael Jordan.  My guess is that when Paul George starts practicing with the team, he won’t recognize 40% of the roster.  The fact is, the Pacers are still a very solid defensive unit but I think Larry Bird, Kevin Pritchard and co know that the best way to make this right is to start over.  HIbbert will be off the books after 2016 and chances of him signing a long term deal for big money are slim; the Pacers just aren’t built that way.  They have enough smart people to know that they don’t stand a chance this year with the roster as constructed.  Wanna know how I know?  They basically gave the keys to the offense to Rodney Stuckey.  West is their best trade asset and every playoff team will be angling to get him.  The Pacers will likely take a bad contract back if they can recoup a decent draft pick.  A team like the Suns, with extra first rounders may make a play here if they are in contention.  When he initially signed with Indiana, he was coming off a torn ACL- and he’s mostly answered his injury concerns with solid play over the last few seasons as the heart, soul and muscle of an Indiana team that for most parts of last season looked like the best team in the East and a top 4 squad.  But if Indiana is willing to take a lesser deal, he could shift the balance in either division.

4. The Top 4 in the East will be Cleveland, Chicago, Washington and Toronto- in that order.  I had a hard time picking between Washington and Charlotte.  Bradley Beal is set to miss the first month of the season at the least after breaking his wrist, and I’m STILL picking the Bullets to win the division.  I don’t trust Toronto’s young guns to take a step forward and I don’t expect them to make a crazy trade, even with Masai at the helm.  Cleveland, and Chicago will be the toast of the Eastern Conference and my hunch here is that Chicago will limit Derrick Rose’s minutes.  Knowing Thibs that means someone else will feel the whip and I”m guessing its Jimmy Butler.  Lance Stephenson vaults Charlotte into serious consideration for one of the top 4 spots in the East but that transition will take some time and losing Josh McRoberts will hurt.  I think Miami is a lock to make the playoffs as well.  That’s six spots with the remaining two to be fought between Brooklyn, the Knicks, Atlanta, and the Pistons.  If I had to pick two today, I think the two New York teams round out the eight but don’t sleep on Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons, and I could be totally wrong on the Pacers.

5. Kobe will be top 10 in scoring this season- Have you seen the Laker roster?  Have you heard that ESPN ranked him as the 40th best player in the NBA?  Shockingly Kobe took neither thing very well and there’s little doubt that Kobe will shoot himself into some conversation.  Whether its the analytics folks talking down to Kobe as a black hole of efficiency or the Kobe fanatics flooding ESPN’s comments sections with not so polite things to say about ESPN’s columnists and their lack of basketball wisdom, trust and believe that Kobe will shoot through the season with no remorse.  I want to see Byron Scott try and make a power move on Kobe and try to bench him for not making the extra pass to Jeremy Lin in the corner.  I want to see it.  Even if it happens, I won’t believe it.

6. The Knicks will trade Iman Shumpert- I don’t think this is a crazy bold prediction but one that will surely make Knicks fans upset.  Look, I like Shump.  I think with his physical gifts, he can grow into a very good sixth man and defensive stopper but he is also an asset.  He and Hardaway are the two guys that everyone asks for with the Knicks but I believe the Knicks love Hardaway’s offense more than they love Shump’s defense.  In the end, he will be the one traded and it may be to a Western conference team looking for a guy to guard the wings in the West and who knows what Uncle Phil will look for when it comes to trade time.  I do know that if the Knicks trade anyone Shump is going in the deal and that includes an Amar’e or Bargnani trade that would rid the team of an expiring contract which recently hadn’t been something teams were willing to do but now would be the quickest way to free up the most amount of money in anticipation of the Summer of 2016.

7. The top four in the West will be the Spurs, Clippers, the Warriors, and the Thunder- in that order.  I like the rivalry brewing between the Clippers and the Warriors and I think that battle will come down to the final three weeks.  Losing Kevin Durant for at least a month and a half will slow the Thunder down in that race and the Spurs know how to get to 55 wins in their sleep.  Its the Warriors I’m extremely high on who I think will make a play to be one of the best teams in the entire league.  I think Steve Kerr is a bright coach and he comes into a great situation with a loaded team.  The one thing that worries me about them is when they go through an extended slump or an injury and then the Kevin Love what-if scenarios start playing out in post game questions.  This is a team full of young guys with a rookie head coach.  Expectations will be high for a young head coach and as easy as it is to talk about doing the right thing, its another thing to coach it.  Let’s see what happens.

8. Four head coaches will be fired this season; and one of them in season- My guess on the coach who will see the ax midseason?  Mike Malone.  Which is fascinating because Vivek Ranadive the majority owner of the Kings knows him from his time as a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and took him to Sacramento.  But Ranadive hired him before hiring a GM which can make for an uneasy co-existence.  Add to that the quote recently by the owner that the “team will be judged by wins and losses,” and you can already see that the stage is being set.  One can only wonder how much time will be given to coaches to make their mark here but it won’t be long.  The other three?  I think Jacques Vaughn in Orlando will get the heave ho.  I also see  Brian Shaw getting the early ax as he has two more guaranteed years remaining and in a tricky ownership situation Mike Budenholzer getting the pink slip once new ownership group gets settled but that likely won’t happen until after the season.  Budenholzer will naturally go back to San Antonio to make a great coaching team even stronger.  Awesome!

9. The Nets will be sold- Based on everything I”ve read, and the fact that Mr. Prokhorov has already tested the waters, and the promise of a huge payday given how much the Clippers were sold for (THE CLIPPERS!), Prokho may already have five people blowing up his assistant’s phone chomping at the bit.  The fact is, the new television deal makes owning an NBA team even greater than it already was and with a market like Brooklyn behind it, its easy to see why the possibility of an insane bidding war would make Prokho look at this as the best possible time to sell everything and move!  Once he realized he wasn’t winning a title anytime soon, you have to figure that the White Russian basically lost all interest and had his sights set on selling it.  This would be the best time to sell.

10. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be the 2014-2015 version of the Phoenix Suns-  The Suns were the biggest winners of last year when given the amount of draft picks they had, rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek installed an ultra aggressive two point guard system that scored at a crazy pace.  This year, Minnesota has the young guns to run up and down the court for days.  While Flip Saunders isn’t my idea of a great head coach, his handling of the Kevin Love situation was something I agreed with.  He got Andrew Wiggins and drafted Zach Lavine who’s more than just a dunk show freak.  Look for them to make noise for the 8th seed, but fall short.

I should get extra points for not writing the names of Lebron James or Kevin Love at all in this article about the upcoming NBA season.  OH wait…

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Talking up Phil and seeing if he’s down

So it has come to this.  In an attempt to bring some relevance to this team and legitimize its operation the Knicks have attached its most famous wandering son to a front office position.  Not that any deal is finalized, but something is in the works according to a Daily News report.  If Phil Jackson were to accept the offer made by the Knicks to come back to the team that introduced him to winning NBA championships, it would send several ripples throughout an organization that has been mismanaged from top to bottom for far too long.

To be clear, I don’t know if Phil Jackson would make a great executive.  We know he can coach.  We know he enjoys being in the spotlight.  We also know that he loves LA.  But my personal hunch is, from my detached far away from success standpoint, that people like Phil don’t just suddenly give up the opportunity to win.  Its why management often throws piles of money at guys who have seemingly past their prime as if there is a cut off age for everyone to stop what they are doing.  They know that while money is motivation, its the love of winning and perhaps just as important, the stench of losing that drives these men.

Larry Brown, Knick fans remember him, is 73 and he’s currently leading the SMU Mustangs to its first NCAA tournament appearance in more than 20 years.  Guys like Brown don’t just love the fame and the money, they love basketball for reasons that go beyond the superficiPhil_Jackson_3_croppedal.  I’m not waxing poetic on a guy like Larry Brown who’s been known to leave one place for greener pastures elsewhere, but one thing can’t be understated: don’t think its all about the money.

I sat thinking about three things in regards to this Phil Jackson rumor:

1. What would it take for Phil Jackson to come to the Knicks?

2. What would be the reason Phil Jackson took this position?

3. Why are the Knicks constantly coming to the well of the old master Phil everytime there’s uncertainty going on about the organization?

Let me preface this by saying I have no insider information and this is just one man’s humble opinion but Phil would need to be given certain guarantees in his contract to consider working for the Knicks.  Let’s first start with control.  If Phil were to come, it would be under the condition that he would have complete unilateral control of the Knicks which would be a huge give by James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks.  Its also a well known fact that CAA, the agency who has almost every big superstar in basketball signed to their company, has the ear of the owner of the Knicks as well.  More on them later.

No one knows who else has Dolan’s ear but its clear to almost every Knick fan that whoever does has zero interest in building a solid product here in the “basketball mecca”.  I always joke around that if the Knicks had an iota of intelligence in that front office, superstars would be lining up to play at the Garden.  Say what you will about how overblown the concept is to today’s NBA player, but the Garden is a recognized commodity within the basketball intelligentsia who saw more than its fair share of great high school and college games played here.  It was also the home to many sporting events outside of basketball that are forever a part of America’s storied sports past.  Basically the name rings out in the streets.  It is however, painfully clear that there are far too many voices in James Dolan’s head talking at once and he has to cede his control to someone he absolutely trusts.  Phil Jackson, for all we know, may be friends with Dolan and there may be a level of understanding between the two that go beyond just basketball.  But if there isn’t, Phil would need assurances that he would not be effed with when making a basketball decision.  And why shouldn’t Dolan cede control?  Its clear that even in the last decade of futility the Garden was making money hand over fist so there shouldn’t be a fear of losing money even if, at first, the Knicks may have to reset.

Phil’s health is also a major concern.  We don’t know how many surgeries Phil has had and whether he would consider relocating from Los Angeles where he lives with Jeannie Buss.  Would Phil give up 70 degrees year round for a foot of snow every so often in the Northeast?  More on that later.

The idea of Phil taking the position makes a ton of sense.  Like I stated earlier, guys like Phil Jackson don’t take jobs like this at this stage of their lives for the money.  Jackson’s legacy is set.  He’s won 11 championships as a head coach and won two as a player in New York.  If anything he could say that he achieved the task of winning in New York.  But for guys like Phil maybe the idea that his legacy isn’t complete eats up at him.  Maybe going back to New York would energize him and give him purpose.  I mean how long can you fly fish in Montana or ride your Harley in LA in perfect weather for?  Even if that sounds like a slice of heaven?  Ok, I’m not helping I know.

Finally, we all know why the Knicks are approaching Phil.  There’s plenty of reasons.  Look at the current Knick three game winning streak?  Maybe the players are under the illusion that Phil is coming and are viewing this time as an audition?  The Knicks aren’t a good team and yet are showing glimpses of the 54 win team they were last year.  There’s that Carmelo Anthony guy we’ve been hearing attached to Miami and Chicago recently.  His decision this summer will ultimately guide what the Knicks do next year.  If he leaves, they will definitely trade Tyson Chandler to a contender and try to carve out more cap space for 2015 even though merely letting Amar’e walk and not having a $23M cap hit on Carmelo would probably do the trick.  But if Phil comes Carmelo will feel like the Knicks are moving in the right direction because that’s what Phil represents.  He represents championships and winning and Carmelo can get down with that.  And you know who else can get down with that?  Other superstars who still view Phil in high regard.

While there are a ton of reasons why this would be good for the Knicks one thing is clear, the Knicks are star gazers.  Wishing on any shooting star that passes, hoping that their wish will come true.  This shooting star has a ton of questions surrounding his health and ultimately the power he will be given to make decisions.  Maybe he won’t be good at being a GM.  Look at Michael Jordan?  The power with being that good at one thing is that you start believing you’re good at everything and Mike fell into that trap.  He’s the guy who drafted Kwame Brown number one ahead of guys like Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Joe Johnson etc.  He’s the guy who has never produced a .500 or better team in his tenure as GM or owner.  Nothing is promised to guys who go on to try things other than what they are known for.  I truly believe God put us all on this earth for one thing, and one thing only.  Some, like Mike and Phil found their niche.  They worked hard and achieved the impossible.

In the end, I don’t think God put Phil on this earth to run the Knicks.  The devil put James Dolan here to mock all of us Knick fans for believing the rumors.

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Questioning the Linsanity of James Dolan

This morning fans of the New York Knicks woke up to the news that the Knicks would not be matching the $25 million offer sheet given to Jeremy Lin by the Houston Rockets.  The deadline to match was last night at 11:59.  Through a Knick official, they informed the press and the Houston Rockets that Jeremy Lin was now no longer their property and was free to take his talents to the big ol state of Texas.

Most fans greeted this news with outrage that James Dolan, the owner of the New York Knicks, picked this time to become frugal when he has repeatedly in the past paid the luxury tax despite fielding a much weaker team.

I decided that it were appropriate to talk to someone who is completely removed from the sport of basketball and from sports in general but was aware of Linsanity as it was happening.  As always, this is a fictitious person who shall remain nameless.

1. What happened to Linsanity?  How come he’s no longer on the team?

It isn’t easy to say exactly why he’s no longer on the team.  The Houston Rockets decided that he was worth a 3 year $25 million contract.  Its pretty crazy, he was waived by the Rockets in the beginning of the season before the Knicks picked him up but the Rockets were so adamant that they wanted him back that they gave him this offer sheet that the Knicks just had to match.

2.  How come the Rockets thought he was worth it now when they originally waived him?

Linsanity was huge and I would like to think that the prospects of continuing their relationship with China was important.  They had Yao Ming, a Chinese center who was a major attraction as a global phenomenon.  Adding Lin to continue their global (read: Chinese) branding was a smart move.  Knicks fans also feel that Darryl Morey has a particular fetish for screwing over the Knicks.

3.  Why do you think the Rockets are screwing them over?  Didn’t The Rockets offer him a larger contract?  What the problem with accepting that contract?

Its not quite that simple.  Well, at least according to James Dolan.  The NBA had a lockout that eventually led to a brand new CBA.  This CBA was supposed to allow teams to keep their players and the Knicks even won a motion prior to the free agency period that allowed the Knicks to have Jeremy Lin’s Bird rights.  Bird rights are the ability of any team to extend their salary cap space in order to resign the player.  Usually Bird rights are achieved when a player stays with the team for 3 seasons but the Knicks won a motion on Lin and Novak- players who were waived and whom the Knicks picked up off of waivers- to get it.

Darryl Morey, the Rockets GM, took advantage of this new CBA as well by offering Jeremy Lin a 3 year $25 million deal.  In this deal, the Rockets would pay $8 million a year while the Knicks would have to pay $5.1 million for the first two years and then $14.8 million for that last year.

4.  How is it fair that the Knicks have to pay it like that?

According to the CBA that’s how the payments would be structured for the Knicks.  That last year is what’s known as a “poison pill” meant to stop teams from matching.  The CBA was very ambitious in trying to both help teams keep their players and to help player movement.  We all know that’s the equivalent of having their cake and eating it too.  The new CBA has far worse tax penalties for teams who are repeat offenders of going over the luxury tax threshold and thus place a greater burden on them and give those who remain financially clean a much greater advantage.  In year 3, given the new tax, the Knicks who would be over the luxury tax would have to pay up $42 million in tax penalties for Jeremy Lin alone.

For most teams that would make them reconsider, but for a team like the Knicks who make money hand over fist (they own their own network and are in the media capital of the world), the ability of them to market Lin alone would justify that tax hit thanks to how popular Linsanity is and became during his run and the overall Asian population in the world.

5. So why didn’t the Knicks match when it makes financial sense?

Well, financially it makes sense but there’s an argument to be made whether it makes sense basketball wise.  This is a guy who was let go by the Golden State Warriors, his hometown team, and by the Houston Rockets before being picked up by the Knicks.   Though to be fair, the Rockets were forced to cut him thanks to a numbers game at point guard.  He came into Mike D’Antoni’s system where point guards with any kind of athleticism can excel in and, well, excelled.  He then got injured and didn’t play for the rest of the regular season all in all making his 2011-2012 season a total of 25 starts and 36 games suited up in.  Turning 25 starts into $25 million is quite the feat even for a kid from Harvard but there are questions about whether he can sustain that performance in Mike Woodson’s isolationist scheme.  His numbers dipped when he had to play with Carmelo Anthony, who the organization has pinned their hopes on to lead them to a championship, and they never got any momentum going.

6. So wait, Lin has ONLY played 25 games in his professional career?  That’s a pretty short time to suddenly be wanting a huge contract don’t you think?

A valid point, one which JR Smith had also brought up.  He said that a lot of players would have a problem with Lin making that kind of money when he hasn’t proven himself over a long period of time.  But to answer your first question, no, he has played in more games than that but his career really began when he started for the Knicks.  The Knicks were 8-15 when Lin entered the starting line up and they won their next 7 games to reach .500 where Lin averaged 18 points and 8 assists, pretty nice numbers for a guy who just entered the line up from off the waiver wire.

7. So if he isn’t that experienced why are so many Knick fans upset?

Well that part has very little to do with Lin and more to do with the ownership of the Knicks, namely James Dolan.  Dolan has made some, how do you say, TERRIBLE personnel decisions and this one is his greatest and sadly his dumbest move to date, atleast according to the majority of fans I’ve spoken to.  In 2015, there is no doubt that the Knicks will be taxpayers.  Give or take a few million the Knicks were in the red to begin with so the idea that they would suddenly get stingy makes no sense to any Knick fan.  Knicks fans fondly remember teams with Penny Hardaway and Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry paying luxury tax year after year and producing little to nothing.

The other part of this that’s complicating matters is the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets.  There are now two franchises in New York and the Nets threaten to take a borough of New York and who knows how many more fans with them when they open for business this October in Brooklyn.  This is the kind of move that could divide the fanbase and force them to turn their affections and dollars towards the new kid in town.  This is the first time the Knicks fan has ever had anything remotely close to a competing product to choose from since New Yorkers fail to acknowledge New Jersey’s existence.  This is a crucial time for the Knicks to not screw around with their fan base and the fan base, for better or worse believed in Linsanity.  Now, is their faith warranted?  Sure, there’s a chance that Lin will turn into the superstar that he has the potential to be OR he will be a supreme bust (supreme because he has a long term contract now and its the only thing that anyone wants to talk about).  That’s the spectrum here.

The point is the fans LOVED him and it shows poor judgement to waste that because of a tiny misunderstanding.

8. So this is all a misunderstanding?

Kind of.  The reason, according to sources within the Dolan camp, that the Knicks aren’t retaining Lin is that they feel betrayed.  For better or worse, James Dolan is a man who puts loyalty first and he feels that Lin was being disloyal to the first franchise that gave him a real shot.  They supported him when, at 85%, opted NOT to play in the playoffs despite numerous players deciding to play if put in his position and in spite of their lack of point guard depth as the series went on.

In defense of Lin, Dolan did advise Lin to seek out his market value and should have seen this coming when Lin came back with this “ridiculous contract” as Carmelo Anthony so eloquently put it.  Once Lin came back with the offer the Knicks were reportedly set to match it however Dolan’s camp learned that Lin had went back to the Rockets to renegotiate.  This infuriated Dolan and forced his hand in bringing back Raymond Felton and former Knick Kurt Thomas.

9. Kurt Thomas?  I loved that guy!  Isn’t he a 100 years old?  But doesn’t this mean that the Knicks can put that $25 million into signing Chris Paul next year?

Unfortunately that money was and can only be given to Jeremy Lin thanks (again) to the Bird rule which only allows the Knicks to stretch their payroll for their own players as opposed to signing free agents.  So the Knicks are now still in salary cap hell and have very little wiggle room to improve their roster for the next three years.  Kurt Thomas is currently the oldest player in the league and yes he played with the Knicks a lifetime ago.  But he can still be a useful veteran you know to put six hard fouls into Lebron, Wade, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or anyone else hoping to drive to the paint.

10. Speaking of Veterans didn’t the Knicks also sign Jason Kidd, and Marcus Camby?

::Nodding sadly::.

11. So what now for the Knicks?

The Knicks now have no choice but to win in order to win back some of their fans and some of those on the fence on joining the Brooklyn-ites.  The fans will certainly be upset by Lin’s departure claiming its just another example of how James Dolan doesn’t care and has no clue about anything except doing whatever the hell he pleases.  While it is his right to spend his money as he wishes, fans are not that forgiving and may wind up vacating the Garden to go over to the Barclay’s Center.

This was probably the wrong time to get such an easy decision wrong.  The Knicks still had an out here.  In the CBA there’s a stretch provision which would have allowed the Knicks to literally stretch the last year of that contract over three years so that the tax hit wouldn’t have been that great.  The Knicks could have also used him as an expiring contract in that final poisonous year and gotten a trade exception.  There were reasons to let him go and keep him but there are just so many more reasons to keep him that it boggles the mind how vindictive one person can be in order to prove a point.  Dolan could’ve swallowed his pride and re-signed him because he was going to pay a heavy tax that year anyway with Amar’e, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony all entering the final years of their huge contracts.  But he chose to spin this as Jeremy being less than honest in his attempt to secure a much better future for himself.

12. So you’re saying that this was bad for the Knicks?

Surprisingly I don’t.  Look, was Linsanity great?  Absolutely.  He was entertaining and fun and made the Knicks relevant again.  The Knicks are going for it all and having a 23 year old point guard come of age would’ve been nice, but the Knicks aren’t suddenly going to tank.  And if the Knicks really are “All-In” this season as their moves have suggested the Knicks don’t have time for a player to work his way into a system and don’t have time for a player to get acclimated and for there to be the kind of drama that a Carmelo ANthony, Jeremy Lin supposed power struggle would have brought. Whether real or manufactured, it would’ve existed. The Knicks are always ones to make crazy moves, but anyone who thinks this is crazy are those that are under the assumption that having Lin would’ve made them better than the NBA Champions Miami Heat.  That’s crazy.

Unfortunately the Knicks are still not as good as the Heat and while losing Lin is tough for the Knicks, from a competitive standpoint nothing about the team’s chances have dramatically changed now that Raymond Felton is taking over for Lin.  Felton was unhappy and unproductive in Portland, I would imagine that will change now that everyone expects him to show up to camp weighing 300 pounds and unable to productively handle the point guard position.  He has played in NY before and was pretty good before he joined half the team in Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade.  The fact that he doesn’t hold grudges over how it went down is probably a good sign and an indication that he had fun during his tenure here and can handle being the point guard.

On the face of it this seems like a bad decision temporarily but we really won’t know how bad or good this decision is until we see it play out.  The biggest negative in all of this is how much unnecessary pressure will be put on the Knicks to win early and often and get a top 4 playoff seed in the East.  The Heat and the Celtics have improved.  The Bulls are the Bulls.  The Pacers are bringing back a core that was a 3 seed.  The Hawks and Magic will obviously both take a hit with Joe Johnson leaving and Dwight on his way out but of course the Nets are there and the Sixers announced that their new free agent acquisition Kwame Brown is their starting center so needless to say that the Sixers are probably going to take a step back as well.  If the Knicks don’t at least fare better than the Nets heads will roll.

Every night will be a daily test and the blogosphere of crazed Linsanity fans will inundate the wire with every Jeremy Lin 20-10 game he has in a Rocket uniform.  This could all have been avoided had they matched.

13. So what are the chances that this works in the Knicks favor?

As always, these are the Knicks.  With all due respect to David Kahn, Jeremy Lin IS manna from heaven and James Dolan decided to say no to it inexplicably.  So what are the chances that this works in James Dolan’s favor?>  He literally sent down a gift from heaven, free from CAA’s control and having nothing to do with his influence and he decided to say no.  You ever say no to a gift from God?

14. No.

15. Are you going to start being a Nets fan now?

No.  It would sadly take much more than this to keep me away.  I’m programmed to handle this kind of heartbreak on a regular basis.  Anything good that happens is a result of sheer dumb luck and in this case that’s what Lin was.  It was a shot in the arm for a team desperate for one and yet even that wasn’t enough, but to suddenly walk away from a long term hazardous relationship that has left me with more scars than an abusive spouse would be dumb.  If I’m leaving having stayed after Jordan repeatedly destroyed my childhood, then Isiah came along to destroy my early to mid 20’s and decide to leave because the Knicks didn’t retain a 23 year old point guard who started 25 games,  I was never a fan to begin with.

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Sports Round up 12/2/2011

Despite the uncertainty of free agency, its almost a certainty that Chris Paul will become a New York Knick.  The time frame of that deal is a little shaky and there are no shortage of detractors and those who believe this deal may happen.  Alan Hahn of Newsday  believes its an inevitability no matter what.  Zach Lowe of SI says there is a gaping loophole that could even get Paul that $100 million deal.  Chris Paul’s agent Leon Rose informed the Hornets that he would not sign an extension and wanted to be traded to the New York Knicks as was first reported by Adrian Woj and Marc Spears of Yahoo.

Regardless of how you feel, small market or big, the eventuality of Chris Paul’s determination to come and join his friend Carmelo Anthony in New York makes it a done deal.  Will Chris Paul become a Knick?  Most likely yes.  However, do I think that Paul will be traded to the Knicks this season?  No.  In fact, I can see teams colluding to keep Paul away from the Knicks as long as humanly possible.  Is it out of sheer jealousy?  Sure.  What else could be the reason to not grant a superstar’s wish?  Teams will view this as just the beginning.  If the new CBA was to have one guarantee in it, it would be to keep superstars in their small markets but unless you get a player like Kevin Durant who absolutely abhors the spotlight and would rather stay in the low key environs of Oklahoma City or Derrick Rose who’s brilliance is appreciated and is beloved in his hometown of Chicago (a big market), its hard to keep these players who believe they are stars from the big stage.  Very few markets can offer these stars that limelight and that kind of opportunity.  It doesn’t hurt that one of Paul’s good friends is Carmelo Anthony, a player who faced the same dilemma a season ago and convinced the Knicks to basically strip itself of parts just to get him to NY so he could get his max contract.

The one question I ask is this: if he were so concerned for his friend and he wanted to make sure that Paul would get his fair market value, wouldn’t Anthony have come at the end of last year as a free agent instead?  The Knicks only have Chauncey Billups expiring contract and other uninspired players that would not nearly be close enough value for one of the league’s top 15 players.  The Knicks would be giving the Hornets a poo poo platter of players, the same raw deal they handed the Hornets.  Dell Demps did a pretty good job last year in swinging trades to make New Orleans competitive so don’t expect him to automatically succumb to the pressure of placating his star player, but expect him to explore EVERY possible scenario in which he can get Paul to another team and make him their headache.  But who will send him great prospects when they know he WON’T sign with them long term?  Demps is going to be stuck in the same predicament that Masa Ujiri was last season: give his superstar the deal he wants and try to get the best possible one from the team he wants to deal with, make a deal with a team and land prospects in hopes that they won’t mind his reluctance to sign a long term deal in whatever spot he lands in, OR hold on stubbornly and hope to dear God that the Hornets make a run which convinces Paul to stay.

Either way, I wouldn’t want to wake up Dell Demps OR Chris Paul this morning.

Speaking of big time free agents making moves, Deron Williams, through his agent of course, has informed the New Jersey Nets that he has no intention of signing an extension midseason with them and will opt out to explore free agency according to the Bergen Record.  Williams tried to appease Net fans on twitter by saying: “don’t know why people are tripping just because I’m opting out doesn’t mean that I won’t resign with the Nets! W/new CBA it makes sense!”  

And then there’s that.  This has to be troubling for the Big Russian and Hov to think that the one superstar they acquired in really shocking fashion, hours after Anthony was traded to the Knicks after they doggedly pursued them, has all but stated his intentions to explore free agency.  He’s right, with the new CBA he could resign with the Nets and as explained in Zach Lowe’s article he could get his $100 million max contract from the Nets if he chooses to stay with them by opting out of free agency.  In fact, the ball is moreso in the Nets favor.  IF they somehow pull off a deal for Dwight Howard and they make a run, both could opt out and resign with the Nets and get their max deals.  According to hoopshype.com, they only hav 36 million in committed salaries, 7 of which would almost definitely be freed via the amnesty clause on Travis Outlaw.

The one thing that the owners did not write into the CBA which I’m sure they wish they had is a designated franchise tag which would’ve allowed small market teams to keep their superstars and hold leverage over them.  Of course that would add to the whole slavemaster analogy wouldn’t it?  I’m not in favor of a franchise tag by itself.  I do like how the NFL does it, guaranteeing the player an average of the Top 5 salaries at that position for the player giving him equal value.  But the players would ask for that stipulation added in to the franchise tag but that discussion has to be tabled until the next set of labor talks which won’ t be happening for a while.  You can’t force these players onto teams that they don’t want to play for and you shouldn’t blame it on small market/big market.  If so, Lebron would’ve came here in the summer of 2010 and every big time free agent would either be pining to play for New York or LA.  This fact was brought up in twitter and I completely agree: the teams that originally drafted these players have on average six to seven years with these players.  If they can’t bring home a championship or don’t ever come close how can you expect a player as uber competitive as some of these guys are to stay and not explore what their options are?  Because for six or seven years you had them, and you didn’t know how to complement them with the role players they needed to win championships and now suddenly they are being demonized for leaving?  That’s hypocritical and ignoring the real elephant in the room: that team has been unsuccessful.  No team should feel entitled to its superstar’s services.  Count them lucky for having them for this long.  Certain players don’t grow on trees (which is why I’ve been hoping and praying that the Knicks go hard after Dwight Howard rather than Paul, no offense to CP3 fans) but every so often teams with one established star and a bunch of role players can win you a title.  All you need is last season’s Mavericks for perspective.

Speaking of which, there seems to be some uncertainty surrounding the amnesty clause.  The good folks at ESPN’s TrueHoop blog have concocted a list naming players they feel would be the best play for the amnesty clause for each respective team and given us some information regarding the amnesty clause.   A list they update constantly. 

As I understand it, the amnesty clause can only be used ONCE during the life of this current CBA and for a player that was on the roster as of July 1st.  The point is that this amnesty clause is meant to protect teams from past mistakes, not so they can create future ones and be saved from them too.  So whoever you have on your roster that you absolutely want to get rid of from the cap right now, most likely will have to be run off within the next year or two since most contracts don’t run that long.  Either way, it will be interesting to see who gets amnestied and who winds up on the free agent market.  As for what happens to the player once he’s amnestied?  He then gets put up on waivers and teams bid for their services and the team with the highest bid gets him.

The most talked about name in that group of amnesty clause hopefuls is Brandon Roy.  Roy is the oftinjured almost superstar who can tantalize you with his potential for being an x-factor and yet destroy you by his x-ray.  His knees are basically damaged goods and the idea that he will be healthy for the life of that long term contract is slim to none.  I would agree with most people that amnestying Roy immediately would be the dumbest thing that the Blazers can do.  The biggest cap hit they will take is only two years down the road.  The Blazer fan base, one of the most devoted in the land given that the Blazers are the only professional outfit in the Portland, Oregon area to root for, loves him and still believes he has one more good run in him left.  Why not take a chance that his final run on those knees of his will boost that team?

Of course, the team doesn’t have a GM and their owner is a crazy fool ready to sell to the first person who asks so all bets are off when it comes to predicting what the Blazers will do next.  Roy is worth a look for the Knicks if he gets amnestied seeing as how he’s owed that huge contract which he will be guaranteed and can take a low salary and sign on to whatever contender he wants.  He would be an excellent addition and he offers that clutch scorers role that most teams otherwise lack.  I would hate to see him in Los Angeles simply because I believe Kobe has the tools and the gravitas to unleash the beast in a player by riding him, in Miami because other than D-Wade he would be the second clutch option which would be devastatingly convenient for Lebron to further shy away from the spotlight which he desperately wants and Chicago which is looking for ANYBODY to help ease the fast man’s burden for Derrick Rose.

USA Today had an interesting open mike question they posed to its readership: Should networks keep on-air analysts who are possibly taking jobs within the sport they are covering, on air?

Its an interesting question for sure.  Consider an on air analyst’s qualifications: he has to have had experience playing in the sport they are going to be covering.  So its inevitable that they would look to get back into their field.  Networks hire these analysts knowing that they can leave at any time.  I would think the objectivness can be compromised if they are trying to get back into the coaching world because they won’t criticize or say anything bad about anyone like Jon Gruden does all day.  There are plenty of negatives to having a person on staff that openly admits to pining for another one because it ruins morale and creates an open door policy which I’m sure networks won’t always want to accomodate but look at what happened with Terry Francona.  FOX jumped at the opportunity to give Francona, the former manager of the Red Sox who famously choked its division and wild card lead during the final month of the season, an opportunity to sit in a play by play booth during the biggest games of the season while its lead analyst Tim McCarver was out.  How many candidates in house could’ve filled that job capably?  Plenty.  But the ratings spike of Francona promised that viewers would tune in to see if Francona would say anything about his last month in a Red Sox uni and so the gamble was worth it even in the short term.  The network television business is funny so there are always hidden agendas but the one motivation is always ratings.  The higher the ratings the more they can charge advertisers.  Sports IS a business after all.

Too little too late?  The Giants will find out this Sunday when they host the unbeaten Green Bay Packers.  Ralph Vacciano of the New York Daily News says that the defense is going to try and make a stand for coordinator Perry Fewell who was animated at Thursday’s practice.  

So let’s add Perry Fewell to the list of people walking out of Metlife stadium trying to light a fire under the Giants defense.  Michael Strahan made a house call this week as well getting into his former linemates to bring the pressure.  The biggest disappointing part of last Monday was how soft the Giants looked.  The Saints punched them and the Giants just kept taking it.  They didn’t do anything to hit back and looked vulnerable on every part of their defense.  Their offense showed up somewhat but were not helped by a revolving door defense that escorted Saints into the end zone at times.  I don’t care what people say about how prepared they were, if that was prepared, I don’t want to know what unprepared is.

The one thing I will say about this team: it responds to criticism.  If ever there was a time to motivate and run the table it would be now.  The Packers began their run last year after Thanksgiving and the Giants certainly have the offense, its the defense and their vaunted pass rush that now must respond.  If another week of being shut out at the dinner table happens, you can believe some will be trying to eat elsewhere next season.  Including the head coach.

 

 

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Melo-drama

Whenever this soap opera centered around superstar forward Carmelo Anthony does end, it will met with a sense of a collective “finally” from everyone involved- fans included.  When that is, is a completely separate matter.

Here’s what we know:
A. Melo will NOT be a Nugget a year from now.
B. He prefers to go to a team in NY*
C. Money IS a very big sticking point.
D.  His wife has a small, tiny role to play in this even if Melo won’t admit to it.

Let’s work our ways backward.  Carmelo’s wife Lala Vazquez, as any hip hop loving teen who watched MTV knows, is a C-List celebrity.  I recently listened to the Rich Eisen podcast in which during an interview with Adam Corolla it was brought up that nowadays the luster of being a celeb is gone.  Corolla commented that everybody’s on TV.  Interesting point made by another portion of the C-List celeb club.

She made their prolonged engagement into a boring reality TV show which is Hollywood’s nicest way of sending you out of their good graces.  Reality shows don’t revive careers or make them: they destroy them or make you famous enough for some teen to put ten exclamation marks in their facebook photo album montage of similar unimportant celebs they have met.  After all, if you’re a real celeb would you be caught dead in normal people clubs?
I get why Melo said his wife doesn’t have anything to do with his decision but let’s make one thing clear: if Lala has no say in his career then she’d be the first wife in history to NOT want a say in her husband’s work.  Marriage is not a democracy no matter what they say and its also not open for discussion.
Lala clearly thinks she can prolong her status in the celeb world by pushing Melo to the tri-state area, but is that a good thing for humanity is what I’m asking.

Second, money is a HUGE sticking point.  Don’t believe the hype that it isn’t.  But I don’t think its Melo who would be suffering.  Its his agent.  Bill Simmons broke it down well but let me summarize: when Lebron, Wade, and Bosh signed extensions that would make them free agents the summer before the collective bargaining agreement expired they were able to negotiate player friendly deals that allowed them to test free agency before a much less player friendly cap was put into play.  Melo, also in the loop of the superfriends, had an agent that added an extra year to the contract which did two things:
1. Gave his agent a bigger check.
2. Removed the leverage that Lebron and company had negotiated for themselves.
By having the deal expire around the same time that the CBA did, Melo lost the leverage of being able to wait the season out and go to free agency and still collect the big bucks.  With a hard cap looming and a smaller cap also, if he were to wait till the summer and sign with whoever he wants to sign with, he would potentially be losing $15-$20 million.
For a guy who’s earned over a $100 million over the course of his career, he may stand to lose more over the long term, during his prime, when he should be making the buku bucks.  Simply put, this is a bad thing for his portfolio and just looks bad personally for a premier player in the NBA.

The third reason ties every other reason together so we will move on to the fact that he no longer will be a Nugget a year from now.  That much we know.  At the current point of this writing- we have 41 days left before the Febuary 15th tradind deadline date and most people in the know believe that a deal will get done by the Denver front office led by uber aggressive GM Masa Ujiri and President Stan Kroenke.  The best offer is from NJ who are willing to give the Nuggets what they have been seeking all along: young promising players (Derrick Favors- 2010 #3 overall pick) and draft picks (2 number ones).  But the Nuggets want cap flexibility and Melo has supposedly leaked it to those involved in making this trade happen that he would like to play alongside some strong veterans that he believes can right the ship in the short term.  Of course naturally Melo has “asked for” Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups so they can play that wonderful game of “what if”- what if Joe Dumars had drafted Carmelo Anthony in the first place when he had the chance?  Its always great when you correct a mistake 8 years later- I’m sure in their thirties Hamilton and Billups can help Melo win a title.*
*= read heavy sarcasm

The fact that Billups is a teammate that Melo respects and Rip Hamilton is a decent shooter are reasons the sides will give you as to why it makes sense on several levels to pair these guys up in Jersey alongside Brook Lopez.  But look deeper and you will realize other motivations behind adding them.

Trading Billups gives Nuggets cap flexibility and during the past weekend when for the 900th time it seemed like the trade was close to being completed, it was leaked that Billups would ask for a buyout which would be a terrible roadblock considering this is what “Melo wants”.  Also Rip Hamilton, having completely destroyed any trade value by his poor play and vocal call for a trade from Detroit, has the same agent as Melo- Leon Rose and it seems like the perfect kill two birds with one stone scenario to me.

Even in the East who is scared of a team with a core of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Brook Lopez and Carmelo Anthony?  How can Billups and Hamilton be the reason this trade goes through?

New Jersey has been aggressive in its attempts at procuring the services of a superstar to market the team around for the forseeable future.  After striking out on Lebron and co., the Nets see this as their first step in creating excitement over their move to Brooklyn- bring a hometown superstar player to christen the new digs and give legitemacy to the Nets.  Remember that the Nets have a Russian billionaire who will have no problem in spending to bring that legitemacy- but with that being said the Nets MUST be aggressive in their game plan if they want anyone to buy season tickets for a team that has won a combined 22 games between this season and last which doesn’t match what the Knicks have accomplished this season already.

And more than anything- the Knicks are a major reason they are willing to trade anyone and everyone to make this Melo to NJ happen.  Coming to the backyard of such an established and storied franchise like the Knicks won’t be easy but since the Russian Mark Cuban came to office- they’ve been aggressive in their marketing against the Knicks.  Of course they are catching them at their weakest moment having been a laughing stock till recently.  Their rennaisance this season has been difficult to stomach if you are a Net fan or front office exec.  Not only are the Knicks in a better position leverage wise to stand pat and let Melo come to them but they look like a team that has a better future than the Nets who many saw coming into the season as the one with more upside.

Insert Melo into the Knick line up, without subtracting anyone, and the Knicks are a top 4 team in the East easily and who knows maybe more.  The fact that its widely know that Melo wants to play in New York, an idea that was beginning to seem less and less relevant to star players in the NBA, makes New Jersey doubly concerned that by the time they move to Brooklyn- no one will care because the Knicks will be completely relevant again.  The Garden and the Knick history will be too large a shadow for the Nets to compete with and even for a Russian billionaire that’s a big bill to take a loss on.

And this Brooklyn operation won’t work if the results are the same which makes getting a bonafide stud like Melo that much more important to play besides promising center Brook Lopez.  Lopez has regressed this past year which adds to the necessity of having that star who can carry a team and the Nets know those guys don’t grow on trees and aren’t available every year via the draft.
But let’s pause all that and bring it to this one crucial point: in the end Melo still holds the trump card.  He can blow everything up by not agreeing to the contract extension and that is where it stands.  All the parameters of the deal have basically been agreed upon.  The one thing really holding this up is Melo.  As his agent continues to convince him of the Nets as a compromise to being a Knick Melo has not agreed to anything.  MELO is holding this deal back, not the 20 players involved in the trade.  The Nets are desperate to get Melo and Melo is desperate to get the Knicks to make an offer appealing enough for the Nuggets to bite on which hasn’t happened because Denver feels as though New York has been pushing this since day one and so out of bitterness has refused to seriously consider anything from New York no matter how good Landry Fields and Wilson Chandler have been playing.

Melo’s reluctance to sign in Jersey and the chance that Denver loses Melo to free agency for nothing will be enough for the Knicks to re-enter the picture without havin to lift a finger which is why you’ve barely heard a peep from the Knicks.  They don’t have the assets of players and draft picks Jersey does but they are his preferred destination and not the alternative like Jersey is.  The Knicks have played this perfectly.

What’s my personal preference? That he come to the Knicks during free agency when we don’t lose a player like Landry Fields who I believe is the kind of reserve player that comes along very rarely- a guy who can shoot the 3, defends decently and has basketball IQ through the roof.  If he’s your sixth man or seventh you’ve got an excellent team.  The fact is, the Knicks are going to lose Wilson Chandler during free agency.  If the Laker game ingrained anything inside the Knicks head is that in order to beat the elite teams you need a quality big man and a Marc Gasol will give them that at a price that won’t be breaking the bank, but enough that a team will be able to outbid the Knicks for Chandler’s services.  Donnie Walsh knows this too- why else do an about face and say outright that he plans to resign Chandler when he’s been adamant to visit that situation in the offseason this whole time?  Because it only makes his value jump.  How much better would Amare and Felton and Danilo be with a player like Melo alongside them?  Even though losing a player like Chandler would be hard, he basically is Carmelo-lite and I doubt Knick fans would be so crushed that the mere thought of Melo would make them nauseous.

In the end, these soap operas come down to one undisputable truth: Melo can end it all.  He can end it all by coming out and declaring to the world what his intentions are but he won’t.  Which is why there’s so much misinformation floating about what exactly Carmelo wants.  Wouldn’t it be prudent for journalists to ask Carmelo about who he’d rather play for?  Of course, but Melo is wise to not do so even IF its ruining his team’s season.  He saw what the “decision” did to Lebron and his image and while financially it won’t affect his bottom line, know one thing:  every reporter and every analyst now have a different perception of Lebron.  All the whispers of his baby-ish spoiled brat behavior is as much a part of his lasting legacy as his undeniable skills and unique talent are.  Melo would rather avoid the PR nightmare rout and do things in a manner that has minimal fallout.  Unfortunately the longer this drags out and the longer he insists on New York being his preferred spot, the less patience the public will have because dealing with New York is low on Denver’s priority list.  At this point, everyone just wants it done, over with, finito.  If he’s staying the season say so, if he’s being traded then trade him but until there’s resolution (and there may NOT be until the trade deadline- which is 40 days away) the talk and chatter won’t go away and eventually people will grow tired of it- if they haven’t already.

In the end, its all on Melo because like any good soap opera the star controls the action.  Until the star decides to take command we’re all stuck waiting as an audience.

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Why Jimmy?

At this point, I dont want to know the reason.  I don’t care to hear the misguided reasoning of some unnamed worker in MSG who has “knowledge of the situation”  trying to calm the nerves of Knick fans who have waited far too long for this offseason to come, only to have their hearts broken again.

Jordan in the 90’s.  Dolan in the 2000’s.

As if this team has no other corner of the earth to find a consultant, the New York Knicks went back to a very dark past in digging up Isiah Thomas.  Yes, that guy.  This is not a joke, nor is this some kind of rumor.  It’s happened folks and let’s be real about one thing: he’s staying.

When James Dolan finally let his sports celebrity crush leave the Knicks, it was because he had to let him go.  There was no other choice.  But since that day, you just knew that like some star crossed lover, he was always holding on to the chance that someday they would be reunited.

What’s even better about this, is how Knick fans found out: not through some press release stating that, no, through the rumor mill and when they were cornered about it in the press, they fessed up like a kid caught in a candy jar.  They tried to sneak him in through the back door but the security found them.

I genuinely feel wrong bad mouthing Isiah the way I do sometimes, but in the pantheon of bad decision makers, he has his own wing.  He can do no right, because there’s just too many wrongs in that book for him to have room for the good to be on display.

Its all so sneaky and conniving that there are rumors insisting that its a scary proposition that will only get worse.  Imagine, if he can talk his way back into the good graces of the folks in Madison Square Garden, how much higher can he ascend?  Everyone in MSG is saying the right thing, because they don’t want to admit to what they really think:  Isiah has a legit amount of influence over the decision making and his re-entry into that fold comes at a peculiar time when the Knicks face rampant rumors about Donnie Walsh’s health and his potential successor.

Call it paranoia, but there’s legitimate fear that if Isiah Thomas does come back as a consultant, its proof that James Dolan is absolutely clueless about how to run the team he owns.  Rich people are supposed to be smart, I mean they got rich somehow right?  But James Dolan being the son of a rich guy makes perfect sense.  Spoiled.  Entitled.  Hard headed.  Stubborn.  He thinks that just because his father was a success, he is one too.

Sorry Jimmy, it doesn’t work that way.

When I heard about this on the Mike Francesa show, I was shocked to say the least.  Shocked more so that James Dolan was falling for the same trick.  Its like watching one of those episodes of Jerry Springer where a guy comes on, admits to his girl that he’s cheated.  She meets the girl.  They fight.  After the commercial the girl cries, asking why the guy did this to her.  Then there’s another fight.  Then the girl inexplicably comes back to the guy and they leave happily ever after.

Have Isiah and Dolan passed the make up stage?  Are they leaving the show back together?  It must be that way, because how else to explain it?  Dolan’s firing of Isiah and hiring of Donnie Walsh was met with universal praise but Dolan had planted the seed of Isiah’s return a long time ago.

His recruiting skills and his influence over the younger players were so great that word leaked that the Knicks sent Isiah Thomas to speak to Lebron on their behalf.  In fact, reports surfaced recently that he was close to signing a deal with the Knicks before ultimately changing his mind to play with his friends in Miami and Isiah’s presence being a big reason why he would choose the Knicks.  I mean that should’ve been sign number one that Lebron just didn’t get it.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Thomas’ basketball exploits are well laid out.  The guy was one of the best, if not best point guards ever.  Top 50 player of all time and fiercest competitors ever.  But as an executive, one can make the argument that great players should never be trusted to handle the duties of a talent evaluator.  His biggest drafting tool is in finding complementary role players to fill a roster.  He usually strikes out on making deals for starters, but he sure can draft the heck out of a bench.

The Knicks in general don’t need him right now.  They are moving in the right direction.  They fell so far under the cap thanks to Donnie’s wheeling and dealing that they set themselves up for not just this summer, but the next two as well.  They are under the cap enough to pick up a star player in 2011 (Melo anyone?) and in 2012 (CP3 or Deron Williams).  They absolutely stole Anthony Randolph from the Golden State Warriors while shipping David Lee (who is not worth the contract he got from them).  They have filled out their bench nicely and even have a respectable team.  One that you can safely bet can be an 8th seed in a suddenly top heavy Eastern Conference.

They have moved on from the negativity that surrounded the Isiah Thomas era.  Stephon Marbury is in China playing ball.  Eddy Curry’s fat carcass has only a year left to torment us.  Say hi to Gordon Heyward (the Hoosiers guy from Butler), the guy the Jazz picked in the slot the Knicks were supposed to pick at.  Anuch Brown Sanders is sitting on some beach chair toasting to herself.

All that’s gone, and despite striking out on Lebron, there’s a sense that the Knicks are on the right track.

So why now?  Why do this to a loyal fan base who stayed true believing we’d be given a King and ended with a one legged power forward who’s about one poke in the eye away from being blind?  Why do this to a proud city that has done nothing but support them through all of this on the belief that it was a necessary evil to endure?

While the questions remain asked, there is no response.  Because nothing about this makes sense.  James Dolan can’t possibly give you enough of a reason to do something like this.  Something that can potential disillusion even the most die hard of fans.  Its a move that needs, no forget that, REQUIRES an explanation.  At some point, the Knicks can’t possibly believe that we’re stupid enough to go with whatever they say.

But here we are, awake in August as if we went back in time to 2003.  Isiah Thomas in Madison Square.  Ready to trade away future draft picks for the chance to get a mediocre talent.  Let’s be real.  The Knicks are going backwards with this move.  Nothing about this screams progress unless Isiah has completely changed and righted the ship.

But that would be too tough to think that could happen.  Knicks fans don’t deserve this.  At this point, what more can be said about an owner who’s completely lost touch with reality and what the reality brings with re-hiring Isiah Thomas for any position.  I don’t blame Isiah for this mess, I blame the guy that Knicks fans should’ve been booing from the get go, James Dolan.  He’s not only ruined the Knicks, he takes on cable networks, blacks them out on his service provider and then creates a frustrated customer base in its wake.  Yes, I’m blaming that on him as well.

This nightmare won’t end well Knicks fans.  Even if you believe I’m blowing this out of proportion, think about it this way: if you know a stove is hot and you touch it once and it burns you severely, how dumb do you look if you keep burning yourself?  At some point, the pity that people had over the punishment for your curiosity will wear off and it will turn into frustration and anger.  I can sense Knicks fans slowly turning.

At some point Dolan will find it hard to walk the streets of NYC without needing to hide for cover.  One nightmare only deserves another, don’t you think?

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Lebron’s decision: the day after.

The one thing that I knew going into last night’s announcement was this: no matter what happened, Lebron James was now going to be universally disliked.  The last few months were unlike the NBA has ever seen or ever will see.  His “Decision” special was filled with as much drama as a Yankees/Twins series.  The outcome had been there for days and this growing sentiment that the three men had arranged this together seemed fitting.  But still, it was something that came off as unsettling and almost pitiful even as a fan of one of the hopeful teams.

As a Knicks fan after much sulking, I looked at it from a rational standpoint and I understand why he did it.  Lebron did it to win championships and nothing else.  At the end of the day that’s what this game is about and for the winners go the spoils and for losers go nothing.  There’s no such thing as second place.  Lebron understood that better than anyone.  As a man expected to carry his team to the championship these last two years it was a colossal disappointment that he never accomplished that goal for his home state.  Despite all the rumblings the fact was this, Lebron wanted the championships and naturally one would expect the glory that comes with it.

I get it.  I even get the need to have two very talented men to support you and help shoulder the burden of bringing a title to the resume.  Even as he’s teaming up to become part of this (un) holy triumvirate, make no mistake this is all about Lebron which explains why he didn’t go the simple route and join Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade at the podium for their announcements (which of course makes the cry of ego maniac ring truer but we’ll get to that.).  I get why he would want to play with his friends and build a dynasty with them.  I get all of that.  In fact, me and my buddies from high school always joke about each getting a place on the same block and growing old together.

Even then you didn’t expect it.  Even then you held out hope that perhaps this whole Lebron to the Heat was just smoke screen for either his eventual return to Cleveland or escape to Chicago or New York which both wouldn’t be as universally destroyed like this move is.  Don’t get me wrong, leaving the Cavs makes him look like a jerk.  Leaving the Cavs for South Beach makes him look like a doubting-his-own-talent jerk.

I don’t buy that this is bad for the NBA.  In fact, all this Lebron speculation cost ESPN a lot of its credibility and almost destroyed Twitter.  It was THE TALK of the internet and everyone and I mean even the President had an opinion on the matter.  This is fantastic for the NBA in a time in which ticket sales are down and the league is losing money in the hundreds of millions.  All this hype over the super team will draw huge ratings.  Quick prediction about how many Heat games will be shown on national television?

I don’t even buy the talk that this immediately vaults them to the top of the pack in the NBA.  The Lakers still have Kobe, Artest, Gasol, and Odom and a very good supporting cast which the Heat will have to address in the coming days.

But there are some negatives here in the immediate future that must be discussed, and other points but before I do that I just want to throw one last conspiracy theory because these Lebron rumors have been so fun:  David Stern facing sagging sales and a tough economic future, send an email to every big name free agent over the next two seasons to begin forming super teams.  The NBA will push through outlandish trades and create 6 or 7 elite teams filled with two or three top 20 players in the league and approve an unbalanced schedule where these teams will meet once a week on TNT and ESPN.  Don’t put anything past Stern.

First negative: Immediate fall out in Cleveland was bad.  So bad that all you saw were Lebron jerseys being burned, young white women crying, and empty bars perhaps symbolizing Cleveland’s economy now that Lebron isn’t there.  But the icing on the cake was a half drunk/half crazed letter by super fan/owner Dan Gilbert destroying Lebron’s reputation and basically saying everything that any Cleveland fan would.  In all of this, Cleveland is the biggest victim, but are they?  If the fix was in from jump street and Lebron, Wade and Bosh had planned this all along, then yes Cleveland is victim.  But if not, if this were an actual decision and Lebron heard out every camp’s proposal how could New York be bashed for its proposal and not Cleveland?  Everyone’s biggest complaint about New York’s presentation was that it was all about New York and very little about the roster and about the players it would surround him with.  Well, Cleveland had a 60 win team with no cap flexibility to add pieces unless it had a sign and trade set with a player but Chris Bosh, the player that many had earmarked as Lebron’s pick to roll with him, refused to play in Cleveland (I don’t blame him).  Other than that, Cleveland did nothing else to show Lebron that they were serious suitors other than to play on his emotions of staying at home.  While the Cleveland roster was better than the Knick roster, in time we’ll see how much Lebron elevated that roster to a 60 win team.  Lebron on last year’s Knicks could’ve made them at least a 50 something win team in the East if they were capable of winning 29 on their own.  The point is that Cleveland made nothing more than a half hearted attempt at keeping their star player on their roster.

Which brings us to the Heat’s first game at Cleveland which should bring more than just fireworks.  I legitimately am worried for Lebron’s life.  What he did by screwing them over and doing it on national television was embarrass a town that didn’t need another reminder of how sports-cursed they are.  He gave them 7 years of his heart and yet in the end, all anyone will remember is Dan Gilbert’s assertion that he quit on the team in his final 4 games and took the cowardly way out.  That will lead to bitter resentment.  I was listening to talk radio this morning and they were trying to find a perfect comparison of how he would be greeted by fans in Cleveland and the best they came up with was Vince Carter who’s every shot for years was met with resounding boos.  This was for years and he’s not even from Toronto.  Lebron’s exit is a little more personal and he’s already eclipsed Art Modell as the most vile sports figure in the Cleveland area.  That’s no easy task but Lebron found a way to do it.  Also, the poetry in the fact that every cruel Cleveland loss is just one word: the Fumble, the Drive, the Shot and now, the Decision.    Lebron couldn’t have been that cruel could he?

Second Negative: It sets precedents on several levels.  What does it tell small market teams like Cleveland that they can’t even keep one of their home grown stars?  Sure, on the same day Kevin Durant resigned with the Thunder quietly via Twitter, but he’s a shy kid who’s on a pretty loaded roster.  There will be more guys that go the Lebron route and leave for flashier pastures and it sets a precedent on another note as well.  Lebron’s one of the biggest basketball stars on the planet and his decision became a nationally televised event.  What will the next super talent do to upstage the self titled King?  How will technology affect this change and how much has unbridled access destroyed the mystique of star players?  Imagine we hadn’t been put through this charade?  If Lebron knew where he was going all along it seems rather selfish and egotistical to do something like this and stretch this out for his own sense of self worth doesn’t it?  What was he promised?  How hard was he laughing inside while Mikhail Prokhorov made his business pitch?  What does Jay-Z think of him now that he made his choice to join D-Wade and Bosh?  I’m sure he won’t be thrilled if he finds out that he had made up his mind a long time ago.  Point is, our society seeks answers and requires access at all times and doesn’t seem to have a sense of boundary to them.  If Princess Di’s death marked the explosion of the term paparazzi, then what will Lebronapalooza be the start of?  Technically Lebron gave us what we now crave.  Everything.  We want to be the fly on the wall.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a documentary detailing everything will be released with extra footage of them discussing this plan months in advance giving us the answer we pretty much know.  They planned this and they strung us along for the ride.  Whatever new era in media we are entering its uncharted waters and Lebron is making history.

Third negative and I can’t come to call this a negative, because its more selfish on my part.  The biggest question mark coming into this whole thing was motivation:  What was Lebron really after?  Was he out to be the greatest of all time?  Was he out to be the home town kid makes good storyline play out?  Was he out to be the kid from the sticks makes it big in the Big City?  Was it legacy?  Was it about pride?  What was it?  Selfishly all the hype about Lebron had made us come to expect something uniquely incredible.  We were all convinced that he would do something that had never been done before on an NBA court before all was said and done and that may still be the case but its a very long shot now.  By taking his services to South Beach he’s joining Wade’s team.  He’s now fully inserted himself into shot gun mode and decided to lower his game and his possible stature as the game’s greatest to help Wade become a multiple time champion.  Sure Lebron stands to gain but not as much as previously thought.  Forget his brand and what it will do to it financially by becoming just another piece.  His legacy is lessened by joining forces.

I’m sure Lebron will tell you a good story about sacrificing for the greater good of championships and all that and frankly I’ll believe him.  At the end of the day he couldn’t deal with the weight and burden of being THE MAN at one spot.  He couldn’t imagine failing in New York or Cleveland or Chicago because in those three places he would’ve certainly been the undisputed number one.  He goes to one of three places where he’s the undisputed number two.  It was a tough choice and one made with the understanding that he will be seen as a lesser player but with the knowledge that that sacrifice will be forgotten in the stream of championships this Heat team will compete for.

We all want to compare players to Jordan and I’ve never thought that it was a fair comparison but I get why people do it.  We all need a reference point, something to judge another person by and the only way to do that is by comparing that person to one of equal talent.  The fact that Lebron was continuously compared to Jordan without any rings tells you what people see in his potential but now, in my opinion, he has to go above and beyond to jump back into the conversation.  Say what you will about Jordan and how he played in a different era, but even if Jordan, Bird, or Magic were in the place of Lebron they would’ve never joined forces.  They had too much hubris and pride to do that.  They all wanted the recognition and worked hard to get it and they could never handle being upstaged by their own teammates.  Jordan would’ve went to a place that he could own or stayed in Cleveland to finish the job.  They had a certain pride that kept them from walking away.  You knew those guys would eventually get rings because that’s all they wanted.  But talk of being a billionaire clouded Lebron’s head and clearly his mind.  He was busier setting up his post-basketball life than focusing on the task at hand.

I guess its selfish on our part to see a person not see his potential reached.  I would’ve rooted for Lebron had he stayed in Cleveland.  I would’ve understood had he went to Chicago and I would’ve been positively thrilled had he come to New York.  But Miami still makes no sense to me from one stand point: Why not do it unless you wanted no parts of the responsibility?  If we had billed you as our best player how come you weren’t ready to accept that responsibility?  I guess that’s the main word: responsibility.  Is it his responsibility to us as fans or to himself that he should pay attention to?  We were told that we were witnesses, but what are we witness to now?

Just like last night, he’s taking much of the mystery of the next few seasons out of it.  Its almost expected that the Heat will win the title for the next few seasons.  They will be the biggest attraction the NBA has ever seen since they broadcast the original Dream Team’s games back in 1992.  Nobody can deny the talent level oozing from this team but one can imagine the blame that will fall on the Heat if they dont fullfill the prophecy.

Maybe Lebron walked into an even greater challenge than he left.  I mean, to lift Cleveland to a championship filled city was tough enough but to do so on a team where everyone will watch with a microscope and wait for failure could be even more trying.  Maybe the thrill of being the team with the big target on their back, a traveling team of all-stars will motivate them to show up on every single night.  The need for fans to be treated to a show will make them work harder to give them one.

But let’s step back and take a breath for what last night was: a self centered 25 year old embarking on the next chapter in his not so secretive life.  A guy who couldn’t handle the big city lights of New York, or walking in the shadow of MJ, or lifting his home town team to championship glory, but rather chose a path less traveled with two of his close friends.  I’m not saying that he made the wrong decision, that answer will reveal itself with time.  I’m saying that his decision could’ve been handled better by a kid we all thought knew how to handle it.  But maybe we don’t know a thing.  Maybe Lebron will win and we’ll eventually forget and Cleveland will get another superstar to bring them that elusive championship that city seeks.

But one thing will always bug me:: how on earth did Chris Bosh’s insignificant ass convince both Lebron and D-Wade that he was the key in all of this?

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Lebron Sweepstakes

By the time this post shows up, it will be 123 days and change before the Lebron Sweepstakes really start.  Let’s be clear about a few things:

This is not JUST about Lebron.

This will NOT be resolved on July 1st as much as both Knick and Cavalier fan bases would want it to be.

This will have some kind of negative impact.

Let me begin by reiterating how big this decision will be for basketball as a whole.  Depending on where he goes, Lebron will be viewed as the savior/hometown hero or villain/traitor.  That’s just fanbase wise.  His economic impact will be felt.  Either he jilts the world’s number one market or destroys basketball in yet another small town that is desperate to root for a winner.

As a passionate Knick fan, you know what I think Lebron should do.  He should forget all that mushy stuff about hometown hero makes good stuff and take over the world by being a star on Broadway.  But like I said this Lebron sweepstakes isn’t just about him and his decision.  Its about more than that.

Most sports fans know that the NFL is headed towards a year in which it will play without a salary cap due to owners and the players association not being able to come together on a resolution for a new collective bargaining agreement.  But David Stern dropped a bombshell on everyone during All Star weekend when he released the info that the NBA will be losing $400 million this year and for the past 3 years have been averaging $200 million.  The numbers there tell you how absolutely important it is, for the NBA to readjust its CBA which also comes due in 2011 the same year we may see an NFL lock out.  We can all blame it on the bad economy and all that but there are plenty of reasons why the NBA is in its current state and it has a lot to do with what Bill Simmons, ESPN writer, wrote about in his latest column in which competitively many teams find reason to quit on seasons midway through yet unfairly do so after having collected a season ticket holder’s commitment to buy a season.  That’s one of the problems.

But David Stern knows what he has at stake here.  No player of Lebron James magnitude at the apex of his abilities has ever entered free agency with a legitimate chance at leaving to another team.  But Stern’s hands are tied.  Lebron’s decision will play itself out in many forms.  Let’s consider for a moment that many things will happen as a result of Lebron’s decision.  His decision will effect where D-Wade goes.  His decision will affect Chris Bosh’s next home.  His decision will play into where Chris Paul may want to play in 2011.  Where Carmello stands also that year.  What if Carlos Boozer opts out this year from the Jazz?  Deron Williams openly questioned Jazz management after friend Ronnie Brewer was traded.  So many people will sit and wait out King James.

Let’s first consider what Lebron is looking for.  I’m going to simplify it with just a few credentials because I believe Lebron on any team is at best (meaning a really bad team) a guaranteed 20 game improvement.  Seriously.  He’s that good with his teammates, takes pressure off everyone else, developing that killer instinct, getting calls from refs, and makes your home arena a sell out each night.  The great thing about Lebron is this, he understood the responsibility that came with being a super star and all the hype surrounding him and he made good on the promise and potential everyone saw in him.  He’s great, and an all time player and we’re just aching for the chance to crown him the best ever.*                                             *= kind of like Peyton Manning when he won his first title.  People were just so overjoyed that he finally won one and was beginning to justify all the “greatest ever” talk that they quickly labeled him.

So what’s he looking for?  Complementary pieces and legacy.  Money will not be the deciding factor.  He will have fame.  He will have everything else you can imagine.  What is his legacy going to be?  That’s the more important question that he will answer with this.

So who are the 7 and what are their chances?

NEVER GONNA HAPPEN:

Minnesota and Sacramento: 1,000,000 to 1:  Sure, they have pieces, but if he leaves Cleveland he won’t be going to even smaller cities and markets just for the sake of going.  That would be the dumbest move and I have too much respect for Lebron’s intelligence to say that its even an option.

New Jersey Nets: 50,000 to 1–  A year ago some Nets fans I know were making this big deal about a pending deal to move to Brooklyn, signed off by Jigga man, and using that business partnership to woo Lebron over to the Nets.  Well, since then the Nets have gone an abysmal 5-52, are on pace to average about 17 people per game and are about to be bought out by Russian Mark Cuban which I think is a wild card.  We don’t know what this guy’s capable of.  He could say “screw the salary cap, I will give Lebron whatever he wants, damned be the luxury tax”, but I have a feeling he still has no idea that he owns the Nets.

MAYBE BUT THERE’S TOO MUCH WORKING AGAINST US!

Miami Heat: 100 to 1- No state tax, sunny weather, big market.  All major pluses.  But if the Heat sign Wade which is their first priority, Lebron would have to take a pay cut and neither guy will be willing to do that.  If Lebron comes to the Heat he would be winning on Wade’s team.  Make no mistake, the rumors are just that, these two will NOT sign together.  No way, no how.**                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 **= I’m hoping that I said it enough times that the reverse jinx will work and they both come to NY.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: 100 to 1–  What are the chances that Donald Sterling will turn his back on years and years of being stingy and frugal and somehow come to the realization that he could have as much a share of L.A. with Lebron as Kobe with the Lakers?  The Paper Clips have the pieces yet the biggest screw missing is the one in Sterling’s head that refuses to make the Clipper fan believe that salvation is headed there anytime soon.***                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ***= In truth this makes a lot of sense for Lebron.  The market, the supporting cast all make this a worthwile venture and its a market that Nike would be ok with and support.  But neither me, nor any other basketball or Paper Clip fan has any confidence in Sterling’s ability to asses the situation rationally and there fore can’t see a situation where Sterling will see the easy deal and make it.  He’d rather sign Joe Johnson to a max contract.  Which still isn’t bad but the fact that I’m confident they won’t make a push for Lebron is saddening for any fan of any decrepit franchise with a sliver of hope.

THE DARK HORSE WITH A SCARY AND LEGITEMATE SHOT:

CHICAGO BULLS: 10 to 1- He has Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah to run with on a team that could have a sustained run of excellence for the next 10 years.  I mean excellence.  The Bulls have it all the sizable market, the complementary pieces and also a star already there.  But why aren’t they considered a better player for Lebron’s services?  Well, I’d like to re-enter the topic of legacy.  For Lebron its important.  Its crucial and its what’s driving his decision.  He wants to be the greatest.  Ever.  No one else to compare himself to.  Unfortunately there was this guy who came and became the best player ever, in Chicago.  “Michael Jordan, ever heard of him?”****                                                                                                                                         ****= Why the quotation marks?  Because I just said that in the Andy Bernard voice.  By the way, how crazy is it that I remember more of Andy’s lines from the last few episodes than Dwight in the Office?  Has there ever been a shift in popularity of one character to another?  Andy is getting very close to Dwight’s in terms of funny quotes and awesome moments.  That episode where he thought he was gay was priceless.

Lebron cares too much about carving out his own that he won’t do that.  Its not a place Lebron should go but a place that Wade should seriously consider and should be thinking of as his number one destination.

ALWAYS THE BRIDEGROOM NEVER THE BRIDE:

New York Knicks odds 5 to 1- Before Knick fans start gathering outside of my house please note that this is merely the chances of him landing there.  Like I said Lebron himself doesn’t know what he will do but just know the ball is in his court and no one outside of Lebron knows what he will do.  Know this, the Knicks can offer him the most of any team in terms of overall salary.  Yes, I’m talking about Nike and other under the table deals that would take place if he signed here.  I can’t put into perspective what Lebron does to any crowd.  Bill Simmons wrote it as presence.  Yes, he has a presence, everyone stands to notice him and acknowledge he is there.  What you haven’t talked about is what a stadium like MSG does for Lebron.  No other stadium can offer him that.  The chills, the excitement.  There aren’t better and more knowledgeable basketball fans than the ones that live here in NYC.  The playgrounds are like places of worship where gods are born, honing their craft to use their skills to bring people together.  Rucker Park is that underground place that even the best know and speak highly of.  The city of New York would be in a state of delirium if Lebron were to come here.

Let’s face it, they deserve it.  They’ve been screwed with mismanagement and terrible ownership.  Their best player in the last ten years was Latrell Sprewell.  Go ahead, let that sink in.  We’re stuck convincing ourselves that David Lee is amazing.  Of course he’s amazing, anyone can be on a bad team like the Knicks.  But also a guy like Lebron can immediately change that around.  He can draw attention away and create opportunities for guys that just were never there.  Donnie Walsh went all in when he traded picks and Jared Jeffries for the right to let the expiring T-Mac contract play itself out on their cap.  If he doesn’t get Lebron, Knick fans will feel shafted no matter how they end up acquiring.

This deal is important to the NBA because its their franchise leader going to the number one market in the world and becoming a star there for the next 10 years.  Its important because if this deal doesn’t go through this will murder all the hope for Knick fans and you may see a lot of them disappear or pick up curling.  The NBA needs desperately to put a winner on its grandest stage at MSG.  Lebron understands, but not in its fullness, how unbelievable it would be if he won a title in New York.  He would not only own this city but this country and the world by extension.*****                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 *****=  Out of towners might look at it as some New Yorker blowing the importance of his city out of proportion but let’s be real, its cause their jealous.

Knick fans have been waiting for this moment like the second coming but they see Jesus before they see Lebron because:

THE FAVORITE:

Cleveland Cavaliers 3 to 1 odds- I won’t lie to you.  This is my unbiased opinion.  This is the favorite.  They have everything.  They have teammates who adore him and worship the ground he walks on and a fan base that does the same.  An ownership team that has made it clear that they are willing to part the Red Sea to make sure he signs there.  More than all that, this is home.  Not just because he plays there but because he’s from Ohio.  Born and brought up.******                                                                                                                                                           ******= Which of course kills me everytime.  No one plays up the theory that Cleveland was a barren wasteland, in comes this kid from Akron who could possibly lift a franchise from out of the doldrums and they just happen to get the first pick in the draft that year.  Nothing fishy about that scenario?  Wasn’t like they were the worst team in the NBA.  Ok, moving on.

His community ties are still very much in tact.  He understands that they will live and die with this decision.  Are they appreciating every moment like its their last to see him in their beloved uniform?  Yes.  Are they going to give him carte blanche to do whatever he wants and defend him to the death?  Yes. *******                                                                                                        *******= Even if he killed a guy, left DNA evidence at the murder scene if the trial ever took place in Cleveland, how hard would it be to fathom that he would get off? (yes that was a veiled OJ reference.).  Or for more perspective, if there was sufficient evidence that Lebron raped a woman in a spa in I don’t know let’s pick-a-random-city-and-state-in-the-U.S., oh I got one, Eagle, Colorado and he bought his wife a yeah-I-messed-up-here’s-my-apology disguised as a multi million dollar ring, would Cavs fans irrationally defend Lebron and say that the woman was this sick perverse woman who had it coming.  Yeah.  That’s perspective for you.

But if he leaves will Lebron need secret service protection whenever the Knicks play the Cavs?  Yes.  Will there be rioting in the streets?  No, but maybe in chat rooms.  Those things could get fierce.  Will fans get irrational there and subsequently destroy Cleveland sports for a long time?  Yes.  No doubt about it.  He’s a once in a life time athlete.  He’s the hometown kid.  His window is wide open and his best days are still in front of him which is scary.  In someways he knows he owes it to Cleveland to see his development to the end.

SO WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

I won’t venture a guess as to where he will end up.  I am not convinced that Lebron knows where he’ll go either.  I will say this.  I’m pretty convinced one thing will happen, whether he signs with the Knicks or resigns with Cleveland, he will sign a max deal but with an opt out after 3 years.  None of these guys will leave dollars on the negotiating table but he will ask for and get the clause installed.  He’s smart enough to understand that if the Cavs don’t win this year and depending on how they lose, he will have to evaluate whether this roster as presently constructed has what it takes.  No matter how you slice it, this year’s playoffs will play a huge role in whether he resigns or he leaves.  If they lose Lebron will have to question whether they are ever going to win and its a legitimate question.

To leave, to go to the Knicks he would have to be convinced that the Cavs don’t have it.  Obviously he’d have to justify it somehow and it will be interesting to see what transpires in the playoffs.  No matter what he will negotiate some kind of option to leave after 3 years because he understands that he can’t stay in one location for 7 seasons.  At some point he will leave Cleveland to go to New York.  I truly believe that.  Whether its 2010-2011, or 3 years later, he will somehow find his way to New York because after all his eye is on the prize.  His ability to elevate New York to championship status will be something he will take as a challenge.

So did I answer the question?  No.  But if it were posed to Lebron, could he make a decision right now?  No.   He realizes his reputation, his legacy and the NBA are at stake.  No pressure Lebron.  No pressure at all.

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Winners, Losers and the Unknown of the Trade Deadline

Hope doesn’t just spring eternal in Florida and Arizona this time of year, its a geyser in MSG as the Knicks wiggled enough cap room to sign two max free agents.  That much we know.  What we don’t know is how everything will play out.  Like many, I was refreshing ESPN.com, SI.com, and Yahoosports.com constantly to see if any updates came through.  As Mark Cuban tweeted it was probably a better idea to “follow NBA Trade Deadline on twitter,” but I’m stuck on archaic methods.

Regardless, the trade deadline has come and gone and we have winners and we have losers of this trade deadline and much to process on both ends:

WINNERS:

KNICKS: Of course I begin with the hometown team and the fact that they were able to move the Jared Jeffries salary, and they were able to move Nate Robinson and move a few guys to get the cap space needed to go after two max free agents.  They mortgaged the next few years on the hope that LeBron makes MSG his home for the next 7 years and calls another one of his super friends to come and help out.  Of course being a Knick and Met fan I’m doomed to be pessimistic about it, but in theory this deal makes them the big winners.

ROCKETS:  Yes, they did make out.  Sure they took on another salary for next year but you always get the sneaking suspicion that Darryl Morey the stat guru MIT grad GM of the Rockets knows just a little bit more than the rest of us.  He swapped first rounders with the Knicks in 2011 and got their 2012 pick (from everything I’ve been reading on it, only the first pick of the draft would be protected in 2011 and top 5 protected in 2012 (thanks to NBA.com)) and managed to set himself up nice with a proven scorer in Kevin Martin a guy that the Kings had been telling everyone was unavailable.  Morey is banking on LeBron not going to the Knicks next summer and the Knicks being bad for the next few years and God help us if he’s right.

KINGS: I think it worked out on all ends here.  The Kings acquired cap space for this offseason where they will attract absolutely nobody but hey, its a nice thing to put on the resume.  They were able to snag two really tough physical players in Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey to play the post and be the mashers and grinders and they are staring down the barrel of a lottery pick this summer again which should help them if they pick as well as they picked last year.  Also throw in Jason Thompson and they have a developing nucleus of young guys and bigs that could make the Kings a minor contender sooner rather than later.  Only, they need another coach, sorry Reggie Theus, he wasn’t even a good coach on their TV show.  Think about that.

BOBCATS:  They got Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff at the trade deadline and managed to keep DJ Augustin a guy they loved.  Larry Brown’s team will be a tough out in the Eastern Conference whomever they face in the first round.  Ten out of their 14 guys are 6’8′ or taller which gives them such an inside presence that it will be tough for teams to score on them in the low post.  They just might sneak up on a few teams in the first round.  Too bad the first round isn’t 5 games anymore, it might have been fun for this team to play a high seed under that format.

CAVALIERS: As much as the Knicks moves were geared towards getting LeBron James, the Cavs decision to trade for Antawn Jamison was to keep LeBron and they did a hell of a job in doing so.  They managed to get the better deal in getting Antawn, that coveted stretch four they were seeking, than Amare- a deal in which they would’ve had to give up J.J. Hickson, something they were not willing to do.  Amare while being more of a physical presence is only that on the offensive end, on the defensive end they are very similiar.  Where Antawn has the advantage is that he can pull a 20/10 night consistently and in more ways than Amare can and that’s what you have to love.  This move was facilitated towards keeping their young guys and also making LeBron happy.

ARN TELLEM:  Why an agent?  Easy.  Tellem had as much to do with the Knicks getting T-Mac as Donnie Walsh.  Let me explain.  When most of us woke up this morning the reports coming out of the Houston Chronicle were that T-Mac had been traded- to the Kings.  I had to stop everything I was doing to make sure I read right.  Of course the following paragraph made me breathe easier when it said they were working on getting the Knicks involved in making sure T-Mac, and more importantly the expiring contract, went to the Knicks.  But the Kings with all their leverage decided to ask for everything the Rockets were asking for, but not Jordan Hill and not the 2012 first rounder, but David Lee.  That put a speed bump in there.  Arn Tellem being the high powered broker he is, and this is just purely guessing on my part, may have called Geoff Petrie’s office in Sacramento and warned him of the dangers of stalling this trade with the Knicks.  He is after all the agent for Tyreke Evans, the guy most responsible for Kevin Martin no longer being a King.  The Kings GM being the wise man he is, decided against making the agent for his franchise player mad and decided to play nice and made sure the trade went down as it went down sending Sergio Rodriguez also.  What’s lost in this is also Tellem being the agent for Danilo Gallinari, one of the players that will be here if and when the Lebron era begins in New York and judging on how he makes every player on his team better it stands to reason that Danilo might be staring down the barrel of a nice little jump in his salary with Lebron’s arrival.  Winners all around.

LOSERS:

CELTICS: I know this may seem a bit biased but Eddie House fit the culture of Boston and the locker room Ubuntu they had going in 2008 when the Celtics won it all.  Now, they bring in Nate Robinson who among other things brings a certain flair for the dramatic and I’m not talking about game winning shots.  The goal for the C’s were to get Kirk Hinrich and send Ray Allen’s expiring contract with it but I’ve always been under the impression that you keep your best guys if you have a legitemate chance to make the playoffs.  I’m basing this rating on the fact that I’m not a huge Nate Robinson fan like every other Knick fan.  Just because he was the best player on the team for the last few years doesn’t make me automatically a fan of his, and the fact that he was should absolutely disgust Knick fans to no degree.  The Celtics just seem to be getting older and not better.  Its time to seriously think about breaking that team up and build around Rondo and Pierce.

HEAT:  In my opinion this trade deadline had to be about convincing Dwayne Wade that the Heat were going somewhere and they didn’t do that.  Now the Heat will have to sign a player a semi star first to properly convince D-Wade that Miami is a place that will be able to compete for a championship if he signs long term.  I’m not too sure they will be able to sign that guy especially when his hometown team the Bulls will have enough cap space to sign him and already have Derrick Rose in place.  Its a tempting offer and as much as South Beach offers I’m sure Wade is tired of giving up his body for a team that seems to be staying in place while everyone else seems to be getting better.  Also its never a good idea when your GM is offering up quotes on how sure he is that a player will stay when nothing has been decided.

UNKNOWN:

DONNIE WALSH:  We will see if he’s either a genius or an idiot come July 1st.  That’s when basically his fate will be decided.  Now its not fair to say that Donnie is a total idiot for giving up picks and much more to secure enough space to make those moves because let’s face it, he had to make sure he had the room to pull this off so doing that was absolutely essential but now it becomes a waiting game for Donnie and for Knick fans.  Also the free agent class of 2011 isn’t too shabby either and with Eddy Curry’s 13 million off the cap it will give them even more space but I don’t think Knick fans can wait another year for another superstar to be available if we strike out on LeBron this summer.

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