It's LeBron or bust for the Knicks
You know what two words Knicks fans don’t want to hear later this week?
They fear “Plan B” like the Knicks used to fear Michael Jordan.
Plan B would mean no LeBron James.
Plan B would mean that the 37-year championship drought, stretching back to the glory days of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed, would still be going strong and with no end in sight.
Plan B would mean there’d be no franchise player coming in from Akron to put roots down in the Garden.
“That’s why we won’t sleep a whole lot the next week," Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said the other day. "I think everybody’s a little nervous about it, but that’s because of the high stakes out there. This sets the course of the franchise for the next 10 years.”
Not just the course of the Knicks’ franchise. Given James’ prowess as a player, it might even determine the course of the NBA, from here to 2020.
The Knicks have put everything on the line to bring James to New York. For the last two seasons they’ve played some of the worst basketball in their history just to get under the salary cap, so that they could have a shot at the best free agent to go on the market since Kobe Bryant in 2004.
The Knicks have gone about rebuilding the right way. Piece by piece they dealt off several huge contracts — enormous mistakes from the dreadful Isiah Thomas Era — to be able to go to Akron on Thursday to sell James on bringing his brand to New York, and getting a chance to play with a second marquee player.
Team president Donnie Walsh should at least get credit for doing that, since the last time the Knicks wanted to buy a marquee player, they went to see Bryant with the most embarrassing offer ever made to a free agent. You know what kind of money they had back then? The mid-level exception, starting at $5 million. That was Thomas’ grand plan, as fraudulent as he was as a team executive.
With only enough room for James, the Knicks would have no more of a shot than the Clippers. But with enough dough for LeBron and one other top-tier player, that puts the onus on James, who has said he’d like to one day play with Chris Bosh. Well, he could do that now in the No. 1 city in the world. How ’bout it, King?
No, the Knicks aren’t exactly in the driver’s seat. Everyone knows that. Cleveland still can provide the GM powers that LeBron already seems to be exercising with the removal of Mike Brown. The Cavs also can offer $30 million more than any other team, and we all know how much LeBron likes his money. The Bulls can offer the best supporting cast, headed by Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. And who knows, Bosh also could end up in the Loop, since the Bulls have done a tremendous job carving out more cap space with their dumping of Kirk Hinrich and their No. 1 draft pick to the Wizards.
The Knicks can’t offer James anything close to the Bulls’ roster. It’s not as if Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler make up some sort of championship supporting cast that will make LeBron drop everything and run to the Knicks.
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"I’m not going to make a life-and-death situation out of it," Walsh said. “I want to get it on. I want to see the franchise step up and become … more than competitive."
In this part of the basketball world, Walsh isn’t alone in expressing that sentiment. Coming off their 12-win season, the Nets need to be more competitive, and they see the addition of James as the fastest way to getting there. They’ve managed to put together some pretty attractive pieces — Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and their new No. 1 pick, Derrick Favors. Of course James will listen to the Nets, if only as a favor to his buddy, Jay-Z, a New Jersey minority owner, and because he’s going to love to be in the company of the new Nets czar, Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire.
But they don’t have a leader in place in their front office to sell James on what they’re going to do to build a contender. Team president Rod Thorn is leaving July 15, and he’s the only one LeBron can really trust when it comes to knowing how to put together a championship team.
In the end the Nets are still stuck in Jersey, looking at playing in Newark for a minimum of two seasons. In that respect they can’t offer the one thing to James that the Knicks can offer. They’re three words that no other team can beat or match, a trifecta that will certainly get LeBron James’ undivided attention.
You know what those three words are?
New. York. City.