NBA

Picking up the pieces in New York

FOX Sports Mitch Lawrence
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NEW YORK

Now that LeBum is going to South Beach, here’s what Knicks fans can look forward to:

Raymond Felton trying to be Steve Nash as he dribbles up the floor and looks for Amar’e Stoudemire.

That’s the best-case scenario, too.

Uh-oh.

Obviously, it was a humungous setback for Knicks fans when LeBron James decided to shun the bright lights of New York and join forces in South Beach with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But it was even worse for the franchise that hasn’t raised a championship banner since 1973.

It’s not every day when a franchise talent goes on the market and is willing to move and your favorite team has the kind of money it takes to get him to come. And then, here comes the low blow of all low blows: He goes to work for Pat Riley, who made an historic clean sweep by landing the summer’s top three free-agents.

So where do the Knicks go from here?

Well, they do have Stoudemire, the best big man to play in town since Patrick Ewing. He’s not a No. 1 star. He can’t carry a team by himself. He’s got some holes in his game, as a defender and rebounder. But he’s at least the first big-time scoring threat up front since Ewing.

“I’d be concerned about years four and five of a contract because he’s had four knee surgeries and microfracture surgery," said Steve Kerr, the Suns former GM. “But I wouldn’t be concerned about the first two, three years."

What about Amare’s defense? Well, the Knicks don’t play any, as you might have heard. They allowed opponents to shoot 48.6 percent from the floor last season, worst in the league.

“Amare’s not going to be Kevin Garnett, everybody knows that," Kerr said. “But he’s improved. He’s still not a great defender and he knows that. But he’s tried to get better. I think he’s learned and grown. He’s matured a lot."

Stoudemire’s addition led to the Knicks' decision to ship David Lee to Golden State. They no longer needed Lee, who got an $80-million deal. For the Knicks, the key player in return is forward Anthony Randolph, a prospect they’ve had their eyes on for a while.

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But beyond that deal, they can’t just throw around their money, as they’ve done in the past. They have to be judicious spenders. If they’re smart, they’ll save the cap space left over from this free-agent period and roll all those millions into next summer.

It’s not as if they had to rebuild their team in one fell swoop.

Once LeBron took the easy way out and quit on Cleveland, the Knicks were basically sent on a course for more painful rebuilding.

Although Tony Parker has been spending the last year or so conspiring with Stoudemire to come to the Garden, the Spurs aren’t going to deliver him on a silver platter. Parker has a year to go on his deal and the Knicks don’t have the goods to call up the Spurs to talk trade.

So let’s assume Parker is at least one season removed from coming to New York, via free agency. What do the Knicks do to get the most out of Stoudemire, one of the game’s premier finishers, this coming season?

As of Friday night they were close to bringing in Felton, a mediocre point guard for the Bobcats. They were also considering Luke Ridnour and Jordan Farmar. One thing is certain: The Knicks can’t entrust the playmaking duties to Toney Douglas, who was a rookie last season.

“All those guys are really glorified backups," said one Eastern Conference scout. “How much can you win with them?"

Not much. But that’s part of the fallout from seeing James run to the Heat.

They haven’t won a title since the days of Clyde Frazier and Willis Reed, and the drought is bound to get longer.

If James had come to New York, there’d be no need for a point guard, because he’d have the ball in his hands 85-90 percent of the time. He'd be working the pick-and-roll with Stoudemire. But he’s not coming, which sure makes the Knicks’ decision to pass on Brandon Jennings in the 2009 draft look very dubious.

But for the last two years, everything was predicated on getting LeBron.

Or as he’s known around here now, LeBum.

Read more of Mitch Lawrence's columns at the New York Daily News.

Tagged: Cavaliers, Bucks, Knicks, Suns, Spurs, Tony Parker, Hornets

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