LeBron Optimism-O-Meter

  • The LeBroptimism meter doesn’t know what it’s supposed to do at this point. The likes of Woj, Chris Broussard and now Jonathan Abrams have all indicated that LeBron is firmly Chicago bound (with Bosh, the Boshtimism meter would be going haywire right about now if there was one). Abrams today wrote that the recruiting pitches are nothing more than a formality to show his other suitors deference. On Twitter lately and in writings for Newsday, Alan Hahn has seemed resigned to the notion that LeBron won’t come to New York.

At the same time you have Steven A. Smith whose own sources told him that the Knicks are in the lead. Evidently Frank Isola (swallowing pride now) has been hearing the same thing from people close to LeBron. And of course there’s this (via Tommy Dee via @NYSportSpace):

WOW according to @Dhalioua’s and my sources, Jay-Z’s song ‘Already Home’ is playing and LeBron is pointing down at the floor! Nets or Knicks

So what is a Knicks fan to think? I don’t know anymore, and the LeBroptimism meter just broke.

  • 6/5/2010: Woj links the Bulls’ signing of Tom Thibodeau to World Wide Wes and ultimately, LeBron.Seems like the Cavs and the Bulls are in play, and the Knicks are just an afterthought.And how else does one read the tea leaves? It’s all very suspicious, as Woj points out: The Bulls urgently travel to LA to meet with Thibs who couldn’t get a head coaching job until he signed with Wes’s agency, CAA, which also represents LeBron. Woj adds that for all his years as an assistant, nobody considered Thibs for a head coaching job, not even the Celtics teams who built at least one title on the back of his defensive schemes. But Thibs signs with CAA and the Bulls’ owner flies halfway across the country to snatch him away from the Hornets at the last minute.Now LeBron is “leaning hard” to the Bulls, who have a made a “down payment” on the summer’s top prize. Donnie Walsh has until the draft, which according to Woj is when all free agent decisions might unofficially be made, to make his own bold move and change some minds.
  • 5/13/10: For the last year, two for some, Knicks’ fans have been hoping and praying for the Cavaliers and LeBron James to lose in the playoffs. The line of thinking is that LeBron, realizing that his front office is incapable of surrounding him with a decent team to take the pressure off of him, would understand that he needs a blank slate. He would need to go somewhere with better help than Mo Williams or Larry Hughes or Antawn Jamison or geriShaqtric.

And now the fans’ prayers are halfway answered. But does it feel the way they thought it would? The story, written in our minds, envisioned a glorious press conference, LeBron holding up a #6 Knicks’ jersey, flashing his trademark smile, in front of a Knicks patterned curtain. It would be a shining, euphoric moment.

But in our haste to write the story before it happened we neglected major details. Details, like game 6 tonight, but especially like game 5. Our preconceived narrative is flawed because nobody ever stopped to consider what it would mean if that first half of the equation actually became reality. Now we know: What it means is that something very wrong happened involving The One. There was a shadow brooding over the joy and celebration as the seconds ticked away on the Cavs’s season.

LeBron looked disinterested in game 5. He looked tired, confused and flustered in game 6. By the very end of the game, it looked like he quit. The Cavaliers could have fouled in the last minute. True, they were looking over at the coach for instruction. The coach quit. But LeBron was on the floor, and it didn’t mean that he had to as well.

And then when it was all over, LeBron approached each Celtic and wished them luck and shook their hands. He didn’t storm off the court like he did last year, enraged, his lack of sportsmanship an immature manifestation of the unacceptability of what had just happened. Instead, LeBron seemed to accept this outcome, accede to it, during games 5 and 6. This was LeBron’s leadership.
This is the man we want to turn around the fortunes of our franchise. Undoubtedly, if he comes, he will. But in the playoffs will fans be ready to accept, the way LeBron seemed to, the type of outcome we all witnessed tonight?

Hopefully it won’t ever come to that. Another tired angle is who is going to join LeBron in New York. There are many options and they are all better than anybody with whom LeBron James has ever played. In fact in one summer LeBron can join any number of teams, including the Knicks, who can provide him with more than one player who is better than any player Danny Ferry – who people like to say did everything he could for LeBron – ever did.

But I almost get the sense that in game 5 of a tied series, or in the fourth quarter of a game 6 with the season on the line, he’s going to be looking at Derrick Rose or Danilo Gallinari for leadership. Not the other way around.

  • 4/11/2010Over the last month or so something imperceptible to me has given me a vague but increasingly certain feeling that LeBron will stay in Cleveland. Ever since LeBron, Wade, and Bosh signed identical extensions with opt-outs in 2010, some fans, including myself, argued that the Knicks had to get under the cap to be able to make a run at these guys. Well, it might not happen, but it was still worth a shot.

Brian Windhorts reports that:

The vibe being sent out from James’ camp — whether it is private conversations or discussions about new business or plans for the near future — is that James currently is leaning strongly toward re-signing with the Cavs.

Ok. Good for LeBron. He’s a grown ass man and he’ll make whatever decision he thinks is best. I think he should reconsider (and obviously I hope he does), as my personal opinion is that if he doesn’t win the title in Cleveland this year, he isn’t going to win it during his next contract either. Not with aging Jamison on the books for $15 million through 2012. Not with Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson and Jamario Moon making a cumulative $24 million through that same period. Good for LeBron though. If he thinks that budget restrictive core is going to get better as time goes on, let him try to bring the Cavs their first title ever with it.

Plenty of people will use this opportunity to call for Donnie Walsh’s head without having the patience to wait just 2 and a half more months to see whether his plan comes to fruition. We have never been part of the “LeBron of bust” crew (check the blog), that lack both foresight and insight as to what possibilities could await. I’m confident: The Knicks will be just fine. There are countless combinations and permutations awaiting Donnie Walsh this summer to turn the team not only into a winner, but a big winner. And plenty of them exclude LeBron .

Just to lay out a couple of examples, taking into account that the endless possibilities make any single one of them unlikely:

    • I tweeted some with @vinnymax1 yesterday (shoutout also to @leaveherbalone, who was also part of the discussion) and he convinced me that under certain scenarios, it could make sense for the Knicks to trade for Emeka Okafor. For example if the Knicks are able to pick up Bosh and Joe Johnson, then they could also trade Eddy Curry, Chandler and/or Douglas for Darren Collison and Okafor. The lineup would be Collison, Johnson, Gallinari, Bosh, and Okafor. If they just get one of Bosh or Johnson then they can instead get Camby and any number of other players.
    • The Jazz, like the Hornets, are also spendthrift and will have a lottery pick. Would they consider trading Andrei Kirilenko for cap space and Chandler? If so the Knicks could put together a lethal defensive team featuring: Marcus Camby, Kirilenko, Gallinari, Anthony Morrow (who has a chance to become one of the elite shooters the game has ever seen), and Toney Douglas. The Knicks could also move Eddy Curry under this scenario and get any number of players from Collison to who knows who. I have a feeling the Knicks defense would look just fine. Maybe some of the haters could shut up then. Or talk about how shocked they are that a team with a Camby/Kirilenko frontcourt would play better D than a Lee/Harrington squad.
    • Just a few other players known to be or who could be available for mere cap savings: Iguodala/Dalembert package deal; Rip Hamilton; Jason Richardson.

Plus, as I’ve previously blogged (and as Alan Hahn wrote before I did), the draft has the potential to really shake up some rosters this summer.

Bottom line is, if LeBron wants to stay in Cleveland, let him run that rusty little village. This is New York City, and no man is bigger than it.

  • 3/2/2010: Word came through yesterday that LeBron has filed paperwork with the NBA to change his number to 6 for next year. Rules only require a player to submit such paperwork if he plans on changing numbers while remaining on the same team. If a player switches teams he can choose whatever available number he wants. Is it a signal that he’s staying or is it just insurance in case he decides to stay. The possibility that its the former is enough to raise eyebrows.

The greatest NBA free agent of all time, LeBron James, is quietly making overtures to the Los Angeles Lakers.He wants to play for them. And James is not all that concerned whether Kobe Bryant is part of the equation. Bryant, of course, has yet to sign a contract extension with L.A. and could wind up a free-agent himself, albeit one with high mileage.

But the overtures have been made. LeBron wants to wear the purple and gold.

And if you think about it, it makes sense. People often point to LeBron’s affinity for the Yankees as a sign that LeBron wants to come to Broadway this summer but his love for the Bombers may mean something else altogether. Consider that he also loves the Cowboys, not the Giants or the Jets. So he loves “America’s” teams. The frontrunner, the proud franchise with the history and the glory. So if you think of the Yankees in baseball, and the Cowboys in football, you think about the Montreal Canadiens in Hockey (23 Stanley Cups – I had to look that up) who do you think about in basketball? As much as it pains me to say it, it’s not the Knicks. It’s the Lakers (or Celtics). And maybe rather than building a new legacy, LeBron wants to add to the most storied one.

Do the Lakers have the juice to land LeBron? Of course. In a sign and trade the Lakers can easily make the best offer of some combination Pau Gasol or Bynum with Artest or Odom and probably some draft picks. If LeBron really wants to go there and the Lakers want him (why wouldn’t they), then game over folks.

If LeBron does change teams this summer, it’ll sting if he doesn’t go to the Knicks, especially after what fans have been through these past two years. I personally never hung my hat on a LeBron-or-nothing philosophy, but it’ll sting.

The only sliver of light for Knicks’ fans is this bit from Lazeby’s article:

Mainly, he wants to wear a championship ring, which means he wants to play for Lakers coach Phil Jackson.“LeBron wants to win. He’s a smart guy,” explains one of my best inside sources, a close Jackson associate. “And Phil loves LeBron, absolutely LOVES him.”

There are many, many complicating factors to such a scenario, not the least of which is the fact that it’s way far from certain that Jackson will even be the coach of the Lakers next year.

“The Lakers have not made Phil an offer,” the Jackson source points out. However, rest assured of this, Jackson’s close associate maintained. “Phil will coach somewhere next year.”

Jackson wouldn’t dare take off next year if he’s not coaching the Lakers because he believes the following year will bring a lock-out, the source says. Jackson craves the chance to win another title before the NBA owners lock out the players in 2011-2012 to force a new contract.

“The whole league is under review,” the source points out. “Franchise values are falling, so the owners feel they must force a new labor agreement.”

The lock-out will bring a lost season, and the 64-year-old Jackson doesn’t want to miss two campaigns. So Jackson could wind up coaching Bron with another team next year, such as the New York Knickerbockers.

Would the Knicks cast aside Mike D’Antoni after these two brutal years? Donnie Walsh promised him the a silver lining, a light at the end of the tunnel. It’ll be the definition of cold-hearted to hand him his walking papers at a time when he was to start collecting on his Faustian bargain. If I’m the Knicks, I’m not sure I get seduced by the possibility of LeBron and Phil Jackson if it means casting away D’Antoni, and it’s not because I think D’Antoni is a better coach than Phil or because I don’t like LeBron or because I don’t want to win a title. But it’s been 37 years since the Knicks won a title, but I feel such a cold-hearted move could put seal the Knicks into place at the top of the pantheon of sports curses as a result of massive Karmic damnation. Surely, that’s something that Phil Jackson can understand.

  • 2/18/2009: You knew this was coming.

Donnie Walsh completed a trade that will get the Knicks far enough under the salary cap this summer to sign two maximum level free agents. Ever since the downward revision of the salary cap estimate, the LeBron conversation has centered around him joining a “supporting cast” already in place. Specifically Gallinari, Chandler, Lee, and Hill.

Well, Hill is gone, and Lee might be gone at some point, but in their place, LeBron can pick any of the 2010 free agents he wants. That means another max guy, or several non-max guys. The idea that he can come and reshape the roster as he sees fit makes a big difference.

Brian Windhorst called it a “game changer”.

I also recognize that the Cavs got better at the trade deadline as well, but nobody talks about the kind of risk they took by bringing in Jamison. If the Cavs don’t win a title this year, they won’t have the cap space to improve any more than they just have. In addition, going forward, they are going to get worse, as Jamison ages and his salary increases through the summer of 2012.

Quibble all you want about the draft picks (and the Knicks lost only one), you can always buy another one. You can only buy a LeBron once.

“[When] I signed a three-year [extension in 2006]… I had a goal in mind, and that was to put myself in the best position [in 2010] … I’m thinking I just want to stick to my goal, stick to what I was doing,” Bosh told reporters. “That’s a part of the plan … I just want to address things [after] next season. There’s a reason why I did things the way I did them back then.”

LeBron James signed a contract with an identical opt-out, and ostensibly the reason would also be to put himself “in the best position” in 2010.

“There’s a reason why I did things the way I did them back then.”

[Moment of silence to let that sink in].

Look, is the reason because everyone wants to sign with the Knicks in 2010? Are Bosh, James, and Wade going to do battle for the honor of playing in New York? Or is it just because those players and their agents know that the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2010, and they want to lock in long term, max contracts before an expected lock-out, and maximize the payout under the current CBA’s pay rules?

Either way, Bosh isn’t signing an extension. And I don’t think LeBron will either.

  • 5/30/2009: The Cavs get smoked by the Magic. LeBron’s “supporting cast” is exposed. LeBron angrily bolts the arena…He seems upset…
  • 5/8/2009: Today portions of an interview with King James were released where he professed himself pleased as punch to be in Cleveland and expressed satisfaction with the direction of the team. Sigh.I am still satisfied with the direction of the Knicks, and I intend to remain with them as a fan.
  • 4/16/2009: LeBron lets Cavs fans know that he’s not pleased that they’ve been consistently booing him and his team when they don’t run up the score on opponents to get the crowd free chalupas. LeBron knows that Knicks fans prefer basketball (and LeBron) to saturated fats, and that they would thus never boo the Knicks in the closing seconds of a blowout win.
Bizarre Love Triangle
Bizarre Love Triangle
  • 2/27/2009: Apparently, Bruce Ratner has one less roadblock to contend with in bringing a state of the art stadium to Brooklyn. We all know the Nets are under the cap, in fact they will have more flexibility than theKnicks in the Summer of 2010. So now the Knicks have another contender in their backyard. However, we remain solidly LeBroptimistic, the lease will expire on the Meadowlands before Atlantic Yards will be built, and I really don’t see LeBron waiting around, perhaps playing a season or two in Nassau Coliseum. No way. By the time Atlantic Yards is built, the Garden will be renovated anyway, and if you want to be King of New York, your throne has to be Manhattan. Plus, I think Brooklyn is Marbury’s turf.
  • 2/20/2009: Before the trade deadline I sat in trepidation of what the Cavs were going to do with the expiring deal of Wally Szczerbiak. Would they wind up with Matrix, Amare, Jamison, Butler, Jefferson, Shaq, Mike Miller, something? The trade deadline came and went. And they wound up with…Wally Szczerbiak. So not only did the Cavs not upgrade their talent for a title run this year, they also wasted an asset who might’ve netted them help in the future. Wally’s deal will melt away this off-season as has Cleveland’s hope of upgrading their roster using this particular asset.
  • 2/18/2009: Over the All-Star break, David Stern announced that the salary cap may well go down over the next two seasons. Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com did the math, and showed that if the Knicks keep Lee and Nate, they won’t have the money in 2010 to sign even ONE max free agent. If the Knicks move Lee and Nate, will there be enough left on the roster to entice Lebron to want to sign. The only way out of this situation is to trade Curry and/or Jeffries, preferably both. That seems unlikely to happen, though anything is possible.
  • 2/14/2009, Valentine’s Day ‘09 (fitting!): Lebron tells Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News how much he loves Chris Bosh while simultaneously (seriously) entertaining the possibility that the two will team up in NY in 2010. Mark it Dude!
  • 2/10/2009: His hand forced by a Chris Bosh injury, David Stern selects Mo Williams to a reserve spot on the East All-Star team. Might the standing of LeBron’s teammates be increased in his eyes?
  • 2/5/2009: For the second straight year, LeBron and Nike launch a special NYC shoe, available only in New York City. He obviously knows about marketing, and what New York means in that regard.
  • 2/4/2009: LeBron comes to the Garden and almost records the first 50 point triple double in over 30 years. After the game he speaks in glowing terms of the Garden, the City, and the fans. The descriptions don’t apply to Cleveland.
  • 2/3/2009: Dwayne Wade shoots down Marc Berman’s bogus story and says that playing in New York in 2010 would be “impossible” for him. Now it looks like the Knicks won’t get Bosh or Wade. Is LeBron going to want to come without one of those other shining stars?
  • 2/2/2009: Chris Bosh reportedly wants out of Toronto. His preferences appear to be Dallas and Miami. The much speculated pairing of James and Bosh suddenly seems unlikely. LeBron is unlikely to want to come to New York without another star.
  • 1/31/2009: Marc Berman reports that Dwayne Wade says its possible that he and LeBron would play for the Knicks in 2010.
  • 11/21/2008: Donnie Walsh finds a way to get Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford off the books. The Knicks are now in position to sign two elite free agents to maximum deals in the Summer of 2010.
  • 8/13/2008: The Cavs trade for Mo Williams in a three way deal, essentially giving up only the worthless Damon Jones. Williams is a proven, fearless scorer. It looks like the Cavs are doing what they can to keep LeBron around by bringing in better players. Will it work?
  • 5/13/2008: Mike D’Antoni is named Head Coach of the Knicks. It is well chronicled that the elite players, including LeBron James, loved playing for him during the Olympics.
  • 4/2/2008: Donnie Walsh replaces Isiah Thomas as President of Basketball Operations. Isiah can inflict no more damage.
  • 6/28/2007: Isiah Thomas trades for Zach Randolph and his gargantuan, interminable contract. The Knicks won’t sign an elite free-agent until 2040.

15 comments

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