Knicks, Cavs Remain LeBron's Best Bets
Authored by Louis Roxin - May 17, 2010 - 11:43 am
Like the success ESPN’s Bill Simmons had orchestrating Celtics’ fans to serenade LeBron James with chants of “New-York-Knicks,” Simmons gets credit for originating the LeBron-to-the-Bulls chatter that has now taken on a life of its own. RealGM had the Bulls in the top slot in their [Only registered and activated users can see images. Click Here To Register...]
On its real-world basketball merits, not so much. It is a fabricated argument.
One of the big problems I have with the insistence that Derrick Rose is the ultimate running mate for LeBron James is that it discards both baby and bath water in Danny Ferry’s gameplan.
The Cavs did not dominate the regular season the last two years by putting together a terrible roster that was poorly constructed around LeBron’s unique talents. Loading up on shooters and keeping LeBron as the primary playmaker worked well enough to deliver Cleveland a total of 143 wins over two seasons.
Where the Cavs need help is simply in finding that clear second scorer for the postseason. Easier said than done, of course, but not a complicated dynamic to figure. Antawn Jamison didn’t add an extra dimension to the offense that the team didn’t already have. I believe Amar’e Stoudemire would have.
Simmons’ determination is that a ball-dominant point guard like Rose could be LeBron’s ideal sidekick. A dribble-shoot, dribble-drive point who relies on his young legs to slice through the defense, not a catch-and-shoot guy who likes to run to a spot, doesn’t have 3-point range to space the floor. That’s the perfect match for LeBron?
Who is playing off the ball and on the wings in this lineup? LeBron doesn’t prefer it and you’re effectively neutralizing much of what makes Rose special by taking him off the top or turning him into an undersized cutter rather than someone who can beat everybody off the dribble or hit the pull-up jumper.
Joakim Noah’s energy is off the charts, but you can find an adequate, dirty-work big by trade, the MLE, or late in the draft. The Cavs already did with Anderson Varejao. As far as the Heat or Knicks, they won’t find a big with Noah’s live body. But maybe they can find one who can hit a jumper here and there, or at least won’t get under LeBron’s skin.
Besides kicking the Cavs when they’re down, many are busy ignoring the elephant in the room: The Knicks and their two max-salary contract slots, selling the city that seems close to LeBron’s heart and the arena that inspires his fancy. At least Simmons deals with the possibility which is more than we can say for some of his colleagues. Chris Broussard gives the Knicks an 18 percent chance at landing LeBron by some magically precise formula.
More on the Knicks later. Back to LeBron’s current team in Cleveland.
Simmons claims that if the Cavs added Chris Bosh to their present roster, they’d still go nowhere. I strenuously object.
Add a multi-skilled big who can pour in points and LeBron has all he needs for a championship with a few minor roster tweaks. Granted, the Cavs might also need to innovate their offense and pick up the tempo, but that’s a coaching change.
On what is Simmons basing the insufficiency of Bosh? The Raptors’ failure to make the playoffs? How many games did the Grizzlies win with Pau Gasol each season? Bosh is not quite as big as Gasol and doesn’t have as many tricks around the basket. But his jumper is better and he’s a significantly
more prolific scorer. Bosh is a good offensive rebounder, underrated defender and passes well. I’d take Bosh over Gasol.
And LeBron has surpassed Kobe. So you do the math. The Cavs’ two top guns would be superior. So what would make Cleveland still inferior to the defending-champion Lakers? Lamar Odom is the difference? Comparable guys can be had at the MLE if they’re not already on the Cavs’ roster. Andrew Bynum is the difference? He’s been banged up in every postseason since Gasol has arrived, and didn't even play against Boston in 2008.
If we agree that abundant perimeter shooting next to LeBron had something
to do with the Cavs’ prodigious regular-season success – a theory not exactly impossible to believe – then Chicago is a particularly strange choice even if we throw out the Rose debate. The Bulls, who were .500 in the regular season and won exactly one playoff game, are arguably the most erratic jumpshooting team in the league. They don’t have anyone who is reliable from three. Kirk Hinrich has been their most established outside threat but has become spotty and uncertain from night to night.
Sure, shooters and quality pieces can be found. They’re out there for the taking if you resolve to spend money. But Jerry Reinsdorf is resistant to paying the luxury tax. Filling out the Bulls’ roster, particularly after Rose and Noah come off their heavily discounted rookie contracts, may not be a simple task. If the era of MJ, Phil, Pippen and six championships couldn’t loosen management’s purse strings, then how would LeBron and his young teammates fare?
The point is that in New York and Miami, LeBron wouldn’t have to worry about ownership playing, or paying, along. That also hasn’t been a concern in Cleveland to date.
Simmons believes he’s calling LeBron’s bluff: Okay, so the city of Chicago may not give you a big buzz LeBron, but if you’re all about winning, you’ll sign with the Bulls.
Here’s the best part: If LeBron goes to Chicago, Simmons will cut him some slack. LeBron doesn’t really have to be all
about winning as a Bull. Sure, Wade is bigger and better than Rose in every which way, and the Heat would have substantial cap room left over after signing LeBron. But Simmons tells us that LeBron doesn’t want to have that
much help. No, Wade would give LeBron too
As Simmons sees it, going to Chicago will prove that LeBron is all about winning even though he could have chosen to join another team that gives him a better chance of winning. It’s the perfect blend of LeBron being all about winning while still being all about ego.
Simmons mysteriously forgives LeBron the vice of wanting to be his team’s best player, by far, but he won’t forgive LeBron the vice of wanting to play in the best city, by far. His ego is acceptable in Chicago, out of control in New York.
LeBron can shed both vices – and maximize his shot at the title – by playing with Wade in Miami or New York (although it is worth noting that LeBron would still be the best player, by far, even if he pairs with Wade).
And why does Bill seem to be ruling out Wade jumping town? You don’t know how much South Beach fatigue has set in by now … playing playoff games in front of a guy who just moved from Rockland County next to two empty seats, with his flip flops up on the seat in front of him … the courtside season ticketholder who sometimes shows up, living in Dade since 1960 and already making plans to re-deed his family’s plantation in Bayamo to United Fruit.
If LeBron goes to Chicago, he can be absolutely sure that his legacy will continuously be lined up against Jordan’s, win for win, title for title. In New York, LeBron will have a largely blank slate but still get to play on the world’s biggest and brightest stage, in front of its best fans. One championship in New York and LeBron will have led the most remarkable transformation in NBA history. Win two as a Knick and he’s talked about as one of the greatest of our time. Three and he might be the most remarkable athlete of his generation, considering how far the Knicks fell during the tragic Isiah decade.
The Knicks’ roster is a work in progress. I’m on record that Donnie Walsh will look to trade Eddy Curry’s expiring contract for a defensive big on a long-term deal. Think Emeka Okafor or Andris Biedrins. LeBron would also benefit playing beside a talented young shooter with size and a range of offensive skills in Danilo Gallinari, who may not be far off from Noah as a third big piece and is a rarer piece more difficult to find.
This summer, LeBron has his eye on the Big Apple and the specter of the King calling the Garden home with a second max talent on board carries a heavy dose of intrigue, or intimidation, depending on one’s perspective.
During the playoffs, LeBron said that Chicago is [Only registered and activated users can see images. Click Here To Register...]
Guess which one he thinks is the best?
The same city that has a team that sparked this comment back in February.
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