Some writing off the Knicks in LBJ sweepstakes. Not me.
July, 3, 2010
By Chris Sheridan
There are a lot of opinions out there today about who is supposedly in and out of the LeBron James sweepstakes.
Some have already written the Knicks off, and some have weighed in with actual facts about what took place in their meeting Thursday with James.
I am here to tell you that I believe the Knicks are still very much in the race, and I've gathered a little intel of my own regarding what went on behind those closed doors off 9th Street in Cleveland.
Aside from their financial pitch to James that he could most easily become a billionaire by playing in New York, the Knicks made a basketball pitch to James -- backed up with video highlights -- demonstrating how their complimentary players are better suited than anyone else's to supplement what James and the big man of his choice (Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, David Lee, Carlos Boozer) would bring to the table.
Question: How many shooters do the Bulls have?
Answer: None. Derrick Rose is a career 24 pct. 3-point shooter, and Luol Deng is at 31 percent -- the same as Wilson Chandler, who would get a lot more open looks than he did in the past in a LeBron-centric offense. The Knicks also have Danilo Gallinari, who is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range for his career. (Toney Douglas also hit 3s at a 39 percent clip last season.)
Variation of the same question: How many shooters do the Heat have? Mario Chalmers (who lost his starting job to Carlos Arroyo last season) hits 'em at a 38 percent clip. Michael Beasley is at 33 pct in his two seasons. Joel Anthony has never taken one, which merits mentioning because he, along with Beasley and Chalmers, are the only players Miami has.
Question: What possible hidden gem does Chicago have on its roster?
Only Taj Gibson and James Johnson qualify, and one or both might have to be moved in a sign-and-trade in order for the Bulls to get a second max player. Compare those two to Bill Walker, who was one of the most highly recruited and touted players in the 2006-07 high school senior class that included O.J. Mayo and Rose. Walker's career was sidetracked by a serious knee injury, but he has dropped 27 pounds (from 254 to 227) since the Knicks acquired him from Boston in the Nate Robinson trade, and his knee is fully recovered.
Question: What kind of salary cap/trade deadline flexibility will the Bulls/Heat have going into the 2010-11 season?
Answer: Virtually none. Chicago has to lock up Joakim Noah next summer and Rose the year after that, and Miami, if it gets two max players, can only gain flexibility for the summer of 2011 by declining the fourth-year option on Beasley's contract prior to the start of the '10-11 season. The Knicks, on the other hand, have Eddy Curry's expiring $11.3 contract to use in one of two ways: Trade it at the deadline for a player or players that would make the Knicks stronger championship contenders next spring; or let it come off the cap at the end of next season, putting the Knicks some $10-12 million under the cap for the Summer of Carmelo.
I have it on good authority that the Knicks pounded those points with James, arguing that their complimentary players are better than they've been given credit for, and that adding a third max player in 2011 is an achievable possibility.
Those are persuasive arguments, and the Cavaliers (capped out next summer because of Antawn Jamison trade) and Bulls can't make similar cases when they meet with James today in Cleveland.
And what about the Nets?
I don't count them out, but I also think their two-year temporary relocation to Newark while they await the construction of the new arena in Brooklyn is a deal-breaker.
Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, who has covered James since he was in high school, and whose mother taught math to James at St. Vincent-St.Mary high school in Akron, thought it would be a good idea a couple of Januarys ago to take an Amtrak train from Newark to Washington, D.C. while the Cavs were on an East Coast road swing.
I'll let Windhorst take it from here:
"I would describe it as an hour of staying away from the wackos and drug-addled degenerates while keeping a serious close eye on the various unsavory individuals who were an obvious threat to property and body. I went out and on the platform, where it was 15 degrees, because there was nobody else out there," Windhorst said. "I don't want to offend the Newark Chamber of Commerce, but I would never plan on doing that ever again. And I'm a big Amtrak fan."
One more question: How many media people have spoken to LeBron James about any of this? (I have tried, but he is not returning my messages.) I'd bet a dollar the answer is none.
And until The King speaks, I'm not counting anybody out.