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The Bulls next play the Knicks, whom I almost feel sorry for. But not that much. That "plan" the Knicks have for 2010 NBA domination? The idea that NBA stars are anxious to play in New York? Sorry, that's just about dead. There's plenty of reasons, including the fact that hardly any free agents ever wanted to go there. Did you ever hear Shaq say he wanted to go to New York? Grant Hill? Tim Duncan? Tracy McGrady. There was this notion they never had room under the salary cap. But also no one treated their post 1973 stars as badly as they have in New York, where Patrick Ewing was routinely booed and demeaned by the public and media. Players notice. Anyway, that's not the reason.
Maybe the biggest reason is the Knicks are going to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference next season. And no one goes to 20-win teams, as the Bulls painfully found out in 2000. How could James, for example, ever justify leaving a Cavs team that is a championship contender and go to New York and then say he's about winning. He'd be the league joke.
It's also why the Bulls know they cannot sit still this summer. It's still wise to have enough flexibility to be prepared for the free agents who might be available in the summer of 2010. But it's not going to be easy to make the make the playoffs in the East next season.
The East took one step this season winning more games against Western Conference teams. Next season, the East should be far better because the bottom rung teams figure to be much improved.
Washington will get back Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood to add to Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
Milwaukee will get back Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd.
Toronto can't possibly be as bad and will have Andrea Bargnani settled in and if they can bring back Shawn Marion at a reasonable price, they could move up. It's why some general managers are now saying it's more likely the Raptors hold onto Chris Bosh through the summer and move him, if necessary, next trading deadline.
The Bobcats will have a full season with the roster that closed the season strong.
The Pistons could add a major free agent or two this summer with Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace off the books. And they still have Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey.
The Nets have Devin Harris, Vince Carter and top rookie big man Brook Lopez. And they'll likely have a new coach as Lawrence Frank seems to have run his course. Frank's controlled style seems to have held back the team, and reports out of New Jersey is upper management wants a change. Longtime godfather Rod Thorn has been neutral on a return. Thorn and Frank's father were longtime business partners, but you'd think Thorn has been loyal enough to Frank thus far.
And the Knicks aren't likely to even have the roster they have now. In this salary space creating mode they likely can't keep David Lee and/or Nate Robinson and pay them. Mike D'Antoni's system is fun, but it also tends to inflate statistics. And you can be sure the representatives for Lee and Robinson will be seeking deals commensurate with Lee averaging 16.1 points and 11.8 rebounds and Robinson being featured in Knicks advertising as the new face of the team.
It's a roster with perhaps one true NBA starter in Lee, and he really is a solid role playing four at about 6-8. Perhaps Al Harrington is a starter, though more sixth man. Chris Duhon? Wilson Chandler? Jared Jeffries. Good luck moving Eddy Curry, who is owed an average of $11 million through the 2010-11 season after he's barely played for two years and has a mountain of personal issues.
The Knicks also will suffer from an unexpected change in the landscape, as the Bulls did in 2000. The Bulls were prepared to overpay for a star, which is the sure way to get one, and then the new collective bargaining agreement set salary ceilings. So with the same salary, who needed to go to a 20-win team? For the Knicks, it's the economy. It's likely to drive down the salary cap, so they may not have room to add a second maximum salaried free agent. And who's going to go there with that roster and without another star?
Actually, this all presents an intriguing issue for the Bulls. I've long advocated the Bulls try to trade for a star type player like Stoudemire or Bosh--maybe Chris Kaman--if there's some sort of fire sale this summer because of economic changes, as many teams expect.
I talk at times with someone connected with the James inner circle. A lot of people say they have such contacts, so you never know for sure if it means anything. And this guy close to James told my guy he hasn't discussed it with James. But he believes if James were to leave the Cavs for a major market--which, I emphasize he doesn't think he will--he's more likely to go to Chicago with its far better roster where one star could make a major difference. So should the Bulls take a chance and wait?
I've never believed James would come to Chicago. But it makes a lot more sense than going to New York. And all the sponsors pay those extra dividends if you are in any of the three large markets, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The general consensus these days is Wade is unlikely to leave Miami. With the Heat's cap flexibility in 2010, they'll be able to add a major free agent. And the speculation is it will be Bosh. I've heard Bosh prefers to be the No. 1 guy. Though that scenario seems not to make that much sense given Bosh has shown he cannot carry a team. Toronto's performance this season is Exhibit A. Also, there been talk of this private pact among the 2008 Olympians to be joining forces, and Wade and Bosh makes a lot of sense.
The other scenario you hear most often is James recruiting Joe Johnson to play with him in Cleveland. The Cavs have managed their cap nicely as well, and that's probably one big reason they didn't move Wally Szczerbiak when everyone expected them to in February.
They have a real chance to create a dynasty around James like the Bulls did around Jordan with ample cap room in 2010. That's the big reason most expect James to stay with the Cavs. Jason Kidd, who had 20 assists Sunday in helping put the Suns out of their playoff misery, already is lobbying to play with James, even in a backup role.
Johnson, meanwhile, would be a major weapon. Many still point to his free agency departure as the reason the Suns never were able to take that next step to true championship contender. Johnson is not talked about like James, Wade and Bosh. But he may be the surprise prize of that class.
Look, Dirk is staying in Dallas, the Nuggets are hanging onto Carmelo, McGrady's about done. Same with Jermaine O'Neal, Shaq and Steve Nash. Michael Redd isn't opting out after an injury. Carlos Boozer's glow has receded. The Trailblazers aren't letting Brandon Roy get away. Manu Ginobili's ankle is taking a long time to heal and he's wearing down.
That 2010 bonanza is looking less bountiful, and you figure the guys who go somewhere will be looking for a nice landing spot and a chance to be competitive immediately. Joining Wade and James would seem to provide that.
So maybe Chicago has a slight chance with Derrick Rose and some solid supporting players. New York? It's going to be another long, lost decade.
Do anyone see the names Gallo, Duhon, Harrington, Mobley, or Larry Hughes mention in this article? by Sam Smith.....they are their every time he mention the Knicks being a 20 win team in the 2009-10 season inwhich all the Star ending contract players will be looking to have a season or career high playing against the Knicks in 2009-10 season....the season we dont have a first round draft pick.