We are just hours from the opening of free agency, the day that the Knicks and their fans have been awaiting for years. It's strange to think, after all this time of speculation and anticipation, that at 1:30 Thursday afternoon, the New York Knicks are actually going to sit down with LeBron James and talk to him about joining their team. That's actually going to happen. So, considering how much we've wondered about this day, do we have any more of an idea of how the Knicks will approach this? Kind of.
The way we see it, they have three options, three plans to use as major selling points. Obviously, the Knicks will be selling the city, the Garden, and the earning possibilities (and eternal adulation) that would come with winning championships here. That goes without saying. But we're talking about actual basketball here: How do they convince LeBron he can win? Three options are emerging:
1. The supporting cast is better than you think. You and a big man can conquer with what we have. This is the "LeBron/Bosh/Chandler/Gallinari/Sergio" notion. This one relies, almost exclusively, on LeBron believing Mike D'Antoni is the best coach on Earth, and the most fun to play for. The Knicks will also point out that when Eddy Curry's contract is off the books, they'll have money to grab another free agent, perhaps Carmelo Anthony. We still think this is the best plan. And the hoop stat-heads at Basketball Prospectus agree with us.
2. You can run this whole joint. Also known as the "LeBron and four guys from your rec league equal title contender" corollary. The Knicks still do have more cap space than anyone else after all — they're the only team, save possibly the Nets — that can, at this exact second, offer two max contracts. Who do you want, LeBron? Let us know. We'll spend it however you want. This is not dramatically removed from Option A.
3. Hey, everybody make less! It's for the common good! A bewildering proposition, sure, but the one SI.com's Ian Thomsen floated this morning. Essentially, LeBron, Joe Johnson (him again!), and a big man (Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire) sign for slightly less than the max and Voltron up as an Aquaforce Super League of Super Friends for the next five years or so, running the city like Dr. Moreau ruled The Island of Dr. Moreau. This is a peculiar strategy, considering you are asking LeBron, along with two other players who happen to be free agents in the biggest buyers' market in NBA history, to take less money for the common good. Except in this case, the common good is not battling cancer, or tsunami relief: It is Jim Dolan. We don't think this plan will work. We hope it's not the one the Knicks are trying. We really, really hope that.
The Knicks have come this far, all this way, dismantling and losing and scheming, for tomorrow's 1:30 meeting. Soon, we'll know, and all this will be over. Like everyone else who has heard LeBron James nonstop for the last several months, we're pretty sure we won't miss it.