Sometime Monday morning or early afternoon, perhaps while you are still hung-over and searching the lawn for whatever fingers you might have lost the night before, LeBron James is supposedly going to announce what team he’ll be playing for in 2010–2011 and beyond. (Supposedly.) Considering how little everyone knows now, and how long we’ve been talking about it, and how much needs to be nailed down still, Monday seems impossibly early. But it’s a relief: No one wants to spend their summer waiting. If the bullet’s going to be fired, just shoot already.
The market, already, is causing the Knicks headaches: As John Hollinger noted this morning, with players like Paul Pierce and Rudy Gay signing with their old teams, teams like the Knicks, if they don’t get LeBron, are going to be tempted to dramatically overpay for middle-tier players like Steve Blake. And that’s going to put them right back in the same mess they were before. The smart play, if LeBron and company don’t come, is to hold on to some of the extra salary cap money and spend it on more deserving players in future classes, but considering how much people have been anticipating this summer, that would seem anticlimactic at best.
There have been a few positive signs, though not necessarily ones involving LeBron. Though part of us thought his “I’m in a New York state of mind right now” comment on the way into a meeting with the Knicks might have been making fun of Mike D’Antoni a little bit. Dwyane Wade said after a 2 1/2 hour meeting that he was “intrigued.” In even better news, Amar’e Stoudemire appears to really want to play here; Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the “framework” of a five-year max deal is in place. So someone wants to come here. We were getting worried.
Still: If it’s just Amar’e – and we do not believe Wade is coming here, at all – that won’t be enough. A large part of the free agent “bonanza” remains LeBron or Bust. The Knicks will claim otherwise, that the major achievement is clearing out the Isiah disaster, and they’re right. But salary-cap space doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get the big dogs to take your money. Though that Forbes presentation does not raise our confidence: Does that last slide really say “THANK YOU?” Apparently the Wade and Amar’e presentations went better.
The mantra again: No one knows. Maybe LeBron is already setting all this up and laughing at everyone obsessively tweeting.
This July 4 weekend, this long weekend, we can still believe that there’s a chance, that LeBron James and Chris Bosh/Amar’e Stoudemire/whoever will combine to change the trajectory of New York sports forever. To imagine a packed, electric Garden every night, May playoff games turning the city into a sea of orange and blue. It has been a long, long wait for the Knicks to resemble a team capable of even being in this discussion. These last three days, they should be a breeze. As the man said, anything is possible.