Through the magic of an arcane statistical ritual, John Hollinger projects the Miami Heat’s win total and comes up with…. 68 wins next season. You know, NEXT season, before they get the chance to really gel with increased time together and add more talent through the draft, midlevel exception, etc. in future years. People still do not quite understand how good this team is going to be- they probably have a better chance of going undefeated in the next 5 years than they do of not winning a title in each year. The NBA is no longer really a competitive league; it’s closer to Scottish football, where there’s Celtic, Rangers, and the useless teams they beat up on to fill out the schedule. It’s Heat—>Lakers——————————>Other.
As Capital-F Fucking Depressing as I find the Knicks, they do have one thing going for them right now: the phone number of the Golden State Warriors. What the shit is that trade, I ask you? For the Knicks I love it to pieces, and for the Warriors, well… for a fun trivia fact, this trade means that the top 2 PER-producers on an offense-first team last year, Corey Maggette and Anthony Randolph, have since both been exiled from GS. Maggette was signed to a five year deal two years ago and then moved out, and Randolph was only 20 and had played only 2 seasons in the L. Excellent long term planning! Anyway….
For the Knicks: Ronny Turiaf is basically a completely acceptable backup big man bench fodder, a solid guy to have and the kind who could end up flipped to a contender for a draft pick bribe under the right circumstances. New York will love him for his energy if nothing else. Azubuike is almost the equivalent in the backcourt in terms of value, a young (26) roughly average offensive performer with one clear skill in his shooting (career .557 TS%, .409 3PT%) which will make him a fine fit for Dan Tony’s system. The gem here is Randolph. It boggles my mind that the Warriors were willing to give this man up in this trade, both on his own account and for reasons we’ll get into on the Warriors’ side of the ledger.
The book on Randolph is that he is in some ways now what Derrick Favors might be in a couple of years: a 6′ 11 stick insect of a 20 year old with great athleticism, strong defense, limited offensive ideas and more potential than realized ability. And yet… PER exists to be a measure of nothing but offensive performance + blocks + steals, and Randolph finished 12th among power forwards in that measure between David West and LaMarcus Aldridge, so he must be doing something right. He’s shown overall progression since entering the league with his PER, TS%, FT%, Assist ratio, and turnovers all improving from one year to the next; his rebound rate has dropped, but there’s no reason to think it’s an issue so much as a blip given that his underlying athleticism is the same. It’s far from certain what he may end up developing into over time, but given the Knicks’ athletic, up-and-down board-and-go style, he’s a very useful 4 alongside Amare as an undersized 5 since his shotblocking can help make up some on defense and his above-average rebounding can pick up for STAT, cut down on second chance opportunities at the rim and ignite the break. Best of all for a bad non-contender like the Knicks he’s only 20 and has both room to improve and a proven history of being able to do so despite being coached into oblivion by Don Nelson’s Indifference; he’s one of the very few players under contract with the Knicks right now who could be a player on the next Knicks contender- in theory. I like him. There’s a reason why Warriors fans and media are not happy about his leaving.
For the Insufficiently Ultimate Warriors: Dummies, you already HAD one of these- named Andris Biedrins. I recognize that he’s had some injury issues and he’s actually under contract with the Warriors which means he sucks in their eyes now, but come on: He’s 23, Lee is 27; his career PER is 16.9, Lee’s is 19.5; Lee has a reputation as Godawful on defense which isn’t far wide of the mark, while Biedrins is at least solid; Lee’s career rebound rate is 18.2, Biedrins’ is 18.4. Lee is probably the overall better player, but he costs you 13 million a year plus Anthony Randolph plus two solid role players, while Biedrins was already under contract for 4 more years at 9 million per. They can’t play together at all given size, floor spacing and athleticism issues, which combined with the return of Brandan Wright from injury probably means Biedrins is going to be traded if they can find a taker at the low point of his value for probably 50% of what he’s worth. It’s the same old thing for the Warriors: they never like the players they have, they change their minds constantly, they make move after move to get marginal upgrades on players they already had, and then they ruin whatever’s left over by putting the resulting gumbo under the control of the NBA’s Raymond Domenech. It amazes me that they persist with this.
I like Lee as a player, but he’s just not a centerpiece on a title team, in fact isn’t really a center although he’ll be back in the middle out west it seems. It can be defensible to give up so much for a marginal upgrade if you think that’s what’s required to get you over the hump and the upgrade is from “star” to “superstar”, but this is an upgrade from “solid role player big” to “marginal star” for a team which isn’t even in sight of the hump, much less over it. A prediction: Lee was brought in to run the S&R with Stephan Curry, an offensive plan which makes overrated headcase and former franchise centerpiece Monta Ellis expendable; Ellis, along with Biedrins, will both be traded by this time next summer completely wiping out the last Golden State plan for the future, which itself only lasted a season or two after it replaced the Baron Davis plan. I give the Lee/Curry plan 3 years, tops.
Anyway: overall, a real win for the Knicks who move on a piece they had no intentions of keeping, pick up some solid guys to fill out the roster and a very intriguing prospect, and preserved flexibility to do something else, though God knows what.
Unless something radical changes, it appears from all the reports out there that LeBron James is set to join Wade and Bosh down in Miami. For reasons I’m about to get into I don’t have the energy to write too much on this, but I’ll throw a bit out there and then move on. This decision effects 4 or so main things from my perspective and list of interests:
LeBron: I can’t criticize his choice, really. He’s going to get paid out the yin-yang in a state with extremely favorable tax rates and he’s about to win a bajillion consecutive titles for a team where he doesn’t have to be the clutch player. He’s never going to be An Immortal taking this path since he’s always going to be considered 1/3rd of a great thing instead of the leader of a great thing especially since everyone knows Wade is the clutch guy and the only one with a previous ring on this team, but evidently that doesn’t bother him. And if it doesn’t bother him, why should it bother me? I’m not going to watch a lot of Super Heat (Inferno? Firestorm? The Miami Cerberus? Team Voltron?) games, but I imagine a few of them should be fun. I wish him the best.
The NBA: At first blush and on paper this seems like an enormous win, and makes the Heat likely to be the first team in NBA history to have all 82 of their games telecast nationally on the ABCESPNasaurus. And for about 3 seasons it’s going to be MASSIVE. But given the inevitable work stoppage upcoming which may radically redesign the contract structure of the league plus the fatigue which is going to set in once it becomes clear that this team is totally unchallengeable, it’s not an obvious win over the long term for league-wide business. The NBA’s cultural interest level (and business, if you believe the pre-lockout propaganda) took a bit of a hit after the Jordan years and up until recently, partially I think because you had unchallengeable and eventually fairly unlikeable dynasties in LA and San Antonio; since then there’s been a tick upwards, partially due to independent economic reasons but partially also because there were so many interesting teams with a real shot to win it all. Now, and for the foreseeable future, there’s only 1. Once the curiosity factor fades, where are you?
I also worry that since the Celtics made their trade-based superstar grab which is obviously the model for this, we’re seeing a sea change in the way NBA players and stars especially see their options. There’s a real risk of the Old Firmization of the league where certain teams with ingrained advantages (like Miami with weather and local tax laws) will become havens for massive superstar gatherings independently arranged by the players themselves and sold as a package deal, essentially cutting out many other franchises from ever seriously competing. These days when an NBA team has zero chance of ever fielding a contender it’s usually a function of the stupidity of their ownership as with the Clippers or the Knicks; the league doesn’t have a Pittsburgh Pirates or a Caledonian Thistle, teams which because of innately limited resources can never hope to do much more than hang around.
In a superstar-driven sport like basketball, if stars get it into their heads to regularly gang up in one of three or four locations (LA, Boston, Miami, Chicago, maybe one or two more) that is essentially it for any form of competitive balance regardless of any salary-cap rules imposed by the league. If this pattern becomes entrenched (and players always, always watch what other players do) there’s no real brake to it, since the destination teams just have to keep cap room available and leave it to the players to collude their way into town. All of a sudden you move from a league which is closer to the NFL to one which is closer to the English Premier League- in existence for 17 years with only 5 champions, two of which (Blackburn and Leeds, since relegated) were one-year flukes. To put that in perspective the comparable number for the NBA is 7, with all but two (Heat, Celtics) being multiple-time champions and the Celtics also making a finals without winning, and the NBA is already a far, far more dynastic sport than most in North America. The Celtics were a special occurrence; this would be a special occurrence; 5 years down the line when Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are all heading to LA it’s going to be just another day in a league where the fans of a lot of teams which already claim to be losing money are feeling increasingly disenfranchised. A sport like baseball can get away with a version of this in which the AL East spends more on ballplayers than the European Union spends on defense and farm subsidies combined, because baseball has enough random noise and a diversified enough playoff structure to blunt a LOT of that impact; the NBA does not.
The Nets: No real effect, I think. Getting LeBron was always a massive long shot; now that that chance is formally over they can get back to the serious work of building a team from the foundations up to compete in 5-6 years. In 6 years Brook Lopez is 28 or 29, Derrick Favors is 24 or 25, James and Wade and Bosh are all in their 30s with a lot of miles on them and the Nets have had an extended period to build up talent around their front line using the resources of a billionaire owner. The Nets have the basic right idea of how to build a team it seems, and if anything this development out to help them stick to it: if you have no chance of competing in the mid-term and you’re stuck in Newark for the short term, why not build slow, stockpile assets, aim to be respectable by the time you hit Brooklyn and competing by the middle of next decade? I remain bullish on the Nets long term assuming they don’t lose their minds and try to compete before their time. If they do, well, skip down one section to the discussion of the Knicks.
Their best plan for next season is to sit on and stockpile their cap room, use it strategically to help add assets where available the way Oklahoma City has, concentrate on player skills development and don’t pay any attention to the record. If you get an incredible offer to add a true superstar- Chris Paul or someone of that caliber- take it, but don’t jump for any overpaid name someone calls about. If this team wins 15 games next year, that’s great- it means another high lottery pick’s worth of talent added. If you’re a Nets fan the things to care about this season are the degree to which Lopez, Favors, Damion James, T Will, Courtney Lee (I guess) and others develop and progress in attitude, skills and physical areas like, for instance, Favors’ filling out his frame. Have patience- even if you aren’t the patient type naturally, recognize that trying to finish in the 8th playoff slot in the near-term is the most Pyrrhic of victories in the East. And don’t weep over missing out on Carlos Boozer or David Lee; good players both, but neither was going to make the Nets any sort of a contender this year, in fact would have done little but draw them farther down the lottery.
The Knicks: And this is where the real disaster lies. Look back in the archives and you’ll see that I have said two things consistently about the Knicks’ plans: that they, meaning Walsh and D’Antoni, should not have been judged until after this summer, and that for this plan to have made sense they had to have some sort of back-channels guarantee from someone in the top 2 free agents, Wade or LBJ, that they would be able to use their cap room on this summer. Oops. The horizon broadened briefly with the Carmelo Anthony rumors, but with the news out as well that Anthony is re-upping in Denver and Chris Paul is no longer seriously available for trade, well, that’s the ball game. The Knicks now have Amare Stoudemire, a couple of interesting role-player prospects in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, assorted roster fodder, maybe something for D. Lee in a S&T, no draft picks worth the name for the next two years, and few if any other movable assets beyond Eddy Curry’s expiring. They’re fucked. Again.
I’d say I was frustrated, but I’m not; I was frustrated when Scott Layden was trying this stuff, I was frustrated in the early years of Glen Sather’s working retirement, I was frustrated at the towering insanity and inanity of the Isiah Thomas regime. Now when I hear that the Rangers have offered a 4 year guaranteed contract to Derek Boogaard or that the Knicks have managed to strike out on another get-rich-quick scheme, all I can really be is resigned since there’s no longer a disconnect between the awfulness of the joint ownership of these teams and my expectations for them. The people in charge of the Garden and these two franchises simply have no idea what they’re doing as the owners and operators of sports teams. They, and the majority of people they employ, are clowns; clownish behavior is not a surprise anymore. The Knicks could have gone down the same road as the Nets or the Thunder or the Blazers or the Kings or God knows how many other teams, but they’ve been telling themselves for so long that they’re one player away, one trade away, one free agent signing away and that New Yorkers will never accept rebuilding that they probably actually believe it at this point even though there isn’t a drop of truth in any part of it. And as a result the Knicks don’t mean anything today the same way they meant nothing yesterday and for the last 10 years, and won’t mean anything tomorrow or for the next 5-8 minimum unless something radical changes. They’re just a bad team run badly, and I don’t think that will ever change under these owners at this point; honestly, they’re not really a team worthy of support, just one which gets by on the abused loyalty of some of the best fans in the sport, fans who deserve a hell of a lot more credit and respect from the Garden hierarchy than they get.
Should Donny Walsh be fired? Yes, given that he invested all of his credibility in this failed move and is now faced with a rebuilding plan which it was his express purpose to avoid and which he is apparently unwilling or unable given health and age to take on. Will he be? No. And it doesn’t really matter, because based on track record whoever would have replaced him would have been another huckster with another get-rich-quick scheme whose first move would be to trade a 2017 and a 2019 first rounder to Minnesota for Al Jefferson or something similarly ludicrous. I don’t believe that under current ownership either the Knicks or Rangers can ever be anything more or other than what they are right now: sad, desperate, star-obsessed, flailing about without a realistic long-term plan, always willing to settle for second or third best as long as it’s quicker. In fact I expect that since this get-rich-quick scheme involved two years of losing, it’s likely going to discredit “rebuilding” in Jim Dolan’s eyes regardless of whether or not that was ever seriously attempted, and the GM- whether Walsh or someone else- will be under orders to go get a star, any star, no matter the price as soon as one is available. In fact, I would put money on the Knicks trading for Gilbert Arenas (for Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas & a future #1) in the next 2 months and finishing next season 30-52, putting the final stamp on this whole sad endeavor.
The Knicks depress me. They make me sad to be a sports fan, make me embarrassed to be a fan of theirs, make me not want to watch basketball, make me want to grow up and not follow pro athletics and read a good book instead. The Knicks are like socks for your birthday, an unwanted gift from someone who doesn’t understand you. And that’s really all I have to say about them, and all I expect to have to say for a very long while. I don’t think they’re trying as an organization; why should I try as a fan?
Bill Simmons: Fuck, sometimes he gets one right.
Obviously most of this is inoperative if all the reports turn out wrong and LeBron signs with [Not Miami], but I have my doubts.
I’m thinking of unplugging my internet and playing a loop of “Not King James Version” by Steel Pulse until this LeBron thing blows over. Dragging it out much, are we?
And LeBron staying in Cleveland, since he can’t get anyone to join him elsewhere and there’s real questions about his ambition. Best thing about this: there’s no juggernaut team in the East this way, with even Miami having major injury concerns with their stars and a limited supporting cast. With the Lakers aging at least it leaves some air for the locals as they build. Also it’s 8:30 AM and I’ve been up since a long time ago o’clock so more in depth discussion later, but a thought: are Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh along with Shaq back when the three biggest free agent defections in NBA history?
You know, if this whole thing ends with LeBron announcing on Monday that he’s staying in Cleveland, there’s going to be some real suspicion that this whole thing was stage-managed by him for PR purposes. “Check out how loyal I am!”
Oops, missed one: Darko Milicic gets 4 years, $20 million for doing whatever it is he does exactly for Minnesota. I’d say “allows them to trade Al Jefferson”, but unless they’re planning to spend 4 years doing that (and maybe they do- it is the T Wolves) it’s hard to figure the contract length for a guy who epitomizes “don’t care, can’t make me.”
Anyway, I rest my case. This league=crazy-go-nuts.
One day into free agency- ONE DAY- and things are already off the hook and the chain and out of hand out a road. I figured it would take until the cupboard was bare and teams which had pinned all their hopes on this offseason got desperate for the really idiotic contracts to start being flashed, but no, it’s the NBA. Assuming the reports are accurate and these end up finalized, we have:
– Drew Gooden, 5/$32 million. This is a guy who’s consistently a bit above average on offense (16.5 career PER) and has a solid rep overall, but has also played for 8 teams in 8 years, none of whom thought he was crucial enough enough to keep him out of trades or retain him in free agency for more than three years consecutively. He’s played for 5 teams in the last two alone, and the Bucks just married him for the next 5 at over 6 million per. If there’s a lesson here, it’s that if you want a Drew Gooden you can get a Drew Gooden; you don’t need to lash an anchor contract to your leg for the purpose. Odds are 5-1 minimum against him actually playing all five years in Milwaukee.
– Talk about Gay for pay, Rudy’s about to get 5/$80 from the Grizzle. Yeah he’s a shiny ball of potentialistious potential with the proverbial Tremendous Upside, but for the love of God: Gay’s only real noted value is as a scorer and he was arguably better at that 2 seasons ago when he posted a superior TS% and PER, and for this he gets a foundational cornerstone contract. Mind you I’m not complaining: it stops the Nets or Knicks from being this dumb. But it’s one of those moves which it going to seem really, really bad in about 3 years. To put this in perspective, take age and perceived potential out of the equation and the Grizz are basically paying twice as much money to get a less effective version of Corey Maggette, who is pretty much the player Gay is hoping to grow up to be. What?
– And finally, the Hawks broke down and maxed Joe Johnson. You know what? Good. A Hawks- or really any- team built around Johnson (and if he’s maxed, he’s the centerpiece) is never, ever going to be much better than they were last season. If he turns this down and makes the market (and he’d be insane to) there’s way too much chance of the Knicks in particular talking themselves into throwing near-equivalent money at a guy who’s never been worth it on his best day and is only going to decline from here on out. A cliff notes version of the same thing I’ve written probably 15 times on the guy while trying to body-English him the hell away from the tri-state area: He’s almost 30, he’s been in the league for a decade, he’s played an unconscionable number of minutes (38 or more a game for 7 straight seasons), he’s got a career PER of 16 and change, he’s never posted a season above 20 (the aforementioned Corey Maggette has two), his career playoff PER is 13 and change… this could go on for a while. It’s not that he’s a bad player; he could be a great sidekick to a star or superstar, and he is better than a Maggette once you take other elements into consideration. But the Hawks are offering him ONE HUNDRED AND NINETEEN MILLION DOLLARS over SIX YEARS to be THE MAN on their team. It’s insanity. You can’t pay the man into being something he never was.
There are reports going around that the Hawks ownership cabal supposedly offered this deal because they’re selling the team and don’t expect to have to pay all of it. Ok Player. If they have people telling them that an extra guaranteed $119 million liability on the balance sheet is going to help the sale price of the team in a down economy, God bless ’em. I hope they’re right, or there’s going to be some of the saddest people since Sherman rolled through down there.
The bottom line with all three of these contracts is that they’re far, far in excess of what these players are worth in a salary capped environment in which a team’s most valuable commodity isn’t any given player or draft pick, it’s the capacity to add additional talent. The Hawks are done with this core from now on- they just became the Wizards of a year ago, except the Wizards had a point guard. The Grizzlies are lashing themselves to a core of random bits and bobs who are getting far more than you can afford to pay them if you want to be a contender some day. The Bucks just added another to a long list of contracts that probably leave their front office asking questions like “what did we do last night? Did we go home with Bobby Simmons’ agent? Oh God….” And yet none of these teams ever learns from experience, their own or others’. Boggles the mind.
I was going to write some sort of giant 2-part Knicks and Nets in free agency post, but between being distracted by real life and other sports I realized I really only had a few things to say about this, and they’re pretty general:
More importantly than anything else, both the Knicks and the Nets have to be sure of any contracts they sign and any players they acquire. If you can get one of the big two and a half (LBJ, Wade, Bosh), you do it at any asked-for price; if you can’t, then you need to be sure of every aspect of the deal. The worst thing any of the big players in free agency can do is panic if their wooing of the big names goes wrong and throw stupid money after second and third tier players. A guy like Joe Johnson or Carlos Boozer can be very effective and valuable in the right spot on the right team, chiefly as the third best player on a real title contender where their skills compliment the big dogs on the team. But if you’re paying max money to either guy to be the centerpiece of the team you’re building for the next 5 or 6 years, as they age into their 30’s and a new CBA changes the financial landscape in unpredictable ways, you’re essentially spending huge amounts of money to gamble on a bet whose payoff- if everything goes right- is to lose in the second or third round of the playoffs. It’s a fool’s bargain.
The intelligent way to build a team is what’s been done in Portland and Oklahoma City, using the draft and building a core; the Nets can still do that, the Knicks probably can’t in the short term, but even if that chance is gone it’s not an excuse to lock yourself into mediocrity with contracts which will keep you in 35-47 hell until well past when you could have started rebuilding through the draft if you weren’t a mediocre late-lottery team. For the Knicks, that mark is 2013 as I understand it- they owe 2012 and a swap on 2011 to Houston, but after that they’ll finally, finally have their own picks back. So this is the question for them to ask: is what you could get right now on the market, taking into account cost, contract length, new CBA salary cap effects and other considerations going to A) have you closer to a title in, say, 2016 than the draft would, and B) will you make more or less money over that span by paying a ton for second-order free agents and losing in the first or second round, or by running a bare-bones team and then paying draft picks? If what you get now is LeBrosh this is a no-brainer; if what you get now is Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and spare parts I think it’s also a no-brainer, the other way. I strongly doubt Knicks management sees it this way; time will tell. What scares me is that I don’t think the Knicks really care about going for a title, to be honest; I think they’re comfortable running the con of an “exciting, up tempo” loser so long as it keeps the Garden full.
For the Nets, it’s a bit more complicated. The LeBrosh home run option is still an easy yes, but I’m not sure it makes all that much sense for them to dip into the free agent market for a forward given the presence of Derrick Favors, who as of now is the only Net with what you might call breakout centerpiece potential. I like David Lee as a player for instance, but I don’t see the angle on paying him to play while Favors sits on the bench- especially considering that, let’s be honest, the next two years which will be taken up by Favors learning the NBA are already essentially wasted years for the franchise while they’re stuck in Newark, waiting on construction. They’ve already got a more or less competent deputy in Kris Humphries to help eat minutes at the 4. You can argue that adding a Lee or a Stoudemire potentially gives the Nets either a devastating 3-big rotation or makes Favors a useful trade chip, but I’m far from convinced on that one- the Nets need a breakout player, and as good as Lee is he’s never going to be that guy. Maybe Favors won’t either, but it makes sense to invest the time to find out.
If they can’t hit the lottery (again), the Nets’ best play is probably a limited grab for a wing player- someone who can hit kick out threes and do some ball-handling. Not that I expect this to happen, but I can see Joe Johnson as a potential fit here, actually- he does these jobs in Atlanta, and since I suspect the Nets are going to have to dump Devin Harris upcoming (ball-dominant dribble-drive point guard on a team organized around two bigs? No buys) he can act as partial insurance on that trade, whenever it happens. Prokhorov seems to want to get the team into the playoffs next year; Johnson + a healthier Harris + Lopez + some maturation and contribution from the younger players on the team + one or two tertiary or quaternary free agents to fill out the roster probably does it. It’s not the way I’d go (I’d rather see the team spend one more years sucking for draft purposes), but I understand where he’s coming from. As an addendum, I’d be hesitant about Rudy Gay here- yes he’s younger, but he’s a restricted free agent with a head case rep and questionable performance. He’s plateaued in the land of just-above-average offensively in recent years (PER: 17.34, 15.38, 16.30 in that order) and his defense is blah.
Bottom line for both teams- and the whole league really- is to recognize that team improvement is not a linear process in a salary capped sport, especially one like the NBA where players are clearly slotted into certain positions and figures. 90% of the work consists in finding one of the very, very few players in each generation who are what you might call legitimate max players- guys who can be the best player on a title winning team. There’s always quibbling about who exactly falls into this category, but I think everyone can agree that there’s two players in it in this free agency class: LeBron and Wade. Wade is 99% certain to stay in Miami; LeBron is the dream. If a team can’t get him however their focus- if they want to win a title- has to be on acquiring one way or another the sort of player who can fill this role. Joe Johnson will not do it, Carlos Boozer will not do it, Amare Stoudemire will not do it, Chris Bosh is an argument but in most people’s eyes will not do it, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce through a combination of age and other factors will not do it. If a team is signing players like that, they should either have a player who fills the main slot already (like Miami, maybe Chicago, and on a long shot the Nets) or they should have a realistic plan in place to acquire a player like that. Otherwise all a team does is lock itself intot he hopeless middle of the NBA where teams perpetually finish too high to get a decent draft pick and too low to be real contenders. That’s the worst fate for the NBA team and it’s a sure bet that at least one team and maybe several is going to condemn themselves to it this offseason. Here’s hoping it’s not one of the locals.
Look, if the mooted LeBron/Wade/Bosh team-up in Miami actually happens, I have to say: I’m not even going to be mad (with one exception). That team will have the most talent of any team put together at least since the Phase 2 Bulls (Jordan/Pippen/Rodman) and maybe ever, and will be a real threat every year for 3-5 years to be the best team in history. That is a once in a lifetime all-the-stars-are-aligned proposition which would produce some of the most amazing basketball possible; next year’s finals would be the LA Lakers vs. Team Voltron and would break every ratings mark in league history for a series of between five and seven 148 to 139 games. If both the Nets and Knicks are going to bomb out in free agency at least let it be for this and not some half-assed LeBron in Cleveland, Wade in Miami, Bosh in Chicago scenario. Let’s at least have the locals sacrificed on the altar of greatness.
That said, if this happens… everyone involved with the Knicks should be fired or forced to sell the team by David Stern’s gangsters. The team bet the last couple of seasons as well as the next two years’ worth of #1 draft picks (meaning rebuilding can’t really start until 2013) on the proposition that they could get at least one of these three players in free agency. They had to be sure, had to have essentially a back-channels commitment to make this worthwhile. If they didn’t, if they fail to secure one of these three, then they’ve wasted 5 years of the franchise’s time for nothing and invested the whole of their credibility as franchise leaders into a short term strategy which will have spectacularly and publicly faceplanted. Leaving lawsuits aside, how is that any different from what Isiah did? The only way they can make the situation worse in that instance is to go out and sign Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson, locking the team further into mediocrity in a conference where nothing short of an act of God is going to give Miami competition. Which is of course what I expect them to do. Compare to the Nets, who in this scenario at least still have the 4 and the 5 sorted out for 10+ years with a little luck, and can continue slow-building so that their team peaks around when Team Voltron starts to decline with age.
Again, it’s all an if at this point. But there’s a lot of smoke out there right now.