Why Dwyane Wade should sign with the Knicks

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Thumbnail image for Wade_dunk.jpgNew York Knicks GM Donnie Walsh has spent two years clearing cap space for the summer of 2010. Thanks to Walsh’s willingness to trade away every contract and draft pick that wasn’t nailed down, the Knicks now have enough money to sign two max free agents this summer.

 It hasn’t exactly been a secret that the Knicks’ main target is, was, and always has been LeBron James. James is a force of nature, the reigning two-time (regular season) MVP, a household name, a brand unto himself, and a guy who’s been known to love the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Up until now, James in a Knicks uniform has always seemed like a natural fit. 

However, now that the summer of 2010 is finally upon us and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have both played the last games of their current contracts with the Cavaliers and the Heat, it looks like Wade may actually be the better fit for the Knicks. Allow me to explain.
First of all, there’s the issue of availability. Cleveland has the ability to pay LeBron significantly more than any other team can, they have some solid pieces already, and they’ve shown that they are willing to spend whatever it takes to surround LeBron with the best talent available. If they can pull off a big sign-and-trade deal for a player like Chris Bosh this summer, there’s a high probability that LeBron will stay with his hometown team. 
If Cleveland can’t entice LeBron to stay, Chicago has cap space, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and the chance to turn Luol Deng into a running mate via sign-and-trade. The Knicks have no draft picks in the coming years, their roster is threadbare, and their only quality young player is Danilo Gallinari, who plays the same position as James. All the Knicks have to offer LeBron  is the allure of the big city and the chance to play alongside another max free agent, and that might not be enough for LeBron. 
Meanwhile, Wade has likely had just about enough of being a one-man team in Miami, and has to assume that New York can’t do a worse job of surrounding him with talent than Miami has over the past couple of seasons. He’s already engaged in a war of words with the Bulls franchise, which makes it look like he won’t end up with his own hometown team. If you take those teams off the table, the Knicks start to look like a pretty good choice for Wade. 
So Wade should be easier for the Knicks to get their hands on than LeBron this off-season. But that’s far from the only reason that Wade signing with the Knicks would make sense for both sides. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why Wade would be a better fit for the Knicks than LeBron James would be. 
The Knicks are the ultimate high-risk/high-reward proposition for potential free agents this summer. If a big free agent ends up carrying the Knicks to a championship, they will be on top of the sports world, and their exploits will be fondly remembered for many years to come. If they don’t get it done, they’re stuck on a team without draft picks, very few talented young players, and no real way to improve their situation in the near future. Since Wade’s legacy has more to gain and less to lose than LeBron’s does, New York makes more sense for Wade than it would for James.
One thing we know about playing in New York is that the media pressure is constant and unrelenting.

Every move a superstar athlete makes in New York is scrutinized from every possible angle. And once the New York media puts a label on a player, that label tends to stick. Mariano Rivera blew a save in game seven of the World Series and also allowed the Boston Red Sox to come back from a 3-0 deficit — he’s still known as the greatest playoff closer of all time. Derek Jeter could go the rest of his career without a big hit and still be the guy Yankee fans would want at the plate with the game on the line.

On the other hand, look at how the New York media treated A-Rod before he won a world series with the team, and he still hasn’t been fully embraced after winning one. When the New York media turns on you, your entire legacy can be destroyed in the time it takes to come up with a headline.

Everyone assumes LeBron James wants more media attention, but would the increased attention he’d receive in New York really help him? He’s already a household name thanks to the national media, and most national media outlets are extremely kind to LeBron.

The Cleveland media is occasionally critical of LeBron, but they normally write about LeBron as the best player in franchise history and the man who brought winning basketball back to Cleveland. (Which, to be fair, he did.) In short, there are worse situations to be in than LeBron’s current one.

Is an obsessive local media culture that is often all too willing to feed on its own superstars really who LeBron wants covering his career? In a lot of ways, LeBron’s career arc mirrors Alex Rodriguez’s at this point in his career: historically great production, regular season MVP awards, some disappointing playoff performances, and no rings. His persona is also slightly similar to A-Rod’s: on paper, he should be a marketing agency’s dream, but there is a manufactured quality to his persona that turns some people off, and many people find both LeBron and Rodriguez’s on-court/field antics distasteful for one reason or another. 

If LeBron does become a Knick and fails to win a championship in his first year, there’s a distinct possibility he could become basketball’s answer to Rodriguez’s early years in pinstripes. 
Wade, on the other hand, has something that no other major free agent has: a championship ring of his own. He even has a Finals MVP trophy to go along with it. Whatever happens over the course of Wade’s career, nobody will ever be able to discount what Wade did against the Mavericks in 2006. Like I said earlier, reputations in professional sports tend to stick, especially when they are earned while winning a championship. 
Whatever happens in New York, Wade won’t be labeled a “choker,” a player who “doesn’t know how to win,” or “a true champion,” because he’s already proven otherwise. If Wade takes the Knicks to the playoffs a few times and never wins a championship, he won’t be remembered as an all-time great, but he won’t become a pariah either. I’m not sure you can say that about LeBron. 
Not only does Wade have less to lose by playing in New York than LeBron does, but he may have more to gain as well.

A few years ago, the “best active player” debate was a three-way argument between LeBron, Wade, and Kobe; after Wade suffered some injuries and the Heat struggled through some tough seasons, Wade’s name dropped out of that debate, and he currently doesn’t have quite the same standing that LeBron and Kobe do.

Going to New York would change that in a hurry. Wade is a great basketball player who has done some funny commercials alongside of Charles Barkley; if he goes to the Knicks, he has all the charisma necessary to become an absolute superstar. (And don’t forget that his girlfriend, actress Gabrielle Union, wouldn’t have any problems adjusting to the bright lights of the big city.) 

It almost seems like an afterthought at this point, but it’s worth mentioning that Wade would be a very good fit for the Knicks on the court — he would be the perfect player to set up Danilo Gallinari with open threes, and as the best playmaking guard available in free agency, he should work well in Mike D’Antoni’s gu
ard-dependent system.

Give Wade an Amar’e, a Boozer, or even a David Lee to work with in the frontcourt, and the Knicks could be very fun to watch and very good very quickly. 

So there you have it: the case for Dwyane Wade to sign with the New York Knicks next season. New York has been holding their breath for LeBron for the last two years; if Donnie Walsh and Co. open their minds a little bit and make a real run at Wade on July 1st, they could find that the best man to make Knicks basketball relevant again is the man they’ve only thought of as a consolation prize so far. 

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.