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. 

Rumor: Jeff Hornacek shoved Joakim Noah during confrontation

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The saga between the New York Knicks and Joakim Noah has been ongoing for sometime, with the latest story being that there was some kind of verbal altercation between the former All-Star big man and head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Noah has not played for the team since Jan. 23, and he is now separated from the Knicks as they try to find a solution to shed him from their roster.

We now have a better idea of what kind of urgency New York has to make that move.

A report from the New York Daily News has given us more information about the confrontation between Noah and Hornacek. The latest addition to the story is that it was not just words between the Knicks coach and Noah, and that Hornacek actually pushed Noah first during the confrontation.

The two then had to be separated.

Via NYDN:

Noah was banished from the Knicks after an altercation with coach Jeff Hornacek during a practice last month. The disagreement stemmed from Noah’s lack of playing time, and it turned physical the day after he logged only five minutes against the Warriors.

While no punches were thrown, the Daily News learned that Hornacek was the first to shove Noah before they had to be separated.

In our last update on this story, Dan outlined how that could be made possible. No team is going to trade for Noah at this juncture in his career, so the only real option for New York is to waive him.

Here’s how that looks, according to our own Dan Feldman:

If the Knicks waive Noah without a buyout, they’d have two options after paying out the rest of his $17,765,000 salary this season:

Pay Noah $18,530,000 next season and $19,295,000 the following season
Pay Noah $7,565,000 each of the following five years via the stretch provision

It just keeps getting weirder and weirder during a lost season in the Big Apple.

Kobe Bryant tells Shaq he was planning to leave Lakers for Bulls (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal got their three championships together as members of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two stars were part of the three-peat team that won in 2000, 2001, and 2002. But the story that perhaps overshadows those accomplishments in the modern era is the story of Kobe vs. Shaq, and the long-standing beef that was between the players even after they split in 2004.

The back-and-forth between the two is part of the fabric not just of the Lakers, but of pop culture as it surrounds basketball. The Shaq/Kobe beef even has it’s own Wikipedia page that’s longer and more well-sourced than most of the papers I wrote in college. It’s impressive.

Meanwhile, Kobe and Shaq sat down in a long special that aired on Saturday as All-Star Weekend ramped up that revealed quite a bit about their time together and their relationship. One of the more interesting anecdotes was Kobe telling Shaq that he was planning on leaving the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls in 2004. That plan was quashed when the team sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat in July.

Via Twitter:

That would have been a major shift for LA and for Chicago. The Bulls drafted both Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon that year, and traded for Luol Deng. The team improved by 24 wins the following season, and adding Bryant may have altered that trajectory and of course sent shockwave of consequential changes through the league. Heck, Scottie Pippen retired that October, but perhaps he would have stayed for one more year with Kobe?

The rest of the interview was interesting, and there were lots of tidbits of information that had people talking. Bryant and O’Neal rehashed their fights, Shaq’s infamous rap dissing Kobe, and mooning Sacramento Kings fans after beating them in the 2002 playoffs.

The biggest takeaway from the interview was how the one-upsmanship between Shaq and Kobe, although subtle, still remains.

As context, Bryant has done a fair bit of career revisionism as he tries to alter his public image now that he’s not a player. He’s painted himself as a “storyteller” and has tried to make his single-mindedness appear praiseworthy rather than destructive. It’s mostly so he can sell shoes well into his 50s à la Michael Jordan.

In the sit down between the two Lakers greats, Shaq did some legacy revision of his own. He played off his continuous egging of Bryant over their careers as simple media manipulation, calling himself a master marketer. It really was a thing to see something that hilariously disingenuous, especially as much of the conversation between the two — including many admissions on each side — were about times they made each other sincerely angry.

The two finished the interview by taking photos next to some championship trophies (Kobe with more, of course) and exchanging laughs and hugs.

You can watch the full interview in the video above.

JJ Redick appears to use racial slur toward Chinese fans

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Chinese New Year was February 16, and now we’ve rolled over to the Year of the Dog. The NBA has a huge presence internationally in China, and so its video partner across the Pacific put together a compilation video of NBA players wishing people a happy new year.

The only problem? In one cut of the video that has been making the rounds on social media, Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick appears to use a racial slur aimed at those of Chinese descent.

The instance is absent from the official video, but a reaction-style YouTube video captured a different edit of the Year of the Dog video with Redick still in it. Redick appears to say, “I just wanted to wish all the NBA c—k fans in China a very happy Chinese New Year.”

Redick responded on Twitter, saying he was simply tongue-tied.

It’s difficult to judge intention from a distance, but the result is certainly disappointing. Even with Redick’s apology, it seems possible he’s contacted by the league office as part of a disciplinary inquiry.

Adam Silver says change to 1-16 playoff format has gotten “serious consideration”

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LOS ANGELES — Going into this season, continuing off the recent past went the Western Conference has been deeper in talent than the East., there was a lot of discussion among fans and media about switching to a 1-16 playoff format that ignores the current conference system.

The league has always balked at that — there is tradition, the conferences play an unbalanced schedule so it’s not a fair matchup now, and travel is an issue — but things have gotten more serious, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said during All-Star weekend.

“That is something that’s gotten serious attention, not just recently, but over the last few years at the league office,” Silver said in an address to the media. “I think, as I’ve said in the past, the obstacle is travel, and it’s not tradition in my mind, at least. It’s that as we’ve added an extra week to the regular season, as we’ve tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs, that we are concerned about teams crisscrossing the country in the first round, for example. We are just concerned about the overall travel that we would have in the top 16 teams.

“Having said that, you also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in The Finals, and obviously, if it’s the top team in the East and top team in the West, I’m not saying this is the case this year, but you could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the Conference Finals or somewhere else.

“So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”

There is no vote scheduled, no change on the immediate horizon.

The idea of teams playing a more balanced regular season schedule, then having the best 16 teams in the playoffs, is appealing. This season, the Finals should be the Warriors and Rockets, a matchup of the two best teams. Instead, it will be the Western Conference Finals.

Fixing it is not simple. If travel is the concern — having something like the Golden State and Philadelphia in a 2-2-1-1-1 series that drags out in the first or second rounds (if the playoffs started today we would get Boston vs. Portland) — there is no easy answer, short of a Star Trek teleporter. Faster travel across the nation is not on the immediate horizon.

As Silver said, the only real answer would be to build the potential for more time into the schedule. However, the NBA is already starting in mid-October and running through June, how much longer are they really willing to go?

The obvious answer is reducing the number of games, but we know that’s not happening. Don’t expect much of a change here.