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. 

Report: Former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett signing with Suns

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Getting cut by the NBA-worst Nets was a low point for former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, but at least he had a guaranteed salary and got paid out through the end of the year.

That won’t be the case with the Suns.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is a no-risk flier for Phoenix. If Bennett plays well enough in the preseason, the 24-year-old will make the regular season roster. If not, the Suns won’t owe him anything.

Bennett has a chance to stick. Phoenix has just 13 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving two standard-contract spots open on the regular-season roster. Bennett will compete with Derrick Jones Jr., Elijah Millsap, Peter Jok and anyone else the Suns sign.

I don’t love Bennett’s odds. He hasn’t looked like an NBA player, and he’s reaching the age where current production matters more than potential. But by virtue of being the top pick a few years ago, he carries more intrigue than the typical player of his caliber.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey: Lottery-reform proposal ‘not doing a whole lot’

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supports the NBA’s lottery-reform proposal:

But that doesn’t mean Morey believes the proposal is a silver bullet.

Morey, via Bleacher Report:

Let’s be clear. This reform is not doing a whole lot, right?

And I keep saying: If it was already in place, no one would talk about it. If it wasn’t in place – all these people are talking about it because it’s coming up for probably a vote here in a minutes. Otherwise, no one would be talking about it. Everyone would be like, “Oh, yeah. Of course the bottom three lottery odds are flat. That’s how it’s always been.” It’s a very minor change, and it fixes some pretty important problems in terms of how the incentives work at the bottom of the draft, and I don’t think it changes much in any other way.

And then the best argument is the people who are frustrated the league is unbalanced between destination and non-destination cities, they say, “Because that whole system might be broken, I’m going to be against this minor, logical, simple reform.” I don’t really buy that. Let’s fix the other issues in another way, but you can still be for this reform and say we need larger reform that attacks those issues in a more fundamental way. But it doesn’t change that this is a good, logical step we’re taking.

Morey is aggressively logical, and you can see that at work here. If the new rule is better than the old rule, owners should vote for it. It shouldn’t matter which was already in place. For similar reasons, I argued against shelving lottery reform just because new national TV contracts would increase the salary cap.

Morey is also right that this is a minor reform. There’s still value in tanking, even if not quite as much. Finishing with the league’s worst record still guarantees a top-five pick with team control for five years and the inside track on keeping the player for far longer.

There’s even still value in jockeying among the league’s three worst teams, which will have identical lottery odds if this proposal passes. If a team isn’t drawn for the top four, it will be slotted in reverse order of record. The No. 1 seed in the lottery has a 20% greater chance than the No. 2 seed of picking higher between the two, and the No. 2 seed has a 20% greater chance than the No. 3  seed of picking higher between the two, according to fantastic Ryan Bernardoni of Celtics Hub.

So, this lottery reform might only minimally change behavior.

Another thing to consider: NBA owners are far more risk-averse than Morey. If this reform passes, owners will take years to evaluate it before making more meaningful changes to address the problem (if you believe there’s a problem at all). So, a step in the right direction (again, if you believe this is the right direction) is effectively a small step and a pause that could delay bigger steps.

Three questions the Detroit Pistons must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 37-45, missed the playoffs following Detroit’s first postseason berth in six years

I know what you did last summer: The Pistons paid the price of Marcus Morris to upgrade from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Avery Bradley, who’s still on a relatively cheap old-TV-money deal for one more season. Detroit also seemingly spent well above market rate (three years, $21 million) for Langston Galloway, who plays the same position as No. 12 pick Luke Kennard. Anthony Tolliver returned after a season with the Kings.

THREE QUESTIONS THE PISTONS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Reggie Jackson revert to form? Two years ago, Jackson was a solid starting point guard propelling the Pistons on an upward track. He started last season injured then never found his footing.

Jackson wasn’t exactly the Pistons’ problem last year. But he was central to all the Pistons’ problems last year.

He just didn’t attack the rim the same way, which hindered Andre Drummond‘s abilities in the pick-and-roll and Detroit’s other players getting as much space on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Jackson stuck with the heavy-dribble, high-usage style he had grown accustomed to. Considering he was far less effective while still dominating the ball, that might have contributed to some infighting.

But if the worst thing about Jackson is that he doesn’t know how to adjust when not fully healthy, that doesn’t matter if he’s fully healthy.

2) Will Avery Bradley make the Pistons eager to invest in him long-term? Instead of paying Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this summer, Detroit set itself up to pay Bradley next summer.

This could go a few ways. Bradley could play poorly and not be welcomed back, which would be troubling very soon. But as long as he plays at least moderately well, the Pistons will probably pony up. They’re on track to be capped out even if he leaves in unrestricted free agency, and they’ll also likely want to save face on this summer’s moves as long as it’s feasible.

If Bradley merely meets the lowest expectations Detroit has for him and then re-signs on a lucrative contract, that wouldn’t be so bad. He’d probably be overpaid, but that’d likely be a manageable deal for the Pistons.

If Bradley truly thrives, though, that’d be a boon for Detroit in the short and long terms. In this cap environment, his salary probably wouldn’t climb much higher, and the Pistons would have a really good player.

The 26-year-old Bradley will get his chances. A lockdown perimeter defender, he’s likely in line for an expanded offensive role. This is a great situation for him entering free agency.

3) Will Andre Drummond take the next step? Drummond’s flaws are glaring. He’s an all-time bad free-throw shooter. He posts up far too much with ugly post moves. His effort and focus can wane.

But he’s still darned effective. With elite physical tools and a nose for the ball, Drummond is an elite rebounder. He finishes well in the pick-and-roll, and he can be disruptive defensively.

Despite the complaints of his detractors, Drummond is worth having on the floor. The good outweighs the bad.

That isn’t enough, though. The Pistons have treated him like a franchise player – max contract and a roster built around him. For their season to truly be a success, they need him become a star.

That starts defensively, where Drummond has shown flashes but taken just baby steps overall. If he locks in mentally and plays more energetically on that end more consistently, Detroit would be in far better shape.

Kevin Durant YouTube comment presaged Twitter/Instagram fiasco

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Kevin Durant admitted he went too far on social media, though he didn’t quite admit to the clear revelation: He has additional Twitter and Instagram accounts he used to anonymously fire back at his critics.

Who does that? More specifically, what kind of millionaire NBA-champion superstar does that?

Durant provided a glimpse into his mindset last week, when he replied to this YouTube comment about the insoles of his Finals shoes:

Who cares what people think . Just do you. Someone of stature, shouldn’t worry about stuff like that.

Durant:

of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

That Durant was interacting in YouTube comments – YouTube comments! – says plenty on its own. That’s the cesspool of internet commenting.

But the content of the reply is also illuminating. Durant is insecure. I think that’s pretty clear at this point.

There will always be people who accept nothing less than the ruthlessness of Michael Jordan from NBA stars. But maybe, once this scandal passes, some will find Durant’s vulnerability endearing.