When LeBron James announced that he would be making "the decision" a nationally broadcast event, he promised he would tell the six teams before going on the air where he chose to play. New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, Donnie Walsh told reporters later that night that LeBron James's agent, Leon Rose, informed him just 30 minutes before the program aired that he would not play in New York.
I can only imagine how crushed Walsh must have been. The Knicks had been clearing contract space and preparing for the 2010 free agency period for two years and most people, myself included, thought LeBron would be joining the Knicks.
He had been sporting Yankee hats for a long time, was great friends with rapper Jay-Z and other NYC celebrities, and talked about his branding opportunities and his wish to become the first billion dollar athlete.
LeBron always likes to put on a show in Madison Square Garden, even trying to one-up Kobe Bryant by posting a monster 40-plus point near triple double game only nights after Kobe's record 61-point game there.
New York Knicks fans, renowned for their love and knowledge of the game, were equally down, after pinning their hopes on LeBron to make their beloved Knicks relevant again.
When Walsh later announced that the Knicks had signed Amar'e Stoudemire, many people viewed it as Plan B; a good pickup but without further pieces to make for a successful, winning team. It was definitely a letdown.
Could it be that LeBron's decision to "take his talents to South Beach" ultimately creates a stronger Knicks team than would have been had he instead decided to stay in New York? A better "Big Three" than the very talented one assembled in Miami with the Heat?
Fast forward several days. New York City. Carmelo Anthony's wedding. LeBron attends the bash (entering to a chorus of boos) along with Stoudemire and New Orleans Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Reportedly, Paul took a glass to toast Anthony and stated, "We'll form our own Big Three." Could anyone imagine the look on fellow wedding attendee and Knicks super fan Spike Lee's face at that moment!
Assuming all the pieces come together, how would this Big Three compare to Miami's talented trio?
The fact is, a Stoudemire/Paul/Anthony trio would fit together more naturally than the Wade/Bosh/LeBron combination assembled in Miami. Stoudemire, Paul and Anthony would form a more complimentary core of players whose talents don't overlap each other like Wade and LeBron's do.
Not to mention, New York has the perfect coach in place to exploit each of their talents. Chris Paul would love running Mike D'Antoni's uptempo offense, and 'Melo would thrive as the NBA's purest scoring machine.
Move over Heat, the Knicks would become the NBA's must-see marquee team.
More importantly still, the Knicks combo would not have lingering questions about who gets the last shot, who is option 1A, etc. Anthony would be the clear leader and top dog. Everyone wonders how long it will be before the ego-driven LeBron can accept a complementary role with Miami, but those questions wouldn't be a problem in New York.
I think that the personalities of that possible Knicks combo would mesh better too.
But can a second "Big Three" come together in NYC?
Brooklyn-born Anthony's contract expires after this upcoming season.
The Nuggets have been trying to re-sign Anthony to a new deal, but he has been reluctant to do so until seeing what upgrades the team makes and what pieces they put around him. There is a three-year, $65-million contract on the table and the Nuggets are thought to be looking to trade him rather than risk losing him for nothing.
Chris Paul has two years left before he reaches his opt-out clause. However, the Hornets are currently in the process of being sold and moving Paul is seen purely as a cost-cutting measure. The emergence and solid play from Darren Collison filling in for Paul last season has provided Hornet owner George Shinn with enough cover to make trading Paul a reality.
In fact, one of the reasons the Hornets let go of GM Jeff Bower last week was reportedly because he was looking to keep Paul despite Shinn's wishes. His firing comically happened only a day after Bower declared that Shinn, Paul, and himself were "all on the same page."
Trading for Paul would be an easier proposition than an Anthony trade. The Hornets would probably be interested in a combination of expiring contracts and draft picks, something the Knicks could provide.
The Knicks have Eddy Curry's expiring $11 million contract and Kelenna Azubuike's expiring $3 million contract to use in trades. Chris Paul is currently averaging $17 million a year, halfway through the four year, $68 million deal he signed in July 2008.
The Nuggets are a contending team and will probably look to get something near talent-wise to Anthony, but teams would stay away from giving away good players without a signed deal in place. Therefore, if Denver can't get Anthony to sign, getting equal value back for him will be almost impossible. They will probably go through the season similar to how the Suns did with Stoudemire last year, the salary cap room his departure would create would probably be better for them to utilize than another teams trade cast-offs.
At some point Anthony himself could ask to be traded to NYC in a sign-and-trade. Of course, if the Nuggets do nothing the Knicks simply would need to offer him a contract next off season and pick him up as a free agent.
All the while, Walsh has put together a nice Knicks squad, anchored by Stoudemire, that will surely contend for a playoff spot. Raymond Felton is a cat-quick, explosive point guard that should help the Knicks immensely. The David Lee trade gave roster flexibility along with a talented, young power forward in Anthony Randolph, the gritty, ever-hustling Ronny Turiaf, and the expiring contract of Azubuike, who is very athletic, has a nice jump shot, and will fit in nicely to D'Antoni's system.
Whatever happens, one thing is clear: The Knicks have become relevant again, and that is a good thing for the entire NBA.
How ironic would it be though if the Knicks form their own "Terrific Three" and use the same concept to deny LeBron the rings he's been hunting for.
NBA action, gotta love it!
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