In a way, for Knicks fans this is worse than the Isiah era. You know, in the way watching a train wreck is a lot more interesting than watching paint dry. At least in the bad old days, there was drama, larger-than life personalities and some good basketball players, albeit gone horribly wrong.
Beginning Wednesday night and ending this summer, when NBA free agency begins, this season, for the Knicks, is about one thing and one thing only: waiting.
Yes, waiting for LeBron. Or if not LeBron, then Dwyane. Or if not Dwyane, then Chris. Or if not Chris, then Amar’e. Or maybe, miracle of miracles, some combination of the above.
But that’s it. The waiting game has replaced the real game. For an entire season, no less! Oy!!! I mean the Knicks aren’t even pretending otherwise. Donnie Walsh’s only reason for being is to clear cap space, and come July, try to make a case to Messrs. James, Wade, Bosh and Stoudemire that they should move to New York.
But the rub is that it’s not just about the money. Other teams will also have the money. So what else does Walsh have? Coach Mike D’Antoni? Yes, players supposedly love him, but what player doesn’t love a coach who lets them shoot all day long and doesn’t care all that much about defense? Plus it’s hard to see why D’Antoni would make that much of a difference to superstars who have a de facto role in running a team anyway.
And isn’t D’Antoni’s reputation way overblown? Sure he let Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion et. all run and gun, and sure he got 50-plus wins in the regular season, but he couldn’t deliver in the playoffs. And as we saw last year, D’Antoni is no miracle worker with ordinary players.
Ah yes, the players. Sigh.
Even the Knicks don’t really believe that Nate Robinson, Al Harrington and David Lee are going to lure the free agents — and, to their credit, don’t pretend to. They are, however, hoping that Wilson Chandler will develop into a nice athletic role player and, more critically, that Danilo Gallinari will become Dirk Nowitzki.
But Gallinari is only 21 and this will be his first full season in the league — if he can stay healthy. And even if Gallinari develops nicely, there is no way anyone can predict if he will, in fact, become as good as Nowitzki.
And trust me, even if Gallinari averages 20 points a game (which he won’t). LeBron James is not coming to New York because he thinks Gallinari is going to be really good in five years.
LeBron James wants to win a ring now, which is why Cleveland has to pay Shaquille O’Neal $21 million to play well against Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett in May, and hopefully, against Pau Gasol or Tim Duncan in June.
If he does, and if James can hit his outside shot consistently, the Cavaliers could win the title. Which means the odds of James’ becoming a Knick decreases. If the Cavaliers don’t win, he may walk, but if the money is the same, and he could care less about Mike D’Antoni, why should he come to New York?
Because he’ll get more media exposure and endorsements? Maybe ten or twenty years ago, but not today.
Because New York is cooler than Cleveland, or most of the other cities that will be bidding for his services? Maybe.
Or maybe the fix is in, maybe it’s all being set up to bring LeBron James here to revive a moribound franchise in the country’s biggest media market and set up a NY-LA rivalry with Kobe and thereby revive the flagging fortunes of the NBA. Maybe.
But probably not.
Maybe, however, Walsh, with all his cap space and Dolan money will get one or two good free agents who will in turn attract other good players who would be willing to be traded to play with them and play in New York, and maybe next year the New York Knicks will be a real team again. Maybe.