(Editor’s Note: With thanks to Brian Rosen, I wrote an article for Lebronstown.com about LeBron James and why he would want to go to the Knicks or Nets. Here it is.)
Today, the sports world will revolve (if it hasn’t already) around LeBron James. And that’s just how he likes it. The Summer of Fun 2010 that NBA fans have been looking towards for years will finally come to fruition. And I bet that everyone that makes up this website will panic every time they read a rumor that LeBron has decided he’s going to __ city, and leaving Cleveland, Ohio.
Being from New Jersey, I for one would love to see LeBron play in the tri-state area. And as a resident of New Jersey, and a frequent visitor to New York City, there’s a lot these two places and these two teams have to offer, besides just a lot of salary cap space.
Let’s start off with the New Jersey Nets. Here are the main reasons why the Nets are could be attractive to LeBron:
1) New owner Mikhail Prokhorov has pledged to spend whatever it takes to make the Nets a winning team. LeBron obviously wants to win. But probably more important is the fact that since Day 1, Prokhorov has pledged to make the Nets the first truly global team in the NBA. He will instantly bring his native Russia into the fore, and with the help of LeBron he can make people from all over the world become Nets fans. And it is well known that LeBron wants to be that type of global person as well, becoming a Michael Jordan-like figure.
2) Continuing on the global theme you have Jay-Z. The rap/music/social/whatever category you want to put him in mogul is not only a close friend of LeBron’s but is also minority owner of the Nets. Pairing the two of them up can easily create a formidable marketing team, and can also make LeBron instantly comfortable in Newark. Not surprisingly, Jay-Z will be part of the Nets team that travels to Akron to meet with LeBron later this week.
3) The players already there – Brook Lopez, Devin Harris are already formidable NBA stars that would create a nice core for LeBron to work with. Terrance Williams came on strong late in the season last yeare, and now, LeBron would have (assuming the Nets keep them), their two new draft picks, Derrick Favors and Damion James to play with.
4) Avery Johnson – The Nets’ new coach is a defensive minded guy, and as you guys in Cleveland know well, LeBron has gotten much better on the defensive end. In the two years before Avery came to the Dallas Mavericks, they were ranked 28th and14th in the NBA in fewest points allowed. Starting in 2005-2006 when Avery took over, the Mavs were ranked 7th, 4th, and 6th. When he left after the 2007-2008 season, the Mavs fell again in that stat, ranking 15th each of the last two years.
5) Newark & Brooklyn – Assuming all the construction stays on schedule and there are no more legal challenges, the Nets will move to Brooklyn and play at the brand new Barclays Center. But before then, the Nets will play two seasons at the beautiful Prudential Center in Newark. Easily accessible by mass transit from New York City, that could be crucial for the Nets and LeBron. They would, hypothetically, be able to build and expand their fan base while in Newark, and then have them follow them to Brooklyn two years from now, in an arena which will also be easily accessible by mass transit.
The Knicks meanwhile, most would say (and I agree), have a lesser chance of getting LeBron, but they do have a couple upsides:
1) Madison Square Garden – The World’s Most Famous Arena, which is embarking on a three year renovation project of its own, has been a favorite place for LeBron to play in. In the past three seasons he’s dropped 33, 52, 32, and 50 points at times against the Knicks at MSG. He’s also made no secret of the fact that he loves playing on the biggest stage, New York City. Which leads us to…
2) New York City – It’s the world’s biggest stage and he has everything he’d ever want there…Broadway, clubs, celebrities, nightlife, money, the Yankees – you name it, New York City has it, and that could be attractive to LeBron.
3) Proven leadership – Even though neither Donnie Walsh nor Mike D’Antoni have won championships, they are well-respected basketball minds that could make LeBron feel welcome. (Complete aside: this is, in my opinion, Chicago’s biggest downside.)
4) The team already there – While not impressive, David Lee, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari can be a core that LeBron could win with, especially if the Knicks added another piece. But the key is if those guys will still be there. As is true with probably every team in the Summer of Fun 2010 free agent frenzy, no one that’s on a roster now is guaranteed to be there come opening night.
5) When Donnie Walsh became the Knicks GM two years ago he basically said “look, we’re gonna have to sacrifice the next two years to get us under the salary cap and in a spot to go after all these free agents” and he did that, leaving the Knicks with the most money out of any team to spend in the Summer of Fun. That savyness to move money around to get what he wants could be attractive to LeBron.
6) Once Eddy Curry’s contract comes off the books after this season, the Knicks will have $11 million more to look after the 2011 free agent class, which includes (assuming they aren’t signed to extensions), Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. Knowing he may get another max guy after this season could also be attractive to him.
So in conclusion, I say watch out Cleveland. There are real, formidable reasons why LeBron James may leave his home in Cleveland and come to the tri-state area. He could become the poster child for New York basketball and, frankly, put basketball back on the map in an area which has been starving for it since the Nets made a run at the Finals in the last decade. Needless to say, it will be a very interesting couple weeks, beginning Thursday at 12:01am ET.
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