(Long Island, N.Y.) The playoff droughts may eventually become things of the past for the Knicks and Nets, but right now both teams are in major rebuilding modes. They can get a big jump on the process if one or more of the big stars can be convinced to come to town and July 1, 2010 has been circled on everyone’s calendar for years now.
With a free agent crop that hasn’t been seen before, the sun has risen on this summer ever so brightly. “We’ve never had anything like this in my time that I can remember,” Nets president Rod Thorn told reporters. “There have been big-time free agents before, but never this many teams that are trying to woo them. So it’s unprecedented.”
The top player on everyone’s list is LeBron James, the 25-year-old who single-handedly put the Cleveland Cavaliers back on the map. At 6’8”, 260 pounds, the forward can energize a team, crowd (home and away) and city unlike anyone since Magic Johnson lit up Tinsel town back in the 80s.
Knicks’ team president Donnie Walsh has done plenty of wheeling and dealing the past few years to clear enough salary cap space for two free agents, but if James is not one of them, then they have to contemplate a big downgrade in Plan B. The same goes for the Nets, who stripped their roster down so much a year ago that they went a dismal 12-70. Much of what will happen with some of the other free agents will be dictated by where James ends up.
Dwayne Wade is second on the list, but word out of Miami is that he is either going to stay put or move on to the Chicago Bulls. The All-NBA First Team selectee the past two seasons has also been rumored to have called summit meetings with his fellow free agents to possibly be wooing at least one of them to Miami to put together a formidable line-up.
Perhaps the most attainable player out of this group may be Chris Bosh, who at 26 is the second youngest (Rudy Gay, 23, resigned with Memphis for five years and $82 million during the first day of his free agency). If Wade doesn’t convince him to come to South Beach, then maybe the Knicks or Nets can make him their franchise player.
Names like Joe Johnson and Amar’e Stoudemire have been linked to the Knicks because of head coach Mike D’Antoni, who had both of them in Phoenix and will slide right over in his run and gun offensive style. Either would make a nice choice for the second option, but neither is a James, Wade or Bosh.
Stoudemire’s injury history is a concern, and he needs to convince potential suitors that his knee (and eye) are 100 percent and will not be a recurring problem. Johnson, who excelled in the regular season in Atlanta, has taken a step back in the postseason the past two years.
If you’re in the front office of the Knicks and Nets, you need to ask yourself a few questions. If one of the big three cannot be had, then do you take the plunge with good but not great talent just because you have been waiting so long for this summer? Not signing at least one major name will be a tough sell and both general managers need to keep that in mind, even if that is not in the best interest of the franchise. predecessor.