Yes, one week later the Cavaliers return to New York City and just when Cavs fans don't think that the salivating over the possibility of LeBron James can't get any worse on the part of the New York media, they're proven wrong.
Why? As I tried to take a nap after having to awaken at 4:30 a.m. to take a 6:30 a.m. flight, a sound from my cell phone pulled me from a soft slumber. Who was it some may ask? Hell, I'm sure many of you don't care. But in case you do, it was a NYC scribe asking me what happened at shootaround.
I politely returned the call and said that I was stuck on one of NYC's beautiful blue vans known as the Super Shuttle for the better part of two hours as the van driver delivered his cargo - meaning human bodies. Yes, two hours. I could have napped there for chrissakes. In short: I didn't get to shootaround. James rarely speaks after them anyhow. But in the spirit of cooperation, I checked with the Cavs hoops communication honchos to confirm this and passed it on. The next question: Was there a lot of press there? Ahem...Yes, this is what it's like in the Big Apple.
In fairness, much has changed because the Knicks managed to unload a boatload of lousy contracts to clear up serious cap room for a run at James in 2010. This is what is what it's come to - NYC hoops fans hoping for the coming of the basketball Messiah in 2010. It may happen, it may not. But in NYC hope springs eternal:
From Newsday's Alan Hahn:
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - When LeBron James takes the court tonight at Madison Square Garden, he'll be thinking about his Q Score. And that's not how many points he can get against the Knicks' Quentin Richardson, who'll be guarding him, but a far more important number for a superstar who once admitted he aspires to be a global icon.I don't know what to make of Hahn's breathless analysis. Because I've worked in entertainment, I know what a Q-rating is, but if he naively believes LeBron James can't make serious endorsement money being based in the Cleveland area, he's living in an analog world.
It was three years ago when James declared that he hopes to be "the richest man in the world" and talked about leaving a financial legacy for future generations of his family. "And," he said at the time, "I can't do that just playing basketball."
It's still more than 19 months before the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - can legally begin courting King James to the big market, but it doesn't need to be said that the road to New York will be paved in gold.
LeBron can stay in Cleveland, or he can leave and do something special. He can shake up not just New York but the NBA.Here's my dilemma with what's above. I'll willingly acknowledge that James' leaving is a distinct possibility. But those words written by Mr. Powell just rip with arrogance. You see, it will only be special if he wins a championship in New York and shake up the NBA in the process. To that statement I have but one question: What's been special about playing hoops in New York for the past decade. I know the rep of street ball, yadda, yadda and yadda.
He'll need convincing. Plenty of it. That must begin tonight, when the fans can show a superstar what it's like to play in New York even if you still belong to someone else.
LeBron has built Cleveland into one of the league's elite teams -- without another star alongside him. If he's able to win a championship within the next two years without a major change to the roster, that will be more impressive than any title that Kobe has won, since Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not exactly Shaq (or even Pau Gasol).And I'd seriously be remiss in my duties were I not to present a really outside perspective from S.I.'s Peter King:
One of the greatest arguments for Jordan's Top Dawg status is that his supporting cast, while a perfect fit for him, was less star-laden than other dynasties have been. Winning with what he had was more impressive than Magic's winning with Kareem and James Worthy or Bird's winning with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. LeBron may be on that same track in Cleveland, with even less help.
a. If I read one more story about where LeBron James might play two years from now, I'm going to puke.
b. Really: In what other sport are the next two seasons rendered totally meaningless for a cornerstone-of-the-league franchise like the New York Knickerbockers?
c. It's everywhere -- on talk radio, on SportsCenter, in columns, endlessly in every New York paper and Web site. I keep reading how smart and prescient the Knicks were for decimating their current team (playing with seven players Friday and Saturday night) and clearing out enough cap space for this great player, LeBron James.
But the NBA already rivals the PSL-charging NFL for ticket-price insanity; if I wanted to sit two levels up from the floor at the foul line in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for Knicks-Cavs, I'm paying $244.50 per seat. The Knicks have 75 home games remaining before, presumably, LeBron James or some similar star begins to suit up for them in 2010-11 because of all this cap room they've cleared. And they're asking that fan in the second level up from the floor to pay $36,000 for a pair of seats for those 75 games to see the JV team, a team simply playing out the string 'til Superman arrives.
What if LeBron James rips up his knee before then? What if Dwyane Wade, another prospective free-agent who turns 29 in the 2010-11 season, continues to have knee trouble? Here's my question for the NBA: Do you mean to tell me it's good for your game that a team is going to play the next 164 games with an eye not on the present, but on the future? And what about the Cavaliers? Why would their fans show any loyalty to James as he drops all these hints about playing out the string in Cleveland? It's an ugly, stupid, fan-abusing situation. Fans should rebel, not kneel and bow to Knick management and say, "Oh, we are not worthy!''