Tuesday, July 06, 2010

James wields unprecedented power, takes Knicks for a ride

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Like most of you, I'm tired of the LeBron James hoopla and wish the superstar would stop channeling Aretha Franklin and let us all in on what team he will be toiling with next season.

Rumor has it that LeBron will take time out from his rehearsals for "VH1 Divas 2010" to bypass all the NBA insiders stalking his every move and release his future plans on his website once his Nike Skills Academy wraps up on Wednesday.

The new odds seem to favor him staying put in Cleveland with New York earning runner-up status and Chicago battling New Jersey for Miss Congeniality. The latest news has James actively recruiting Chris Bosh to play with him in the Forest City.

Whatever happens, the James sweepstakes have magnified his power.

Back in the day, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I've had more than a few knock-down, drag-outs over the years with colleagues about the pro game versus the college game.

As a lifelong basketball fan, I'm always been an unapologetic NBA guy. To me, if I am plunking down $150 for tickets, another $20 for parking and $9 for my favorite adult beverage, I want to see Kobe and LeBron dueling for supremacy, not a couple of middle-aged guys in slick suits like Coach Cal and Coach K.

The NBA is about the players, and that has always been the biggest selling point for me with pro basketball.

Like anything else, however, "too much of a good thing" isn't always all that good. Back in the late 15th century, Shakespeare coined that phrase to explain that excess may do you harm. The NBA is now at that tipping point.

Six teams genuflected at the feet of "The King" in Ohio last week, hoping to lure the Akron native away from the only thing he has ever known.

Heck, the Knicks, who spent two years gutting their roster and mortgaging their future on the idea James was coming to the Big Apple, went back to LeBron after an initial meeting to make sure it was OK with him if they offered a monster deal to his potential sidekick, Amare Stoudemire.

Yep, New York wanted the blessing of a player who wasn't even part of its organization and likely never will be. That kind of power is unprecedented in the world of professional sports.

I suppose James could still do a 180 and end up in Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks likely now understand they are at best a long shot to land the game's best player.

So what now?

Expect Donnie Walsh and company to quickly shift into spin mode in an effort to save face.

Failing to land James and securing Stoudemire is akin to courting Megan Fox and settling on Katherine Heigl, a nice little consolation prize but come on - don't insult my intelligence by framing this as anything less than a disaster.

Once James commits, the Knicks will likely talk about what a great fit Amare is for their team. You can expect to hear buzzwords like selfish and immature to surface regarding James in the hopes of fooling the team's intelligent fan base. You know, that kind of stuff straight out of a politician's playbook.

New York will be far from the first organization that has attempted to disseminate talking points to media members perceived as soft and easily manipulated. But, make no mistake, this story will be the biggest fairytale since "Cinderella".

Like all losers, instead of going back to the drawing board and developing a real substantive plan, the Knicks will wait, hoping the next "Hail Mary" hits, whether that's Dwyane Wade or some other superstar next year.

"Yeah, we'll have room next year to get somebody," a clandestine source told SNY.

You can already envision the sales pitch. "Hey, Carmelo, have you heard how great New York is?" Oh, right, scratch that, Anthony is set to re-up in the Rockies.

Well, I'm sure there is some playground legend lighting up Rucker Park as we speak. And hailing a cab to 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard has got to be a little cheaper than paying a sidekick $100 million.

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