James preferred the pitch of Jay-Z and the real "most interesting man in the world," Mikhail Prokhorov, in New Jersey.
The Bulls and Heat have enough money to surround LeBron with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, or both, and those two cities are heavily favored to land Bosh and Wade (New York has offered to pursue them, but not with max deals).
Even the Los Angeles Clippers have a better supporting cast in place than the Knicks do.
And Cleveland, of course, is LeBron’s hometown.
So given all of this, how can the Knicks prepare for a LeBron-less future?
New York fans were probably vomiting in their mouths a little bit when rumors surfaced that their team was pursuing Joe Johnson, but with the Atlanta Hawks re-signing the shooting guard to a six-year max contract (insane), the Knicks have dodged a bullet.
It looks like Amare Stoudamire could be heading to Madison Square Garden, but does that really make the Knicks a contender? Probably not, as Stoudemire has never proven to be much of a team player, defender or top banana (he has always been Steve Nash’s "Robin").
Acquiring Amare also almost guarantees the farewell of David Lee. A physical, around-the-basket, offensively focused power forward like Stoudamire doesn’t fit well with an undersized, scrappy center (you’d want a stretch center like Mehmet Okur or a defensive one like Robin Lopez).
But let’s say hypothetically the Knicks did end up with the frontcourt of James, Stoudemire and Lee — they still would probably have the league’s worst guard play, which doesn’t exactly work in the Mike D’Antoni "Euroball" system.
The current rumor is that Lee could be shipped to Golden State for Monta Ellis, but what would that do? It basically would reincarnate the Warriors — a selfish, 3-happy squad that plays no defense — in New York.
Lee to Minnesota for Al Jefferson also has been a topic of conversation, and while that would create a physically dominant front line in New York, you can’t help but wonder if Jefferson is ever going to be healthy.
Another name that has surfaced is Wizards swingman and long-range threat Mike Miller. The South Dakota native is legitimately underrated, shooting over 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond the arc this past season. On a team like the Wizards, though, it’s not surprising nobody has noticed. While Miller is not a game-changer, he is a more physical version of Danilo Gallinari (who somehow led the team in blocks this past year) and could be a good fit at small forward in New York.
Carmelo Anthony, the crown jewel of the 2011 free-agent class, is definitely a possibility, but Denver is not likely to make a desperation trade this year in anticipation of his free agency.
Stoudemire also has insisted that Tony Parker, a 2011 free agent, would eventually join him in New York, which makes sense given who Parker’s wife is. San Antonio, though, doesn’t like to get nothing for talent, so the idea of them dealing him this offseason, if improbable, is possible. The Knicks have Eddy Curry’s expiring deal, and if Toney Douglas and a first-round pick were thrown in, the money would match up, and Parker could head to the Big Apple.
If all of this unfolds, the starting five would look something like this:
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danilo Gallinari
SF: Mike Miller
PF: Amare Stoudamire
C: Al Jefferson
While that may not be a title-winning core, it certainly is a good mix of youth and experience, with enough talent to threaten for one of the top spots in the East.
Given the recent history in New York, Knicks fans would have to be ecstatic with that, LeBron or no LeBron.
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