For the past few years, New York Knicks fans have sat through one dreadful season after another, watching teams loaded with bad players with worse contracts, and no end to the losing in sight.
But Knick fans have been patient through the deep dry spell, waiting for the glorious summer of 2010, dreaming of the day their saviors abandon their current clubs and succumb to the lure of the bright lights of New York City, shunning their colors in favor of New York's blue and orange.
But contrary to the beliefs of many of the team's fans, such a coup is not a forgone conclusion. Let us, for a second, envision a not-so-unlikely scenario that would leave the Knicks in a position not much better than their current one.
Imagine, if you will, that the Portland Trail Blazers, flush with cash after getting burned by Hedo Turkoglu, decide to use some of their new-found financial flexibility to make an impressive offer to David Lee. Simultaneously, the Sacramento Kings make an equally stellar offer to Nate Robinson, with the hope that he can help expedite their long rebuilding effort.
Not wanting to use any of their precious cap space on players not named "LeBron" or "Dwyane", the Knicks restrain themselves from making any sort of qualifying offers and allow the two young restricted free agents to flee to greener pastures. Before fans have the chance the question team management's decisions, the club quickly signs veterans Allen Iverson and Drew Gooden to short-term deals, which the Knicks hope will give them some on-court credibility for the 2009 season while still allowing them to stay under the cap for the summer to come.
The Knicks head into the 2009-10 season with an underwhelming starting five of Iverson, Gooden, Chris Duhon, Darko Milicic, and Wilson Chandler. After a predictably slow start, the team begins to implode, and Knick fans are treated to the news of a timely season-ending knee injury for Iverson that conjures up memories of Stephon Marbury's 2007 ankle injury in the minds of more than a few fans. Toney Douglass supplants A.I. in the lineup and displays just why he was a late first-round pick in the weakest draft in recent memory.
Another 50-loss season appears to be well within the Knicks' grasp.
Around the time of Danilo Gallinari's triumphant return from his inevitable two-month stint in street clothes, a few fans begin to wonder how Lee and Robinson are faring in their new digs. The answer? Splendidly, of course! Lee appeared to be just the frontcourt sidekick that Greg Oden needed to become the perennial 25-12 player scouts predicted he would develop into.
With Lee doing the dirty work in the trenches beneath the hoop, Oden was allowed the space to dominate whatever stiff was thrown at him on a given night, and Lee's quickness and innate timing coupled with Oden's size and brute strength was enough to give even the league's top centers fits on the defensive end of the floor.
As for Robinson, his Napoleonic demeanor, jarring athleticism, and natural charisma had made him something of a cult hero in small market Sacramento. Additionally, he, along with young, talented teammates like Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, and Kevin Martin, plus promising rookie Tyreke Evans, had formed one of the Western Conference's most surprising and dangerous teams, and one that people were saying just might be able to slip into the playoffs. The same playoffs, by the way, that the Knicks were now eight games out of.
The season mercifully came to an end, and the Knicks, having finished with the league's third worst record. In an ironic twist of fate, the team wins the draft lottery, earning the rights to super prospect John Wall, only to have the pick taken from them just as quickly as it came, as the pick was traded away as the final legacy of the five-year nightmare to Knick fans, known to some as the Isiah Thomas Era. In related news, seven Knick fans are treated for severe burn wounds after lighting themselves on fire during Wall's first interview in a Utah Jazz hat.
Seeing the dire situation in the so called "Basketball Capital of the World", top free agents from around the league take a "thanks, but no thanks" stance on the hefty contracts that Donnie Walsh shoves down their throats. LeBron decides to remain a deity in Cleveland, Dwyane Wade sees no reason to start paying property taxes and deal with weather below 70 degrees, and he even convinces his Olympic pal Chris Bosh to join him in Miami.
Walsh, desperate to make a splashy move, gives 36-year-old Steve Nash a three-year deal. He also manages to coax an aging Antawn Jamison into coming to the Big Apple, followed by throwing far too much money at perennial fringe-All-Star David West. In other words, Walsh makes sure the Knicks are a solidly mediocre franchise for the next three years, before the process starts all over again.
Obviously, this is the absolute worst-case scenario. For all we know, LeBron, Bosh, and Wade may have really made the pact in Beijing to each sign with New York next summer.
But maybe, just maybe, this real possibility will make Walsh and the rest of the Knicks front office will think twice about clearing ship to create cap space.
Then again, any time team owner James Dolan is involved in the decision making, you and I have about as good a guess as the homeless guy sitting on 32nd Street.
Whichever way the Knicks go, it should make for an entertaining, franchise-changing two years.