Forget about November and the Midterm Elections. Perhaps the biggest decisions of the year will be made in July.
In less than thirty days, one of the best free agent classes in history will begin to mull offers and make decisions about their future. This class is led by Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, but also includes Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, and Dirk Nowitzki, just to name a few.
This week there have been two revelations which have changed the free agency landscape: the free agent “summit” and Lebron James’ interview with Larry King. No team is helped more by these two stories than the New York Knicks.
Word recently broke that Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh would openly discuss their free agency plans together. It is also likely Stoudemire and Johnson will crash the party and enter the conversation.
By discussing their free agency plans openly, it is likely at least two of the players want to play together. Only three teams have enough salary cap to sign two top free agents: the Knicks, the Nets, and the Heat.
Out of those three teams, the Knicks are the most likely to sign Lebron James. The Knicks know that they need to sign a second max free agent to lure Lebron to the bright lights of New York. This meeting probably indicates Bosh wants to follow either Wade or Lebron James and either Amare or Johnson will follow the other.
Expect Donnie Walsh to send the players a bottle of Dom Perignon at their summit to seal the deal for two of them to come to New York.
Also expect there to be Russian Caviar from Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets and some Cristal from the Heat.
On Friday, an interview with Lebron James and Larry King will air on CNN. The transcript from the interview has already been leaked online (spoiler alert: do not read further if you want to be surprised on Friday).
In his interview, Larry King spoke to Lebron James about his childhood idol, Michael Jordan. When speaking about Jordan, Lebron said, ”You know, everything that he did, I wanted to do.” As much as Lebron James looks up to Michael Jordan, he realizes how difficult it will be to follow in his footsteps. No matter how well James plays, he will always be in Jordan’s shadow.
Larry King also asked Lebron James about the free agency market. Lebron emphasized to King that he will choose the team that, ”has the best chance for me to win a championship not one year, but multiple years.”
If Lebron wants to win multiple championships, he needs role players around him. Cleveland simply does not have the right core for Lebron to succeed. After taking on the contracts of Jamison and Shaq, the team cannot afford a second maximum free agent. As much as he loves Cleveland (James mentions that Cleveland would be his top choice in an ideal world), the team won’t give him the chance to win multiple titles.
New York though is a different story.
Assume Lebron comes to the Knicks and convinces Bosh to join him. The starting five for the Knicks would be James, Bosh, Danillo Galinari, Wilson Chandler, and Tony Douglass. In addition, the team has Eddy Curry’s ($10 million-plus) expiring contract, which it can use to trade for a true center.
The Knicks current cap space and their lack of long term contracts puts them in the position to compete for NBA Championships years down the line.
On Mike and Mike Radio this morning, Greeny and Golic were questioning why Lebron James would choose to do his first interview with Larry King on CNN instead of with an NBA Expert (Chris Broussard for example). By choosing CNN, Greeny and Golic argued that Lebron James was trying to send a message that he wants to be a global icon.
Unlike ESPN, CNN truly is an international channel. People from all over the world tune in to watch Larry King Live.
If Lebron James truly wants to be a global icon, the only platform big enough for him is New York City. New York is home to all four broadcast channels (CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC) and the epicenter of global marketing.
There is no doubt Lebron James has great marketing appeal in the United States, but New York is his ticket to becoming a global brand. If Lebron wants to follow in Michael Jordan’s footsteps and become an international brand, he will not bolt for Chicago, but instead go to the bright lights of Broadway.
Donnie Walsh must be a very happy man right now.