Making The Pitch: Getting LeBron To New Jersey
The big fish on the free agent market: The King. The chosen one. The best since Jordan (though Kobe Bryant may have something to say about that). We are a short week away from the beginning of the free agent frenzy.
Yahoo Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the King is going to host five different teams at a neutral site in Ohio: The five main teams flush with cap space (Heat, Knicks, Nets, Clippers, and Bulls) and the Cavs.
And Wojnarowski reports that my New Jersey Nets are up first. New owner Mikhail Prokhorov and rapper Jay-Z (who earlier stated he WASN'T going to help recruit LeBron... whoops) will unveil their plan to attract LeBron to the Nets. They should be sure to include the following things...
Mikhail Prokhorov Himself
They say everything starts at the top, and that works in the Nets favor. Mikhail Prokhorov is by far the NBA's leader in personal wealth, having amassed multiple billions (Forbes estimated Prokhorov's fortune at $13.4 billion) in the precious metals industry.
He has an engaging personality; just look at the 60 Minutes interview and his opening press conference. He's a basketball fan and a former amateur player, so you have to believe he's passionate. Rich, passionate, funny... what's not to like about an owner with these qualities? And unlike Mark Cuban, he won't be a meddler.
He's expected to travel to the States to catch maybe 10 games in person, which is perfectly fine. His job is to write checks and hire high quality people to run basketball operations. Did I mention he's hilarious? It's too early to say he'll be a great owner, but he has the makings to be the best in the league. Or, at least, the most interesting (this side of Mark Cuban).
Avery Johnson isn't the splashiest hire, but he is a quality one. He was the most successful rookie coach in league history for the Mavs, having won Coach of the Month his first two months as a coach, reaching 50 wins faster than any coach in league history and setting the record for most wins over a coach's first 82 games (duration of a season).
He led the Mavs to the NBA finals in his first full season, led them to the a 67 win season in his second year, and won 50 games again in his third year. Unfortunately, a couple of unceremonious early bow outs in the playoffs sealed his fate. Still, he was a general on the court and on the sidelines, and he instills defense into his teams (which plagued the Nets terribly last season). He can relate to the players, having been one just a short time ago.
Most of all, he has a no nonsense approach to the game, and I think the players respect that. And so should LeBron.
Be a Global Icon
Prokhorov is the league's first European owner, and his vision is to make the Nets a global enterprise. Jay-Z has become a global force as well. I don't want to over speculate, but I think being iconic is something important to James, and the Nets get him closest to that global appeal. Not to mention the earning potential that comes along with it. In fact, it may outweigh his desire to win, although...
He Can Win In New Jersey
In a wide open Eastern Conference, why can't a player as good as LeBron elevate New Jersey to contender status? The answer is, he can. Don't look at the 12-70 record, it's irrelevant. The Nets lacked a coach (Kiki never wanted the job and tried to give it away to Del Harris, who also didn't want the job), Devin Harris struggled with injury, they played all their youth, and at some point I have to believe the players simply became apathetic... until they were about to set a league futility record, when we started to see some performance.
The Nets do have a decent core. Brook Lopez has quickly established himself as one of the best centers in basketball. Devin Harris, I'm not a huge fan of his from a teammate standpoint, but he was an All-Star in 2008 and at times can become unguardable and score in bunches. A 2009 first round pick, Terrence Williams, made his way to the doghouse mid-season, but came back to average about 14 points, seven rebounds, and 5.5 assists in the final two months of the year. He's an exciting athlete with play-making ability. And rookie Derrick Favors may not be refined, but man what an athlete. He won't be much of an offensive force initially, but he'll contribute as a plus help defender on the glass and in transition. If he doesn't get traded, that is. I loved the Damion James pick; he should be a solid bench player. Unfortunately the Nets did not wind up with John Wall, which would have made for even better bait, but sometimes you don't get the luck you need.
The Nets have the flexibility to make more moves as well. The roster can and likely will be reshaped before tip off of game one.
Welcome To The Big Apple... And Brooklyn
Mayor Bloomberg isn't concerned with getting him to just the Knicks. He knows having LeBron on the Nets will be a boost to his city too. The Nets will arrive in Brooklyn to a brand new arena in 2012. Brooklyn isn't the glamour of Manhattan, but the hip hop culture resonates stronger in Brooklyn. It's reportedly LeBron's favorite borough of New York City.
It will still contain all the in-roads to New York's high life and he will enjoy the benefits that come with living the New York lifestyle. Hey, Chicago is a great city, but it's no New York. In the meanwhile, playing two seasons in a still new arena (the Prudential Center opened in 2007) just across the river isn't so bad. Newark is an urban area on the rise, and unlike East Rutherford the infrastructure is in place for fans to get to the games. The facilities are tremendous at "The Rock," and he's still a mere hop, skip, and jump away from New York. Ask Eli Manning and Darrelle Revis how "horrible" it is to play in New Jersey.
Bring a Friend!
The Nets have cap room for more than just one max contract. They also have tradeable assets. If they can convince someone to take Yi Jianlian or Kris Humphries (maybe by sending an asset with them), they should have space for two max contracts. Chris Bosh maybe? Joe Johnson? Who else do you want, LeBron?
NJ has the ability to make it happen, and still keep Devin Harris/Brook Lopez/Terrence Williams. LeBron and Bosh on top of those guys? That's more than enough to compete in a wide open East. The Celtics are in trouble, the Magic haven't seen the offensive progression out of Howard they need to, the Cavs are going to fade if LeBron leaves, and the Hawks are frauds who will become even more fraudulent if Joe Johnson leaves.
Why can't a lineup of Harris/T-Will/LeBron/Bosh/Lopez win the East? I believe it can. The ability to bring a sidekick is a big tool in luring LeBron.
Start Your Own Legacy
Do you really want to go to Chicago? Do you want to have to win seven titles to be regarded as the best in your town? Jordan's shadow exists. And it is large. You respect Jordan, I understand. Don't let Jordan's stature diminish your legacy.
Miami? Wade owns that town. He brought them a title, something you have yet to do, King. You aren't going to be numero uno in Miami. You'll be 1A, at best. Perhaps, second banana to Dwyane. You don't want that. Who takes the final shot? Who takes control of the game when the team is in a rut? eck, who brings the ball up the court? Wade's done it for years in Miami. He's entrenched.
New York? The Knicks don't have a dominant history. But, they did win two championships. They had a great run in the 90s, possibly could have won more if it weren't for Jordan's Bulls representing a road block. Plus, do you want the pressure of playing for the Knicks, where they'll turn on you if you don't bring the goods quickly? The Knicks beat writers are nasty and the fans are nastier.
But with the Nets? Jason Kidd, best player in Nets history, was certainly great, but you immediately become the top player in Nets history. There is no legacy to follow. The Nets have yet to win a title. They have yet to carry an NBA league MVP. Sure, they were decent in the ABA days, but who cares? You can practically start a franchise's history. You will have your own legacy. Some guys are iconic in cities. Bill Russell- Celtics. Michael Jordan- Bulls. Tim Duncan- Spurs. Karl Malone- Jazz. LeBron James- Nets.
Come to the Garden State, LeBron. Go to Brooklyn in two years. You're all ready a superstar. Be a legend.