"In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I'm going to take my talents to Manhattan Beach and join the New York Knicks...I feel like it's going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row, I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there."
Oh, what might have been? (For the record, the more popular Manhattan Beach may be in California, but another Manhattan Beach locale does exist in Brooklyn.)
Perhaps LeBron James is questioning his decision to take his talents to South Beach at the moment, despite the Heat's current hot streak. Is he biting his nails right now, as in this picture, pondering whether his decision was the right one?
Who knows, but what is certain is that the King would have fit better on the New York Knicks, and he would be leading a top-five NBA team should he have taken his talents to 31st Street and 7th Avenue.
Included are 10 reasons why the King should have traveled to the Basketball Mecca.
Let's start with an off-court reason.
The New York Knicks sold out Madison Square Garden last night, despite playing an under .500 Toronto Raptors team on a frigid cold weekday during the holiday season. Somehow, 19,763 people made it to Madison Square Garden even though die-hard Knicks fans have not healed from a decade of on-and-off-court embarrassment.
Down in South Beach, Miami Heat fans are being told to "fan up." Granted, not every fan in Miami is of the fair-weather variety, arriving in the second quarter after a few pregame martinis, but the die-hards down south are unfairly getting a bad name.
In New York, when the Knicks are hot, the whole city comes alive since it's a one-team town. Basketball runs in the city's blood, and fans even came out when the team was going 23-59 in the Isiah Thomas era (see above). How did the Heat draw between the Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade eras? Consistently bottom 10 in the league.
Raymond Felton may be the most improved player in the NBA thanks to Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense. He has found a new home in New York, and is getting everyone in the offense involved, from superstar Amar'e Stoudemire to rookie Landry Fields.
Imagine what kind of work he would do with the King?
Raymond Felton is averaging 8.5 assists per game, and yet no New York Knick who consistently shoots threes is averaging more than 38 percent from downtown this season. Hence, Felton isn't always the beneficiary of an easy slash-and-kick assist.
Plus, Felton can take some of the scoring burden off LeBron, as the UNC product is scoring around 19 per game and making a living nailing clutch three-pointers right now.
Do you think LeBron would rather have Felton or Carlos Arroyo feeding him the rock?
I have a pretty big beef with Danilo Gallinari since I saw him rocking a pretty metrosexual Italian scarf during a postgame interview recently, but if he knocks down three-pointers in defender's faces as often as he's been doing lately, I'll start wearing Gucci scarves too.
Regardless, Gallo would score 20 a game in his sleep, and knock down four three-pointers a game, if LeBron were on the Knicks.
Imagine this scenario:
Felton brings the ball up. He takes a pick on top of the key from LeBron, who then gets the ball. LeBron takes his man to the left, drawing Gallo's defender. LeBron finds the wide-open Gallo in the corner for a three-pointer. Swish. Once a quarter, at least.
Sure, LeBron can do that with James Jones and Eddie House right now, but neither of them is a 6'10" 22 year old with immense scoring potential.
In Sports Illustrated's NBA preview this year, a scout was quoted as saying Amar'e Stoudemire could never be a top player for a good team. He could be a No. 2 guy for a good team, and a No. 3 guy for a great team, but leading a team to postseason glory was out of the question.
Seeing as how Stoudemire left Madison Square Garden to chants of "M-V-P!" after posting his sixth straight 30-plus scoring night yesterday, that quote was as accurate as the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline on the Chicago Tribune following the 1948 Presidential Election.
While I don't think Stoudemire can lead this current Knicks incarnation to a championship, he can certainly lead them to some playoff success. As LeBron James' wingman, he'd be making his acrobatic dunks all night long from LeBron feeds.
Right now, Mr. Do Everything Wilson Chandler is starting for the Knicks, but if LeBron James was around, Chandler would be the best sixth man in the league.
(Chandler had already been the Knicks' sixth man earlier this season, but has become a starter with Ronny Turiaf trying to come back at full strength from knee injuries.)
Inserting LeBron James into the starting lineup would create a simply nasty bench that could hold its own as a five-player unit.
PG: Toney Douglas, who averaged around 10 points per game.
SG: Kelenna Azubuike, who can defend well at shooting guard and knock down three-pointers. Unfortunately, he will be out with a patella injury until at least 2011, though he did average 14.4 points per game in the 2008-09 season.
SF: Shawne Williams, who ran into off-court trouble at Indiana, is finding a second life in New York. Like Azubuike, he is also a three-point marksman and is capable of putting up 15 off the bench.
SF/PF: Wilson Chandler, who can play shooting guard, small forward or power forward. He knocks down threes and can bang inside with ease (apologies to Walt Frazier in case I stole that line). He averages over 16 points per game.
PF/C: Ronny Turiaf is a stellar defender who makes his teammates on the floor better. For a while he has the best plus/minus on the entire roster, and the Knicks are under .500 when he does not suit up.
The Heat have issues at starting point guard and center, let alone the bench. They can't match this.
What would LeBron James average per game in New York? Would he scorch teams for 30-plus points, eight assists and seven rebounds a night? I think he'd shoot for those numbers under the D'Antoni system.
Down in Miami, Erik Spoelstra has chastised LeBron James during practice, and was the recipient of an infamous bump we still aren't too sure about. To be honest, I think Coach Spo is getting an unfair rap and has a much harder job than people think, but the point is James would go to a whole other offensive level under D'Antoni.
Amar'e Stoudemire has taken a leadership role with the New York Knicks, bringing the team out for social events and really maturing as a player and person. Through his efforts to keep this team together, the Knicks have gained much-needed chemistry on a team where (gulp) Eddy Curry is the elder statesman.
Meanwhile, in Miami, things have been rocky, but may be turning around as winning cures all ills.
No current New York Knick that gets significant playing time in Mike D'Antoni's rotation was born earlier than November 1982. Take a look at the rotation from last night against the Raptors.
PG Ray Felton (26 years old)
SG Landry Fields (22)
F Wilson Chandler (23)
F Danilo Gallinari (22)
C Amar'e Stoudemire (28)
G Toney Douglas (24)
F Shawne Williams (24)
PF/C Ronny Turiaf (27)
Bill Walker (23) and Kelenna Azubuike (27) will be seeing playing time when they return from injury, and Anthony Randolph (21) and Timofey Mozgov (24) are in reserve as projects.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Heat have 11 players that are 28 or older.
Let's do a quick, bizarro world, matchup comparison where James can play on both the Heat and Knicks:
PG: Felton vs. Arroyo
SG: Fields vs. Wade
SF: James vs. James
PF: Gallinari vs. Bosh
C: Stoudemire vs. Ilgauskas
Backup G: Douglas vs. Chalmers
Backup F: Chandler vs. Jones
Backup F/C: Turiaf vs. Dampier
The Knicks have a clear edge at point guard, center, and backup guard and forward. The Heat have a huge edge at shooting guard, though Fields' intensity and hustle is infectious.
Bosh has the edge over Gallinari, but it's not as pronounced as one might think. Gallo is a very bad matchup for power forwards on the offensive end, so he'll get his 15 per night as usual. Bosh would go to town on Gallinari down low though.
Turiaf and Dampier are a wash.
So, give four big points to the Knicks, and two to the Heat. Keep in mind that Chandler is a starter now as well.
The Knicks are 14-9 without LeBron James.
The Heat are 15-8 with LeBron James.
Which team do you think is the better fit?
Do you know what the scariest part is? Imagine what James would be doing in Chicago, teaming up with Derrick Rose right now.