Cavaliers-Magic: How One Series Could Change the Face of the NBA

Joe M.Correspondent IIMay 22, 2009

CLEVELAND - MAY 20:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on against the Orlando Magic in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 20, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks' pursuit of 2010 free-agent-to-be LeBron James began November 21, 2008 when new General Manager Donnie Walsh shrewdly traded power forward Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in two separate cap-saving deals.

The moves allowed the Knicks to free-fall into their usual last place spot, 32-50, despite a 5-5 start to the season. In all, the trades freed up approximately 49 million dollars according to the New York Times article above, enough to sign two major free agents.

Bosh and 'Bron

I immediately began thinking about who they could be and settled on LeBron James, of course, and Chris Bosh. We know LeBron has big-city, big-market, All-NBA written all over him, so why delay the inevitable and just put him in the biggest market?

He can be the next Shaq with the movie deals, maximum exposure and endorsements, and revitalize a depleting and desperate also-ran fan base in the NBA's most important market.

Chris Bosh, on the other hand, fits perfectly since he will allow the team to get bigger immediately along with James. When I think of the Knicks, I think of Nate Robinson and a bunch of quirky, 6'2" shooting guards that don't pass the ball: former Knicks Crawford, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, and Moochie Norris as shoot-first, me-first players.

This is precisely the image the franchise must change if they want to become relevant again. The team already has the perfect compliment in coach Mike D'Antoni who would love (as anyone would) to run LeBron in a fast-paced (i.e. exciting) pick-up style of early 2000's flashy Sacramento Kings basketball.

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He's already shown this ability with the perennially underachieving Suns.

Another reason Bosh makes sense is because he's all but assured to jump the sinking ship that is the Toronto Raptors and get out of Canada back to the United States where he is from and where he went to school (Georgia Tech).

He's likely to cash in somewhere and the Knicks are the perfect, logical fit, and thus my prediction, even if it's not what I want to see happen.

The Knicks were finally able to shed the Stephon Marbury contract in February after he was acquired by the Celtics and while it was pro-rated, the team still was able to subtract most of the $20.8 million contractual obligations via a buyout.

This is almost enough for a third player at a max contract. Who could that player be?

My guess?

Dwayne Wade.

It's been my prediction ever since I heard of the possibility when Marbury was finally rumored to be gone. When and if (my guess, when) LeBron signs with either New York or New Jersey, other players will volunteer to flock with him just like when McGrady and Hill signed with Orlando on the same day in 2000, or take lesser money to play on a winning team like Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley with the Champion Spurs in 2005, or Gary Payton with the Miami Heat prior to their 2006 title run.

It's happened before and it will happen again wherever LeBron goes. Whoever that team is will have a line of suitors and not enough cap space to go around—unless players get desperate for a ring and take less money, which could happen.

PG filler player

SG Dwayne Wade

PF filler player/aging veteran

SF LeBron James

C Chris Bosh

it doesn't really matter who the bench or other players would be. See the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the '90s. They had Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and good, capable role players all across the board.

Toni Kukoc was lights out at his three-point shooting skill, as was Steve Kerr and Jon Paxson before them. Ron Harper was a defensive whiz along with BJ Armstrong who commanded the point during the first three-peat.

Heck, even Bill Wennington, Jud Bueshler, Luc Longley, and Randy Brown who at the very least provided excellent depth and experience. The same could be said for the '10-'11 Knicks or Nets if all falls into plan.

If James/Wade/Bosh combine for (30+28+22) 80 points a night, who is going to outscore them? All the other nine players on the roster have to do is average 20-25 points a night and they will beat most teams hands down. This paltry number includes whatever production they get from two yet-to-be-named "filler" starters.

Don't get me wrong, I want my Magic to win, and in as few games as possible, but should the Cavs fail to blow this opportunity as the No. 1 seed with home court advantage, and as an actual legitimate team to win it all, could LeBron get fed up and think "I'm never going to win anything in Cleveland, why not move on?"

At some point, their window may be closing (although I'd tend to disagree, especially if, of course, he re-signs).

Possible Impact of LeBron Leaving Cleveland

LeBron leaving Cleveland, I think, would absolutely kill the basketball market in Cleveland proper and the state of Ohio as a whole, similar to when Shaq left the Magic after the 1996 season, only much more-so this time.

This is a state that hasn't won any major championship in any sport since the Cleveland Indians of 1948 in baseball. This is a state projected to lose at least one if not two electoral college votes after the 2010 U.S. Census because of rapidly declining and relocating population due to a major loss of jobs because of the economy.

This is a dying state in the "Rust Belt." Losing LeBron might well finish the job early.

I don't think anyone should be christened King of the NBA or anything as "King James" has ever since day one when he entered the league.

Sure, he's mature beyond his years. Sure, he seems like a model citizen and actual team player in every sense of the word. Sure, he seems to have an uncanny respect for NBA history and history, well beyond his years.

But he also stole Kevin Garnett's "chalk toss" pre-game warm-up intro, seems to have a bit of Dale Jr.'s marketability mania that exceeded that of the previous generation's vets like Michael Jordan who let their actions on the court speak louder than words, and likes to do rock star guitar impressions from courtside (when he's not doing 90 foot underhand heaves of course).

Chalk all this up to being a 24-year-old kid I guess, right?

This Magic Moment

When Magic forward Rashard Lewis began to earn his massive $120+ million dollar contract he signed last summer by hitting the game winning shot in the first game with 14.7 seconds left, I wonder if he was asked what he was going to do after the game.

My guess is it was not:

"Uh, I'm gonna go to Dis....oh nevermind."

Call me crazy, but "Big-Shot Rashard" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

The impact it did have, however, was it made this series, truly that. The Cavs lost home court for now, and could be in real trouble should the falter in game two tonight, also at home.

I won't be as dire as Michael Wilbon when he called them "done" on yesterday's Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, but no, it would not seem very likely that they would overcome those odds. Could they? Absolutely, and for the NBA's sake, they better, but it would be awfully hard.

Especially with Tim Donaghy currently unavailable...

Stan Van GundyWhat a Guy

If I could meet or work for anyone it would be the honest Stan Van Gundy, head coach of the Magic.

When commenting after the game one surprise win over the Cavs, he commented that he "honestly had no idea how to guard LeBron. I know we are supposed to have all the answers but when it comes to guarding LeBron I don't have a clue."

Yeah, right. Game one worked out pretty well. Let him get his points (49) and worry about the rest. Let's hope it works out the same tonight.

If you think ESPN is sickening now with the all-things Boston, particularly Celtics love parade, just think about the Knicks potentially being on television every other night.

(da-da-da-da-da-da) (ESPN theme)

Cindy Brunson: "Welcome to SportsCenter, we've got plenty to talk about, Derek Jeter and the Yankees, but first, let's take you out to Madison Square Garden where LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and the Knicks were taking on Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics."

I shudder at the thought.

Tonight's game will go along way to answering some questions.