Posts Tagged ‘New York Knicks’

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THE NBA playoffs are set & ready to jump off tomorrow, and may be the most wide open field of any year of the last 20, at least. The difference between the #1 and #3 seeds are as narrow as ever. Each top seed has questions about their experience & stamina, respectively. The champions have had an up & down season, and enter the postseason in more questionable condition than they have in many years. The same goes for the runners up of a year ago. And in both conferences there are teams that, while they don’t sit on top of the seeds, have reloaded and are real dangers over the course of a series.

Then there are the Heat, who after all this buildup nobody still knows if to fear or not. The definition of a wild card.

Despite all of the seemingly random madness & “It’s wide open” look of the season, there is a method to the madness and matchups to assess. Will there be major upsets? Is that even possible this point, and if so, who’s primed to spring one in the first round?

Today in the CHEAP SEATS were taking a look at how each team is standing heading into series play, how they’ve done against each other and basically attempt to a) finally predict the unpredictable that is the 2010-11 NBA, and b) finally be able to figure out for myself what exactly is going on here for myself.

Come along for the ride in part one of two today in the East.

#1 Bulls (62-20) vs. #8 Pacers (37-45)

Last 20: Bulls: 18-2, Pacers: 10-10
Vs Playoff teams: Bulls 6-2, Pacers: 5-6

Season Matchup: 3-1 Bulls.
The Bulls have been basically unstoppable over the last two months, sporting the NBA’s best record over that time. Defensively they can stick with anybody and they have the MVP in waiting ready for a team the doesn’t have an answer back for them in any one area in the Pacers. And in the end, its the team with the best record playing the team with the worst remaining. Buff said. BULLS WIN.

#4 Magic (52-30) vs. #5 Hawks (44-38)

Last 20: Magic 12-8, Hawks 7-12
Vs. Playoff teams: Magic 4-6, Hawks 3-10

Season Matchup: 3-1 Hawks.
This is an example of where the present says way more than the past. The Hawks have been the worst of all 16 playoff clubs leading into this match with Orlando, who they didn’t beat by more than 10 all year. And they are carrying a seven game losing streak into the series. Combine that with Atlanta’s weak playoff performances in the past, and you’ve got a team primed for another early exit. MAGIC WIN.

#3 Celtics (56-26) vs. #6 Knicks (42-40)

Last 20: Celtics 10-10, Knicks 9-11
Vs Playoff teams: Celtics 6-6, Knicks 5-7

Season Matchup: 4-0 Celtics.
An interesting matchup, as neither of these teams is who they were even a few months ago. The Knicks blew apart their core to add Carmelo Anthony, while the Celtics have been completely different after moving center Kendrick Perkins and losing much if their primary advantage: size. Having a quality center would make a world of difference for them against the Knicks weak interior, but they’ll have to rely on experience to make the difference instead, something they have a surplus of. The Knicks, new lineup has been worse against the Celts than the early season one (losses by 2 & 4 early, closer to 10 later). Plus there is something to be said for the task of beating a team four times in one series you haven’t been able to put down all year otherwise. CELTICS WIN.

#2 Heat (58-24) vs #7 Sixers (41-41)

Last 20: Heat 15-5, Sixers 9-11
Vs Playoff teams: Heat 8-3, Sixers 4-6

Season Matchup: 3-0 Heat.
Up & down for much of the season, seemingly constantly going from getting it all together to falling apart again. However, in landing the Sixers they get a team they’ve had success against in their playoff debut in the LeBron/Wade incarnation of the team, and should be able to get them out the way quick to be well rested for what will be a beast of a second round challenge against Boston. That extra rest could give them a decisive edge against an older and tired Celtics squad coming off a series against the quicker Knicks, but let’s wait and see on that. HEAT WIN.

Come back a bit later for a look at the West & the beginning of the Lakers push for number three in three.

It is done, finally. After a drama that played out the entire first half of the NBA season and had commentary from everybody ranging from Conan O’Brien to the NBA’s Emperor Palpatine, David Stern, the greatest New York-based drama since Michael Corleone killed the heads of the Five Families is over.

Yes, Lala, er Carmelo, Anthony has been traded to the New York Knicks. This move triggers a ton of dominos off, not the least bit being the ifs, whys and maybes of this deal, that has everybody talking. I haven’t seen this many street GMs in a long time. Well, I’m supposed to be on vacation to prep for baseball season (I’m taking the alternate approach of the boys in Florida, staying inside & holding out on my tan in a style even Vincent Jackson would be proud of), but I’ll go head & tackle this one because it’s too good to pass up.

1. THE DEAL: With there being three teams involved in this deal, with the Timberwolves playing the vultures/lynchpin to the deal, lets look at EVERYTHING coming & leaving from the Knicks. They move out 3/5’s of their starting lineup in Raymond Felton, Danillo Gallinari & Wilson Chandler, along with Timofey Mozgof (who was being spoken of as a sticking point to this deal as if he was Wilt Chamberlain reincarnated) to Denver. Also Silkk the Shocker (Anthony Randolph) & the biggest crap the city of Chicago ever took (twice), Eddy Curry, will move to Minnesota.

For those keeping score, that’s 6 of 12 guys from the previous roster gone in one move. In return they get Corey Brewer, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter (who I couldn’t believe is still in the League, I swear he was on NBA Action on Sega), Renaldo Balkman (an awesome baseball name), Chauncey Billups & Kobe’s favorite client & surefire future member of Dipset, Carmelo.

2. THE AFTERMATH: Now I know that plenty of folks are saying they gave up too much, but I don’t see that. Lets break it down some, and look at what really matters, what took what’s spot on the roster:

To look at a three team deal as being only a head-to-head move is a mistake. You gotta look at this from the big picture for the Knicks, because they gave up the most in quantity. Essentially they swapped out garbage for garbage in Curry & Carter/Balkman. Lord knows, I could go on & on about this part, but Eddy hasn’t worn a jersey since George Bush’s first term, so he’s pure salary relief. Then look at the perimeter move: Brewer for Randolph? DUH! This is a great move, they move out Gumby, who is still living on past due potential he showed for two weeks at LSU for 3 years & two teams ago. For this they land a talented, tough defender unlike anything they had on their team already. Upgrade #1? Check.

Next, the Denver move. It basically breaks down to Chandler/Felton/Gallinari/Todd McCullough Jr for Carmelo & Billups. No matter how you slice this, this is a great move on both talent acquisition & strategy for New York AND Denver. Lets look to the chalkboard once again:

#1: NY traded high. Yeah, they traded out their entire core, but so what? It’s not like they broke up a classic alignment of guys, even in today’s game. This is a core that went 28-26 in a conference where if the playoffs started today two teams with losing records would be in. That’s not exactly being a world beating force outside of Amare. Felton & Chandler were both playing at the roofs of their talent, and Gallinari is worth the expenditure. Landry Fields is capable of stepping up for him. So if you get a chance to add one of the top 10 players in the NBA for these guys & get one of the great winners of the last 10 years in Billups as a toss in, you pull the trigger quicker than The Punisher.

#2: The strategy was a must anyway to land Anthony, even in the offseason. Chandler’s contract is expiring, and he wouldve cost more to retain anyways. They couldn’t have landed him & Melo, and there’s no competition who to go with there. Also, after next year they’ll be making a run for Chris Paul or Deron Williams, so Felton was expendable anyway.

The hidden bonus? Billups has a year left on his deal, right in time for the Knicks to let him walk for the upgrade. So they move only Gallinari over the long term gain of Carmelo. Brilliant.

AND IN THE END….and beginning: The Nuggets get to move a lot of contracts (they’ll be trading Gallinari shortly) & rebuild with a lot of cap flexibility. The Knicks, most importantly, handle long-term business. While they may be thin right now, they get one of the best duos in the game to build around. Building the supporting cast is the easy part, getting one cornerstone is hard, let alone two. Look at the Lakers after they got Gasol, everything came into place. The same thing goes for the Heat. Building the cast is the easy part, and the Knicks will do that this offseason. Bringing in the extra defense & frontcourt help will be pretty easy with the buzz & recruiting of Melo & Amare leading the way.

The bottomline is that the Knicks weren’t going to win it all this year, and they still won’t. But I believe that if you aren’t the best, make the moves you need to in order be it. They held off the Nets & knocked out Ivan Drago & Jay-Z with this move, and inked a new franchise player in the process. In New York, presence means as much as result, MSG’s residents have more presence now than they’ve had in 15 years. 

And most importantly, they took a much needed laxative to drop a huge, steaming pile of Eddy Curry off as well. That’s gotta feel better. (more…)

After the most hyped off-season of all-time the regular season has a big act to follow-up. Now that all off the signing, spending, drafting and ESPN-sponsored/street hype is over with, it’s time to do what it’s all about: take to the court and settle it.

For many years, the East has been considered the little brother that is rightfully beat up by the much bigger and stronger West. However, after this summer’s events, the little brother looks like it has followed Hulk Hogan’s commandments AND ate their Wheaties and are ready to fight back now with vengeance. Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer have crossed over, and (in the words of Kobe himself) “the Heat have formed Voltron“. All of this before factoring in a Boston team that pushed the champs to the limit last year. In other words, the East is ready, but is it just a matter of all the cream going to the top? Or is there some depth to the West on all year across the board.

In the first part of the CHEAP SEATS NBA preview, we’re looking at the Eastern Conference. Tomorrow the West, Playoffs and Awards preview will follow. The number in (parentheses) is the predicted finish in the conference for each squad and playoff teams are in bold.

Central Division

  1. Chicago Bulls (3)
  2. Milwaukee Bucks (5)
  3. Indiana Pacers (9)
  4. Detroit Pistons (10)
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers (14)

The time is now: Rose is on the doorstep to ascending to superstar status & taking the Bulls with him.

Summary: This is a division with almost every team as been completely made over. For the last few years, everything has run through Cleveland, but with LeBron riding out of town, that’s going change immediately. The Bulls missed out on the top of the globe free agents, but may have made themselves better overall by spreading the wealth & making a team around in-house starstar-in-training Derrick Rose….No team made more subtle changes than the Bucks and they will be a match up problem for nearly every team they face. With there is no more complete starting 5 in the division….Darren Collinson will give the Pacers the PG they have desperately needed, but will they have the size they need to complete? Danny Granger can’t do everything, but gets damn close….The Pistons are still in the midst of a prolonged & weird rebuilding, and probably will be making several changes in season attempting to move pricey vets Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. The sooner the better, because Rodney Stuckey,  and first round….The Cavaliers will be exposed for being exactly what caused LeBron to leave, being a collection of role players with no go-to threat. There’s still talent here, but it’s not having a true big threat scorer (Jamison is not that anymore) and a thin bench will sink their ship much sooner than later.

All Division Team // C: Andrew Bogut-MIL, PF:Carlos Boozer-CHI, SF-Danny Granger-IND, SG-John Salmons-MIL, PG: Derrick Rose-CHI

Atlantic Division

  1. Boston Celtics (2)
  2. New York Knicks (8)
  3. New Jersey Nets (11)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers (12)
  5. Toronto Raptors (15)

The Biggest Apple: Amar'e should go off in the East and be around the biggest scorers in the L.

Summary: This has been Boston’s playground for the last three years, where they have been the clear bullies of the yard, with many of the biggest bottom feeders in the league in this division. Not much will change here this year. The defending Conference champion Celtics return their entire core, and added Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to make them one of the deepest teams in the League, if they can keep their health intact as a unit….The Knicks didn’t land their top target in the summer, but they did land Amar’e Stoudemire and essentially gave him a license to kill in the Eastern Conf, expect him to be one of the top scorers in the game, and should be enough to pull the Knicks into the playoff picture….The Nets gutted their core and brought in youth (Derrick Favors), depth (Troy Murphy, Jordan Farmer) and a proven coach (Avery Johnson) to ensure they won’t challenge for the loss record again, even him they don’t hit the playoffs yet….The Sixers have some work to do still and have an awkward roster that has too many of the same thing. Evan Turner’s the future, but they have to decide what to do with the current jams on the wing in Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young….The Raptors lost the only thing they had worth turning the TV on when Chris Bosh left, and they be playing for the Lottery all season.

All Division Team // C: Brook Lopez-NJ, PF-Amar’e Stoudemire-NY, SF: Paul Pierce-BOS, SG: Andre Iguodala-PHI, PG: Rajon Rondo-BOS

Southeast Division

  1. Miami Heat (1)
  2. Orlando Magic (4)
  3. Atlanta Hawks (6)
  4. Charlotte Bobcats (7)
  5. Washington Wizards (13)

Dwight Howard and his Magic are still strong and should not be forgotten in the hype around the Heat.

Summary: The Southeast is the Eastern Conference’s greatest battle ground, host to four playoff teams from last year. There has been no team in history that has received the hype that the Heat have coming into a season, now they have to take the nastiest three-headed monster the NBA has seen, maybe ever, on to the court and justify it….Either way you slice it, matching up nightly against Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh was tough enough individually, it’s going to be a nightmare to do it as a collective….Despite what’s happened on South Beach, up in Orlando there is still a very good and diverse Magic team, that features the most intimidating defender in the game with Dwight Howard. They will ensure the Heat will not run off and hide with the division….The Hawks bring back their entire core from last year and will look to prove their huge playoff flame out was a fluke. Last year, they could out run many Eastern teams, but they’ll have a much tougher time now, playing an equally athletic Heat team, establishing that dominance….The Bobcats were perhaps the most gritty, team-based club in all of basketball in route to making their playoff debut last season. They kept their core in place and should still be a survivor of the East….the Wizards are coming off a controversy filled season, but bring back a prize in the form of top pick John Wall, who already has taken over the team. Now they have the tougher task of rebuilding while trying to overcome some of the toughest teams in the game.

All Division Team // C: Dwight Howard-ORL, PF: Chris Bosh-MIA, SF: LeBron James-MIA, SG: Dwyane Wade-SG, PG: Jameer Nelson-ORL

Yesterday, the Western Conference was summarized through the small changes many of their teams committed to make the difference in their team’s fortunes. Moving along to the East, that couldn’t be further from the case here. If you went to sleep on the NBA after the Finals and woke up in October, you may not recognize many of the teams in the East. The LeBron James saga had every major market team in the Conference gutting their roster in the hopes to add him and another All-Star free agent to change the destiny of their franchise.

After that saga (dramatically) ended and teams reacted and regrouped to “The Decision”, many other teams also changed their membership dramatically as well. Also, some team were left dangerously depleted from the free agent movement free-for-all. This was a case of a group of a few making big leaps, but many others being left without much room to match the major move makers.

Clearly the Heat had a good summer break, but did other teams still do enough to keep up in the East?

Miami Heat-Grade: A+

Retained: Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, James Jones, Jamaal Magloire, Carlos Arroyo

Additions: LeBron James (fa), Chris Bosh (fa),  Zydrunas Ilgauskas (fa), Mike Miller (fa) Juwan Howard (fa)

Lost: Jermaine O’Neal (BOS), Quentin Richardson (ORL), Michael Beasley (MIN), Daequan Cook (OKC)

Perhaps no team in the history of the NBA as more radically altered the face of their franchise than the Heat did by luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh into their fold to join Dwyane Wade. While this starting tandem instantly became the best in basketball, the talent and depth they almost instantly attracted is what separates this team’s offseason from all others. Adding Mike Miller and Zydrunas Illgauskas, and bringing back Udonis Haslem among others assured that this team has the impact and depth to play long in to the spring of 2011.

Chicago Bulls-Grade A+

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Carlos Boozer (t), Kyle Korver (fa), Ronnie Brewer (fa), Kurt Thomas (fa), CJ Watson (t), Omer Asik (d-2008)

Lost: Kirk Hinrich (WAS), Hakim Warrick (PHO), Brad Miller (HOU)

The Bulls were players in the James/Bosh/Wade market, but when that didn’t play out as planned, they regrouped and became quickly active in still capitalizing on the depth of the free agent field. The additions of Kyle Korver, Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer have them being called “Jazz-East”, but that isn’t a bad thing, as the 2010 Jazz would have finished 4th in the East, without the Derrick Rose/Joakim Noah, back-to-back playoff core they are joining.

Milwaukee Bucks-Grade: A

Retained: John Salmons

Additions: Corey Maggette (t), Drew Gooden (fa), Chris Douglas-Roberts (t), Keyon Dooling (fa), Jon Brockman (t), Larry Sanders (d), Darington Hobson (d), Keith Gallion (d)

Lost: Luke Ridnour (MIN), Royal Ivey (OKC), Kurt Thomas (CHI), Charlie Bell (GS), Dan Gadzuric (GS), Darnell Jackson (SAC)

Quietly, the Bucks managed to resign one of the best guards available (John Salmons), make several big value trades (Drew Gooden, Chris Douglas-Roberts & Drew Gooden) and land their #1 target in the draft (Larry Sanders). Never a player for any of the big names on the market, there isn’t much more that can asked from the Bucks from their summer and they will be a tough match up for any team in the East all year.

The Bucks flew under the radar and made all the right moves, including locking up Salmons.

Boston Celtics-Grade: B+

Retained: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson

Additions: Jermaine O’Neal (fa), Avery Bradley (d), Luke Harangody (d)

Lost: Tony Allen (MEM), Shelden Williams (DEN)

Surprises quickly followed the Celts Finals run, with Paul Pierce opting out of his contract and Rasheed Wallace apparently retiring. However, they score high by how they reacted. Resigning Pierce was a must and landing Jermaine O’Neal to replace Wallace is a push. Despite losing Tony Allen, they resigned Ray and draft pick Avery Bradley could be a steal at #18 overall.

New York Knicks-Grade: B

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Amar’e Stoudemire (fa), Raymond Felton (fa), Kelenna Azubuike (t), Anthony Randolph (t), Ronny Turiaf (t), Timofrey Mozgov (fa), Andy Rautins (d), Landry Fields (d), Jerome Jordan (d)

Lost: David Lee (GS), Chris Duhon (ORL), Al Harrington (DEN), Sergio Rodriguez

The Knicks cleared almost their entire roster in an effort to land any of the top free agents available. While he’s no LeBron, they did end up with Amar’e Stoudemire. Adding Raymond Felton to run with him and getting much depth from a sign-and-trade deal for David Lee could signal a slight changing of the fortune coming to Madison Square Garden, but they still need help at center badly.

Orlando Magic

Retained: JJ Redick

Additions: Chris Duhon (fa), Quentin Richardson (fa), Daniel Orton (d), Stanley Robinson (d)

Lost: Matt Barnes (LAL)

They may have overpaid to retain JJ Redick, but it was necessary in case they lost Matt Barnes, as they eventually did, a blow to the defense. However, Q. Richardson can make up for some of his lost and big man Daniel Orton, while a project, could become a quality contributor under the rim with Dwight Howard.

Redick's salary went up this summer, his responsibilities will in the fall.

Washington Wizards-Grade: B-

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: John Wall (d), Kirk Hinrich (t), Kevin Seraphin (d), Travis Booker (d), Hilton Armstrong (fa), Hamady N’diaye (d)

Lost: Mike Miller (MIA), Randy Foye (LAC), Shaun Livingston (CHA)

The Wiz made a huge move in securing their future, making the obvious pick of  franchise guard John Wall number one in the Draft. This is a huge step in the rebuilding process in DC, but its failure to move troubled guard Gilbert Arenas, the former face of the team, could slow this process, but the Wall selection is huge step in the right direction.

Toronto Raptors-Grade: C

Retained: Amir Johnson

Additions: Leandro Barbosa (t), Ed Davis (d), Linas Kleiza (fa), Solomon Alabi (fa), Dwayne Jones (t)

Lost: Chris Bosh (MIA), Hedo Turkoglu (PHO)

The loss of Chris Bosh is an undeniable blow to Toronto, but the Raptors were not on the fast track to the top of the Conference at any rate, so it also gives them a chance to retool. The major move in starting this rebuilding stretch was moving out the disappointing Hedo Turkoglu from their ranks. The veteran presence of Leandro Barbosa and the pick of Ed Davis is a move in the right direction.

Philadelphia 76ers-Grade: C

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Evan Turner (d), Spencer Hawes (t), Andres Nocioni (t), Tony Battie (fa)

Lost: Samuel Dalembert (SAC)

The Sixers are moving in a new direction and brought in even more young talent with #2 overall pick Evan Turner and trading for Spencer Hawes, who will add depth in the front court. Turner struggled some in the summer leagues, but as he settles in more along with Andre Iugodala and Jrue Holiday, he should help the Sixers become a very strong defensive team along the perimeter.

The spotlight is on Turner, the new franchise building block, after quiet offseason from the Sixers.

Indiana Pacers-Grade: C

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Paul George (d), Lance Stephenson (d), Magnum Rolle (d)

Lost: None

Indiana has built a strong overall roster and continue to build through the draft, with Paul George and Lance Stephenson, the latter of which could be a steal and help a both the point and shooting guard. George will add more immediate scoring to their bench. The failure to add help at the point guard spot could hold them back still however.

New Jersey Nets-Grade: C-

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Jordan Farmar (fa), Anthony Morrow (t), Derrick Favors (d), Travis Outlaw (fa), Johan Petro (fa), Damion James (d)

Lost: Tony Battie (PHI), Keyon Dooling (MIL)

Missing out on all of the premier free agents could be viewed as an offseason failure, however this team was so bad last year that any new talent of any sorts pushes them in the right direction. #3 pick Derrick Favors will add athleticism and rebounds immediately. Jordan Farmer, Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw wont push them to the promised land, but they will make sure this team doesn’t challenge for the all-time loss record again.

Charlotte Bobcats-Grade: C-

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Shaun Livingston (fa), Dominic McGuire (fa), Erick Dampier (t), Eduardo Najera (t), Matt Carroll (t)

Lost: Raymond Felton (NY), Theo Ratliff (LAL), Tyson Chandler (DAL), Alexis Ajinca (DAL)

The Bobcats just looked to add depth to their roster and came out well by adding Erick Dampier, Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll to their intact core. They are a solid team that matches up well across the floor and these additions just solidify that more. Nothing spectacular, but not bad either.

Atlanta Hawks-Grade: D+

Retained: Joe Johnson

Additions: Jordan Crawford (d), Josh Powell (fa)

Lost: Josh Childress (PHO)

The Hawks decision to hand Joe Johnson a max contract at the onset of free agency was a brash move that doesn’t make the team better than it already was and could be an anchor to the future development of the team, as he will be 35 when it expires and most likely well into his decline. It could be justified if it was part of a deal with another player to better them, but it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford any more moves. The “win now” philosophy gone wrong.

Detroit Pistons-Grade: D

Retained: Ben Wallace

Additions: Greg Monroe (d), Terrico White (d)

Lost: None

Detroit drafted well in adding Greg Monroe and Terrico White, but their failure to act on a much need clearing house of their older pieces (and even resigning one in Ben Wallace), will continue to keep this team from moving on. These commitments keep them from being able to afford or have room for a much-needed youth infusion. The Pistons are in need of a new look and Monroe is a big grab at #7 overall, who could become a younger Rasheed Wallace if given the time.

Without LeBron backing him, does Mo Williams have enough help to save the day in Cleveland?

Cleveland Cavaliers-Grade: F

Retained: No FAs returned

Additions: Ryan Hollins (t), Ramon Sessions (t)

Lost: LeBron James (MIA), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (MIA), Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair (MIN)

The Cleveland Nowhere Men may be more appropriate here. The biggest losers of the entire LeBron James move, they are left virtually empty. But their failure to add anything of substance to try to replace LeBron’s impact is their biggest mistake of all. Maybe it’s the fact it’s looked at as a Post-LeBron wasteland by free agents or some other act, but they did take advantage of the open market after he left. At this rate, they will be able to count on the Lottery to help rebuild them for many years.

There are many days that have historical significance in the U.S. and are properly observed as so.

July 4: The Independence of the United States from the British Empire

December 25: Recognition of the birth of Christ ……well this may or not be stretch in this instance, stay tuned….

Oh, I know…..how about:

February 2nd: Groundhog’s Day, where it is judged how much longer winter will go based on if the chosen Groundhog sees its shadow or not.

That’s a fitting holiday for new day that should be set aside as a national holiday, July 8 – LeDecision Day. There shall be no work and all will rejoice. For this is a date that should be celebrated in the streets of all 50 realms of the United States and the globe at large. “Behold the day that the Chosen One has laid aside to fulfill the prophecy and choose his destination of basketball based entertainment!” Sound the trumpets. Playing the role of the groundhog of the sports world, LeBron James must have seen his shadow and allowed the mania that has built following his decision on whom to join, or rejoin, for the next few NBA season to continue for as long as possible. Now the day is upon us where the “The Decision” (as it is entitled for the hour-long ESPN special that will accompany it….wow….is called) is finally here.

Happy LeDecision Day....but what are we Witnessing?

The speculation on where he will land has reached Beatlemania levels. It seems everyone from the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers to Invaders of the MBA (Martian Basketball Association, of course) are in play for LeBron and every inside source has a scoop from his “inner circle”, which has apparently grown to around 3,000,000 on a low-end estimate. I don’t know LeBron or his people, but I’m gonna take my swing at joining the “source community” and throw out what makes sense to me here and give my final shot in the crowded room of educated guesses and hope I hit something.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The bottom line here is loyalty and legacy. He has been in the unique position of being able to craft his entire legacy from high school forward in the same location. The state of Ohio has raised him and he is without a doubt the most important individual in the entire state, regardless of profession. His involvement in Cleveland supports a huge part of the city’s financial income and no doubt supports many people he has been associated with for years since he first showed his potential as a breadwinner.

On the court is a different matter altogether. I don’t think loyalty to the Cavs is a huge issue at all. He would have become “LeBron James, Superstar” with any team he played with. He has done way more for them than they have done for him. A career of having to lean on cores consisting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Maurice Williams and Larry Hughes isn’t much to brag on. Only adding Antawn Jamison, who is far past is former All-Star form and an over the hill Shaquille O’Neal as impact sidekicks is weak too. LeBron will get money anywhere is goes, so I don’t think the contract makes a huge difference. But the inability to project a championship will be and unless he feels a strong desire to build his own legacy from start to finish, Cleveland may not be the place. However, I will not count them out, because its still home and that could pull him to do it there and keep his center of control under his grasp.

ChicagoBulls: Chicago seemed like the most viable option if he could’ve taken Chris Bosh with him. There’s a hole on the floor that still could welcome him there, but it seems like a long shot for some reason now. Even with Bosh join Dwyane Wade in Miami, the Bulls still boast the most overall talent of team in the chase. There are two All-Stars in place already in Derrick Rose and newly acquired Carlos Boozer, as well as a strong starting core ready as well. If he could consider playing in Miami with Wade and his style of play, then playing in Chicago with Rose, who is far more willing to defer in his style of play. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like this will happen, which doesn’t make much sense to me.

New York Knicks: The Knicks will cater to his wishes bring in whoever he wants around him. They have no problem withspending money and have already landed Amare Stoudemire as a drawing piece. But beside him, there’s literally nothing to say they will win any quicker with him in the fold. 2 players don’t win championships, teams do. The Knicks do offer the biggest stage available of anyone in the Big Apple, but with a star the size of LeBron, he brings the media to him wherever, so I don’t see the Knicks as being answer. If they had a more solid core intact, ala the Patrick Ewing years, maybe. But no matter how much glitter they throw at the situation, it’s still a base level rebuilding project and that’s not what he needs. He’s already rebuilt one team in Cleveland, and now as he’s approaching the half way point in his career I don’t imagine he wants to spend the second half doing the same thing, regardless of what city it is in.

New Jersey Nets: The Nets are similar to the Knicks in that they are rebuilding. However, they are building around actual pieces in place that show potential to make the jump with the right leader on court. Adding Avery Johnson’s proven track record on the sidelines shows they’ll make strides on the court, and they have maybe the most brash ownership in the NBA this side of Mark Cuban in Mikhail Prokhoroz and Jay-Z, so they’ll continue to make headlines and be active. With all these benefits, there’s just too much in flux in Jersey. They are only a year off of a historically terrible season and are moving to another city soon. It doesn’t fit what LeBron should be in the market for, stability and a continued reign at the top of league. But with the twists and turns in this entire saga, this surprise could happen.

Los Angeles Clippers: Nope, not happening. I’m not even wasting the characters or considerably low typing energy addressing it. On Friday morning, Danny Manning or Loy Vaught will still be the best Clipper ever, not LeBron. The End.

Miami Heat: While I said who I feel about him landing in Miami yesterday, it’s seeming like this is a strong possibility. I can see why he would want to go there and I don’t blame him (do blame the Heat if they sign him though). If he goes to Miami he’ll immediately come under criticism. He’ll be pegged as not being able to get it done on his own and needing Wade and Bosh to make it to the top. Let’s look at this a few ways. True, he would be giving up his chance to make his own legacy, by joining up with the Heat. But he would be assured of being even deeper into the championship picture than he has ever been before (despite making the 07 Finals, they had NO shot at beating the Spurs).

However, it would impossible to say he isn’t concerned about winning, because this would be the quickest way to that goal. It seems like a match made in heaven, but I really see such a star laden team having huge chemistry problems that would be magnified when they struggle, and they will do that inevitably. I don’t think you can replicate what the Celtics did when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined in Paul Pierce in 2007-08. They were older than Bron, Bosh and Wade, so they were more focused on ending the legacies that they had created individually. They were ready to cap them off. Of the guys in Miami, specifically Wade and LeBron, are still making their place in both the current power struggle in the league and of this era of the NBA. I’m not convinced they can totally divorce the individual to win together yet and this could keep LeBron elsewhere. Which isn’t totally selfish of him in his decision, but could cost the ultimate goal, but Kobe and his Lakers could still do that anyway, so who knows.

After all of this, it’s really only going to make sense to him. There’s probably more moving and shaking behind the scenes than we’ll ever know, but I’m gonna take my shot at what makes sense with what’s available. I’m predicting:

Cleveland

In a close turn over joining the party in Miami (and I mean very close, I erased and rewrote this five times myself), he stays home. LeBron seems to have a strong sense of both his own self value, loyalty and ego. By staying in Cleveland he appeases all of these contradictory elements at once. He makes his homeland happy by staying home and achieves the largest payday possible. He also locks in his chance at being one of the truly defined greats of all time, by leading a single franchise to a championship level. For him to truly achieve his place as a great of both this era and all-time, he does in one place. Wade, Kobe and Tim Duncan are the measuring sticks of achievement in this era of the NBA, and have done it in one location. Michael Jordan (save for his very end stint in Washington), Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell are at the summit of NBA greatness, and did it by building and leading one team up with them.

The King stays in his castle....for better or worse.

I believe he wants this. It feeds his ego/legacy appropriately. While it is far from being a guaranteed shot and he will have to contend with Dwight Howard’s Orlando clubs still and the double-headed Miami monster, I think he takes on that undertaking. He has shown he can raise an otherwise mediocre Cavs roster to the 60 win level, and I doubt he will return without some immediate guarantees on upgrades to the roster to push them further than they have been since 2007. It’s a commendable and brave endeavor with an uncertain endgame, but what isn’t.

And in the end, there’s always the Clippers. If just for shock value alone.

To the dismay of the East, Wade & Bosh will permanently share uni's now.

This morning two of the largest pegs in the free agent market came together in Miami. Dwyane Wade made the expected move and stayed home with the Heat, to continue to build his legacy. After weeks of drama, that was similar to a media-built custody battle between Wade and LeBron James, Chris Bosh chose South Beach as his landing spot and Wade as his running mate. He will receive less than he would have working out a sign-and-trade deal with the Raptors, but the immediate chance at playing under the brightest lights in the league in May probably will help him cope.

Despite this part of the 3-headed free agent monster being slayed, there is still the matter of the LeBron James decision.

Live in Orbit: The LeSatellite

Evidently LeBron will broadcast his decision on where he will play next from an orbiting spaceship above the planet to all of the world’s people via ESPN on Thursday night. It has been well documented here where LeBron could choose and what he brings with him besides his formidable talent on the court. While Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, New Jersey and even the LA Clippers have a shot at landing him on tomorrow night, there is one team that should bow out of the race immediately now.

You guessed it.

All of the rage is the potential dream (and nightmare for the 29 other NBA clubs) pairing of Wade, Bosh and James. If you’re a fantasy basketball league, yes, you are winning big time. However, if you are Pat Riley in the off-line world, obtaining James is a mistake on the two most essential levels, on-court and financially.

First of all, this is not a shot against LeBron. He is the most devastating talent in the league and makes any team better

Beasley can play an big role in the new look Heat

immediately. But for where the Heat are now it makes no sense to add his particular skill set to what they have in place. From a scoring perspective, they are set. Wade is more than enough first option scorer by himself, and by adding Bosh they have paired the best slasher in the NBA with arguably it’s best interior scorer. From a primary scoring perspective the Heat are set and with Michael Beasley, who is steadily improving, they have a solid secondary option. LeBron’s presence would only upset this balance.

LeBron is tremendous everywhere on the floor. But figuring out an offense and keeping chemistry together for both Wade and LeBron for 82 games a year could be a monumental headache. For both Wade and James, fitting into an offense where they are not the clear primary scorer could be a huge problem and realistically decreases their impact on the floor. Both are best adept at leading teams as the undisputed lead of the team. That role could be become as foggy as an eye exam for Mr. Magoo with both in the fold.

The bottom line for Miami is that for the other areas he could benefit the Heat, you can add other role player options that can make do together at the price for one LeBron.

The most strategic approach from this point is to surround these guys with everything they need win out, much in the style of the 2006 Championship squad. Currently outside of Wade and Bosh, the Heat’s roster consists of Beasley, point guard Mario Chalmers, guard Kenny Hasbrouck and draft picks DeSean Butler and Dexter Pittman. There are a few ways they can maximize what is in place already. The best options are to fill out the starting lineup with either a pure center with size that lets Bosh over-match most opposing power forwards (in the mold of Brendan Haywood or Brad Miller) or add another swingman by utilizing Beasley’s flexibility to play the power forward spot. Ideally, this should be a good spot up shooter to benefit from the attention on Wade’s penetration. Mike Miller, Kyle Korver or retaining Quentin Richardson can achieve this.

After this point the attention has to be turned to fortifying the bench, which is where adding LeBron cripples the Heat tremendously. With 3 max contracts, you’re putting all of your eggs in one big basket, a dangerous proposition. Admittedly, if you going to make a gamble of this type, this 3 headed approach is best way to go after it, but if you’re looking to knock off the current top dogs in the NBA bench depth is what makes the difference. The Lakers and Celtics proved that during their recent Finals battles. The Magic, Hawks, Cavaliers and Mavericks all are top contenders in league as well, and boast deep benches to work around their stars.

Could Carlos still be eyeing a move to South Beach?

The Heat need to take the remaining cap room and add a group of shooters, ball handlers and perimeter defenders to run teams into the ground. While it may be a stretch, they could also still pursue Carlos Boozer, who most likely won’t require a max contract and has a good relationship with Wade also. This would be the best starting 5 in the East and make an unmatched rebounding/scoring tandem in Bosh and Boozer. This would lessen what they could afford to add for complete depth, but with a starting lineup of that level, they could easily run a 8-man rotation for most of the season.

Mr. Riley, you’ve won the summer battle already. Your program has gained huge media attention and for all intents and purposes, you have won. You have retained your superstar and landed the best power forward available. In the process, you have formed perhaps the most devastating 1-2 punch in the NBA. Much of the complete picture will not be revealed until LeBron signs and dominoes of players potentially following him end, the Heat are without a doubt in the driver’s seat now. You’ve played your hand well Pat, cash in your chips and spend for depth over name brand notoriety.

There are 30 teams in the National Basketball Association. Of that 30, 35 them would like to add LeBron James to their roster. It’s that serious. However, only a select few have placed themselves in the position to realistically add him. Some saved funds; others had human yard sales to free up space. The whoring of the various NBA  rosters to chase LeBron is finally at it’s endgame, as teams are sending everything from ex-stars, to billionaire owners to rap icons to try to swing LeBron to their side for the next half decade.

As chronicled in part 1, LeBron brings more than his presence as a MVP scoring king, Olympic Gold Medalist, triple-double machine to his future employer. He brings a media crown along with him. Regardless of where he chooses, it changes the fortunes of several teams by where he picks, because only one can win. Some will stay in good position regardless; other will have was months, and even years, of planning if he declines them.

Here, in the conclusion of the CHEAP SEATS PLEASE Free Agent Playbook series, are the primary contenders for his services, what they have to offer and what his presence means to their place in the NBA hierarchy. (Listed alphabetically, because at this point I don’t presume to assume where he’s landing either….until a future post, maybe.)

Odds are he'll add more MVP's to his mantle.....but where?

Chicago Bulls

2009-10 Record: 41-41 (8th in the East)

Key Returnings: Derrick Rose (PG), Luol Deng (SF), Joakim Noah (C)

Max Contracts Available: 1.76

What’s good? The Bulls boast the best intact young core available of the teams pursuing his services. Rose is one of the best young guards in the game and can run the floor with James and take away some defensive attention from LBJ. In Deng & Noah they can offer perhaps the best secondary role players James has played with. Most likely they will make a move to add another player to complement James in the free agent market, but it would be at under the max level (Boozer, Lee, maybe Stoudemire). Also, the Chicago market and James’ admiration of the Jordan legend helps as well.

What’s bad? Inflexibility of cap room & the pieces on the current roster are bad. The Bulls do not have the ability to offer two outright max contracts. Deng’s contract makes it impossible to do, and this could keep them from being able to add Chris Bosh, a big part of the Wade-LeBron race. In order to land another max contract player it would require a sign-and-trade, and any team that does that would definitely ask for Rose or Noah, and the Bulls are not looking to move either. Also there are concerns about how Rose and James could co-exist, since both need to pilot the team as primary ball handler to be successful. Also Deng moving back to the shooting guard is not a good look and is too expensive to come off the bench. They would have to mortgage the rest of their bench and several 1st round picks to land another max player besides James. With such uncertainty, would LeBron make the jump? Tough to say.

Cleveland Cavaliers

2009-10 Record: 61-21 (1st in the East)

Key Returning: Antawn Jamison (PF), Mo Williams (PG)

Max Contracts Available: 1

What’s good? It’s home and comfortable. He has crafted his entire career there and has a setup that is familiar. Also

Home town edge - Is born and raise enough for Cleveland to hold him?

Cleveland can offer the most years and money to LeBron’s contract as his incumbent team. The Cavs can offer a high end contract of 6 years at a total value of around $125 million. That’s a hefty pull to be on the market again at 31 years old. Add to the new addition of coach Byron Scott, a favorite of LBJ and mix it in with the lure of home, the finances and the potential feeling of wanting his own legacy in one location, and Cleveland could win out.

What’s bad? The lack of ability to had new top notch talent. The failure to add Amar’e Stoudemire at the trading deadline doomed the Cavs. Adding Antawn Jamison instead may have been even worse, as he under achieved and holds a hefty contract. If LeBron feels he has maximized on what he can do as a member of the Cavs, there may not be anything that can be done to keep him in tow. He will find financial success wherever he goes, so the lack of ability to add another comparable talent may doom Cleveland back to the LeBron-less Lottery.

Los Angeles Clippers

2009-10 Record: 29-53

Key Returns: Baron Davis (PG), Chris Kamen (C), Blake Griffin (PF)

Max contracts available: 1

What’s good? They’re in LA. They Clips are building a solid core and it should take more leaps forward this season with 2009 top overall pick Blake Griffin finally joining the team, coming back from knee surgery. They can offer the media market in LA to James and essentially a chance to redefine an entire franchise around him, with some solid pieces in place already.

What’s bad? They are the Clippers, the worse franchise in all of professional sports. They have ruined several potentially great talents and are notorious for making the worst possible personnel decisions. Pairing him with a trigger happy Baron Davis also would neutralize much of his effectiveness as a play creator as well. It would be a leap for LeBron to put trust in their program to move his career forward.

Miami Heat

2009-10 Record: 47-35

Key Returns: Dwyane Wade (???), Michael Beasley (F)

Max Contracts available: 2.6

What’s good? The Heat have a great structure in place, both on and off the court. They’re a virtual lock to resign Wade, who actually freed up cap room by becoming a free agent. With him back in tow, they offer by far the best running mate. Michael Beasley is still immensely talented and could thrive in a front court pairing with LBJ. The main point is that they can add the most still. They have clear room to add both James and another max contract, all while keeping Wade. Pair this with master strategist Pat Riley pulling the strings and the Heat are in great shape.

They've been great apart, but would full time work for Wade & Bron?

What’s bad? Dwyane Wade is there as well, the ultimate bittersweet situation. Wade and LeBron play essentially the same style of initiation on offense and a full time pairing could be a chemistry nightmare. We’ve seen the super free agent teams work (2008 Celtics) and fail (2004 Lakers). This could be either and the possibility is hard to predict. They could offset each other and be worst together than apart. Hard to predict, but a triple headed, max contract monster could be the more the curse than the gift.

New Jersey Nets

2009-10 Record: 12-70 (Worst in NBA)

Key Returns: Devin Harris (PG), Brook Lopez (C)

Max Contracts available: 1.80

What’s good? Surprisingly, a lot for a team that almost set the all-time losses record last year. The aggressive

Can Hov build his new dynasty with his boy Bron at the wheel?

management of new owner Mikhal Prokhorov has placed the Nets front and center in every NBA conversation from the Draft to free agency. They boast impressive young talents in Lopez, Harris and Derrick Favors, while dropping more contracts to be able to add more talent around James. His good friend Jay-Z is part owner and this could be a huge advertising plus. The Nets are shaping their team into being the premier Atlantic Division team, as the Celtics decline looms and are willing to do whatever it takes to rise to prominence quickly and could add another top notch talent to join LBJ quickly.

What’s bad? They lost 72 games last year and are in the middle of a relocation project. For all the potential glitz and glamour of the Nets, the hard facts still show little immediate change from the awful team they were last year. Even with LeBron this team has a lot of work to do. The teams that separate themselves in the NBA have a solid second team and NJ has a lot of work to do there.

New York Knicks

2009-10 Record: 29-53

Key Returns: Danilo Gallinari (SF)

Max Contracts Available: 2

What’s good? There’s plenty of room and money to rebuild with. The Knicks have been setting up for a run at LeBron since team president Donnie Walsh took the job in 2008. They have mortgaged almost every player and salary on the team to lure James to the Big Apple. Considering the makeup of the team, this is a great thing, because not many players would want to join the past incarnations of this squad. In order to bring LBJ into the fold, can use the mega marketing (and earning) potential of the New York media empire and bring another top tier player into the fold with him.

What’s bad? There’s really nothing there at all. Gallinari is an improving young shooter who looks like he’s going to be solid, but he’s nowhere near enough to ensure there is enough around James to push the Knicks into annual competition, let alone a championship. Also, the pressure to perform will be put to Empire State Building level, where win now is the only option for high paid stars in New York (ask A-Rod). Even with another max player joining him potentially, can he ever live up what is expected with the Knicks and will team management revert back to its previous zany management practices once they lock up him up? That’s a lot of uncertainties, even with a huge pay out it may not be worth it.

The end of the road is near. LeBron will meet with team dignitaries all weekend and says he wants to make a decision by July 5th. Contracts will be signed by July 8th. Until then the suspense will build and the sports world will wait for his next move. Where will it land him? Who really knows, if he even does. At any rate, it’s been a pandemonium that only would be fitting of LeBron. And hey, don’t count out Minnesota or Milwaukee making a run….just because rumors are fun.