Sunday, June 27, 2010

Don't Do It, LeBron

Given that the New York Knicks are a terrible franchise, why would anyone want to play for them?

Forget cities and towns and arenas. Is the franchise worth a damn? If not, move on. Don't take their money to play for coaches who are routinely fired or undermined and don't play with second-rate overpaid free agents who are there to sit with phony injuries so that they don't "damage" their next payday by putting up terrible numbers in front of the country's biggest media market. You see, when a player goes to New York, they put up decent numbers, figure out how hard it really is, and then they sit. They coast on the swell numbers they put up elsewhere.

Rarely do you see anyone "step up" and do what they are supposed to do when they sign with a team in New York. So, let's say Le Bron shows up and signs a lucrative contract. Anyone who comes in to play for New York--or is already there--instantly knows that the media focus will be on LeBron and not them. So why show up and play? Why put up numbers that suck in New York when it would be safer to dog it in Washington or Portland and maybe be the number one or two guy on the team?

LeBron James will suit up every day and play hard. He will give the fans in New York what they want. But the likelihood that the other players on the team will fold up and look at the rafters is too great. This is the same franchise that bet on Starbury, and couldn't figure out how to solve that problem. The stain of Stephon Marbury taints the New York Knicks even to this day. That's their history. And it's a history of free agent debacles and lousy performances.

This is the problem with the NBA. No matter where LeBron goes, he will have to coax others to play at his level. The risks of failing will drive many players to Atlanta, Dallas, or Phoenix just to avoid that sort of scenario. And it's too bad. Five motivated players can go out and win it all every year. In the player-oriented, contract-ruined NBA, that can only happen once or twice, if that, and even then it takes a team like San Antonio or Los Angeles to pull it off. And how do they do it? Everyone shows up to play, no matter who the number one guy is. For every Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant, there are other players who can and will play at the level necessary to win. Boston might still have that, but they're getting long in the tooth. How many seasons does Kevin Garnett have left? Does he play three more? Or two more? Or can he play for longer than that and keep Paul Pierce and Boston's new phenom Rajon Rondo with him?

Can that happen for LeBron in New York? History says otherwise.
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