While Eeyore frets and Piglet hesitates and Rabbit calculates and Owl
pontificates, Pooh just is." — Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
The Knicks braintrust whittles away the anxious days until July 1 by
holding meetings to strategize their free agency plans, meetings to
strategize how to market the results and hosting pre-draft workouts for
second-round caliber players that have, so far, left no one excited
about making the No. 38 and 39 picks.
While in Cleveland it’s either about to all come together or it’s all coming apart. Danny Ferry’s departure was the result of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert making the decision to take on the Jerry Jones role. Ferry didn’t want the job if it did not come with full autonomy, so he decided to walk away (those Duke guys are an intelligent lot). So Gilbert instead promoted Chris Grant, who is an intelligent and hard-working personnel guy, but, let’s be honest, he’s there, as one NBA executive noted, “to be the mechanic.”
Ferry had told confidants that he was philosophically against the idea of hiring John Calipari, no matter how much LeBron James wanted him. With Gilbert making the calls now – check that, making the calls based on what LeBron would want – the first call is to the college ranks, but not to Calipari. According to the News-Herald, it’s to Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. But Izzo can’t leave the comfort zone in Lansing for the uncertainty of Cleveland unless he has some assurances that James will be there, too.
This is the chicken-and-egg situation Gilbert and the Cavs find themselves in at this point, because you certainly can’t hire a high-end coach unless you have LeBron signed first. So it goes without saying that part of signing LeBron is agreeing to hire his choice as head coach.
It’s also to clear out the players James doesn’t want on the team anymore, so it’s understandable that immediately after Ferry’s departure came reports out of Cleveland that Mo Williams and Delonte West would be shopped. What Gilbert may learn is that while he’s been willing to take on bad contracts, no one else in the league will be doing this – not even the Knicks – with the current CBA set to expire.
The prevailing opinion (which we subscribe to) is that LeBron will wind up staying in Cleveland for a short-term deal or one with an ETO after two years, still, the Knicks have to feel confident their pitch will at least give LeBron something to consider, especially when you factor in the clean slate roster and salary cap situation, the established coach with the popular system that fits his skill set and, of course, the unmatched magnitude of a move to the Garden stage, which the NBA and ESPN (and Nike) would gleefully use to produce stratospheric promotions to the point that even Martians will be flying in to purchase tickets and merchandise.
But even if LeBron feels it’s time to make a break from Cleveland, understand that New York is hardly a given as his choice destination.
It’s Chicago that looms as the toughest opponent in the way. Well of course they are. It was like that in the 1990s when the Bulls previously had the league’s best player. Da Bulls are always in the damn way.