If LeBron James passes on New York Knicks in free agency, team should turn atten

There went the Heat out of the NBA playoffs Tuesday night, again with a
whimper, as Dwyane Wade was eliminated in the first round for the third
time in the four seasons since he was seen holding the Finals MVP trophy
in Dallas.

Maybe Miami’s latest playoff loss will be the Knicks’ gain …

Now, with Wade unable to get more than a win against an aged Celtic team, the speculation will start about his future. Will he believe in Pat Riley’s ability to rebuild the Heat into a champion again and re-up with his original team? Or will he opt to leave for a really bad Knicks team this summer?

If Wade comes to New York, it’d be because he doesn’t think Riley can surround him with the talent necessary to win a second title, and also because LeBron James would have given the Knicks the answer they don’t want to hear.

If LeBron tells the Knicks, "Thanks, but I’m staying," they’re expected to make a run at Wade. Only then. And why not? You’re not getting James or Kobe Bryant, but probably the third-best player on the planet. If you saw Wade’s 46-point outburst on Sunday in Miami’s lone win against Doc Rivers’ team, you can see why he’s every bit as good as he was in 2006.

The Knicks have the same thing to sell Wade that they can sell James on: The ability to come to New York with a second marquee player. Wade doesn’t have one of those wing men in Miami, but he could stay there because the Heat has the cap space to pursue Chris Bosh in free agency.

So it could be Riley against his old team when free agency opens. Lately, Riley has lost the touch he had when he managed to bring Shaquille O’Neal to Miami while he still had something in his tank. Although Shaq was the Heat’s second-best center, after Alonzo Mourning, in the championship drive, he still made a difference.

But Riley hasn’t had the same touch since the Heat raised its championship banner, and that is something the Knicks can use in trying to convince Wade that he should come to New York. If, of course, James isn’t coming.

The Knicks can use the fact that since the Heat won the title, Wade has not gotten a sniff of the second round. This has been what he’s been stuck with in South Beach:

2007: A team that was swept out of the first round by Chicago, which lost in the second round to a Detroit team that was swept by Cleveland in the East finals.

2008: A team that finished with a league-worst 15-67 record when Wade missed 31 games. A terrible year got worse at the lottery, when the Bulls jumped over the Heat for the No. 1 pick, meaning that they got Derrick Rose, while Riley had to settle for Michael Beasley. If Riley had to do it all over, rather than pick Beasley, who has often been out to lunch, he’d have taken Russell Westbrook, who went fourth to Oklahoma City and has burst on the scene in his first playoff run, at the Lakers’ expense.


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