Frozen moment: Knicks’ tenuous wait for LeBron has virtue in itself

Vanderbilt Kentucky Basketball About a decade ago, Jimmy Johnson said something I’ve always liked:

You can play it safe and be good, or you can take a chance and be great.

Unfortunately, the Dolphins’ then-coach said that to justify his pick of Daryl Gardener over some guy named Ray Lewis in the 1996 NFL Draft. But the words – if not the defensive tackle – stuck with me over the years.

I’ve come to believe that when a shot at greatness presents itself, which doesn’t happen all that often, you owe it to yourself to go for it. It’s clichéd, but it’s almost always 100% true: It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do.

That’s why for the first time in a long time, I’m cautiously excited about the Knicks. Donnie Walsh is trying to shoot the moon, and I couldn’t be more in favor of it.

Of course, there are skeptics who can’t see the forest through the trees. I’ve heard Walsh criticized for “not building his team the right way” – and I admit it’s a little daunting that the Knicks won’t have a decent pick in the next two drafts and shipped their 2009 first-rounder to the Rockets.

And you still have Knicks fans lamenting the deals that got the ball rolling, when Walsh somehow found a way to dump the horrible contracts of Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in one fell swoop last winter. That, of course, was a precursor to his deadline deal last week, when he shed Jared Jeffries from next season’s payroll.

The thing is, it’s not every year that LeBron James is potentially on the open market. This summer represents a once-in-a-generation situation in which the greatest player in the sport, who isn’t even in his prime yet, is a free agent.

New York needs someone like him. In a lot of ways, basketball has always been interwoven with the City; the sound of a roundball being pounded into asphalt is like its pulse. Those Riley teams – albeit much maligned for their effect on the game in the mid-90’s – were grimy and gritty and wonderful. Ewing and Starks, Oakley and Mase. Harper and Greg Anthony.

We haven’t had a team here that New York deserves, and conversely one that deserves New York, in quite some time. I think it’s time for that to change. And believe me, David Stern in his ivory tower on Fifth Avenue, he completely agrees with me (for what that’s worth).

Personally, I want to be able to look forward to a Knicks season again. And I’ve been fascinated with LeBron since I sat under the basket in Trenton and came to the realization that I had never seen an athletic talent like his in person. His creativity and improvisation, his physical beauty and sheer grace – I had never seen anything like it.

And even if he doesn’t end up coming here, I just appreciate that they set themselves up with the opportunity. We’re in the game.

*****

Don’t get it twisted – I don’t actually think he’s going to ditch Cleveland, especially if they win a championship this season. I believe he can win in New York just as well as he can win there, so it’s not that. The thing is, LeBron is quite possibly the most image-conscious athlete we’ve ever seen. If he decides that his likability factor takes a hit by leaving the hometown he’s carried on his back, then he probably won’t.

And yet… he might.

Everyone knows the inherent marketing and visibility advantages to having NEW YORK in block letters across your chest. (i.e. If you think LeBron is everywhere now, wait until he hits the Big Apple)

As a result of the Jeffries trade, the Knicks can also offer him the ability to name his All-Star teammate. For a guy who likes to be in control, this obviously has appeal.

And let’s face it: Cleveland just isn’t a great basketball city. If LeBron hadn’t walked through that door, they wouldn’t care at all. Don’t believe me? Late in the incredible showdown between LeBron and Carmelo Anthony the other night, the crowd was completely dead. Meanwhile, MSG was absolutely on fire the other night for a 19-34 Knicks team during Tracy McGrady’s first game.

It reminded me of how the Garden sounded during LJ’s four-point play.

And that’s how it would sound every single night if LeBron walks through the door and unpacks his bags, with the whole City behind him.

*****

In my opinion, the best part of a meal at a good restaurant is that period of time between when the plate hits the table and you begin eating. That moment of anticipation where despite your hunger, everything in front of you looks so perfect that you don’t want to alter it by diving into it.

That’s the way it feels right now with the Knicks. The table is set, the order is made. I guess Tracy McGrady can be considered an appetizer of sorts, though his body already appears to be crumbling on him.

If Donnie’s Great 2010 Plan doesn’t come to fruition, it’s not to say the table is bare. There are other excellent players available, the Knicks will finally have some cap room to work with, and playing in New York for Mike D’Antoni has its attractions.

But there’s no question that there remains a feeling of LeBron or bust.

Which is why I’d almost rather stay right here, right now, where we can still just think about what it would be like to have LeBron James – THE LeBron James – become a member of the New York Knicks.

And the pervasive feeling that better days may lie ahead signals that no matter how it ends up, to have brought us to the precipice of greatness, Donnie Walsh has done precisely the right thing.

Esoteric

2 Comments

  1. This was a nice read. There's nothing wrong with dreaming. I 100% agree that it's better to regret doing something than regret not doing anything(i've been regretting all week for not taking some pictures with the Thunder players when they were literally standing right next to me lol I am such a chicken). The Knicks are gonna be great starting next season whether Lebron comes or not, so I think people are silly to criticize walsh at this point. Save for Eddy Curry, he got rid of just about every disaster Isiah has ever created along with everyone that turned out to be a total bust for the team. What's there to complain? Calling someone a lottery pick is overrated when you see in game action that the pick was a bust, and Jordan Hill falls in that category IMO. Can you imagine where the Knicks would be today had they drafted just one of the litany of sweet pgs that were available(jennings/lawson/collison)? Either way, the future for the Knicks look real bright.

  2. This was a nice read. There's nothing wrong with dreaming. I 100% agree that it's better to regret doing something than regret not doing anything(i've been regretting all week for not taking some pictures with the Thunder players when they were literally standing right next to me lol I am such a chicken). The Knicks are gonna be great starting next season whether Lebron comes or not, so I think people are silly to criticize walsh at this point. Save for Eddy Curry, he got rid of just about every disaster Isiah has ever created along with everyone that turned out to be a total bust for the team. What's there to complain? Calling someone a lottery pick is overrated when you see in game action that the pick was a bust, and Jordan Hill falls in that category IMO. Can you imagine where the Knicks would be today had they drafted just one of the litany of sweet pgs that were available(jennings/lawson/collison)? Either way, the future for the Knicks look real bright.

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