Why the Knicks would be foolish to chase LeBron James

LeBron James

The writing was on the wall the minute they hired David Fizdale to be their new head coach. A widely respected NBA mind, Fizdale is a favorite of one LeBron James. The King has made that known more than once, especially after Fizdale was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies early this past regular season.

More so than hiring someone who might be able to elevate the New York Knicks’ from irrelevance, it seems that the downtrodden franchise is sending smoke signals in James’ direction.

The all-world performer is set to become a free agent this coming summer. There’s no guarantee he returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers. And James has proclaimed himself the king of the Big Apple in the recent past.

So it makes a ton of sense. Hire Fizdale as a way to lure James to New York. As surface based as it might seem, the Knicks’ plans aren’t a well kept secret. Even finding themselves in North America’s largest media market, the Knicks have failed to remain relevant in the overall NBA landscape. Consistent front office and coaching failures as well as some drama has led to a once vibrant NYC basketball scene becoming stagnant.

As he did by returning to Cleveland years back, James would change the entire dynamic. This is known. He’s not just the game’s best player. No, he’s a brand in and of himself.

Despite all of this and the conjecture leading us to believe that New York doesn’t stand a real chance to land James, it seems the team is willing to open up cap space to bring him in.

“Knicks brass has pointed toward the summer of 2019, when it plans to be ready to make a free-agent splash,” the NY Post’s Marc Berman reported. “But after Thursday’s hiring of former Memphis head coach and Heat assistant David Fizdale, the Knicks are prepared to open salary-cap space this summer in the unlikely event they get an inkling LeBron James has some interest in coming to the Garden this summer, according to an NBA source.”

That’s all sorts of cute right there. But this one scribe has a better chance of hitting up a romantic vacation with both Beyoncé and Carrie Underwood. In short, it’s not even a remote possibility. And if the Knicks are going to structure their summer around chasing the ghost of Mr. James, it’s only going to set back their rebuild process that much more.

Ignoring the strong likelihood that James will look to latch on with a contender, there’s a financial component to this madness. Both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn would have to opt out of their contracts. The Knicks would then have to find a team with the cap room to absorb the remainder of Courtney Lee’s four-year, $48 million deal. That would require the Knicks either adding one of the few young pieces they have or this year’s first-round pick in said trade.

Signing LeBron James means the Knicks couldn’t extend Kristaps Porzingis.

Even then, adding James to the mix means New York would find itself in a position to team him and Kristaps Porzingis up with a multitude of vet-minimum players. Heck, signing James would disable the Knicks’ ability to sign Porizingis to an extension this summer.

Team building in the NBA isn’t as simple as one might think. The Golden State Warriors hit that jackpot by drafting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all outside of the top-five picks. It then took a perfect storm for the team lure Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City. The same can pretty much be said with the Houston Rockets and James’ own Cavaliers team.

New York doesn’t have the capability to change it’s rebuild mid-stream to cater to what James wants to establish in the Big Apple. Going all in on a prayer would be utterly foolish. Ignoring the fact that James himself is more likely to join Durant in Oakland than sign with the Knicks takes that to a whole new level.

The Knicks have done a tremendous job overcoming the Phil Jackson years. Executive Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry seem to have a nice relationship in the front office. In a vacuum, Fizdale was a tremendous hire. Why blow everything up to chase something that’s about as likely as Robert Mueller being invited to a state dinner at the White House?