An Open Letter To LeBron James

Dear LeBron,

Can I call you LeBron? Thanks! LeBron, I am writing to you in the hopes that all is well with you and yours as you prepare for the final season of your contractually obligated engagement with the Cleveland Basketball club. As you may have heard or read somewhere on the internets, a great many folks are speculating about where you will choose to ply your trade in the year 2010. One possible destination is the city that I call my home, New York. You may have also heard that we have a basketball team. They’re called the Knickerbockers. (Fun fact: They’re named after the Dutch settlers who bought Manhattan island from the natives for $24 in wampum!) Truth be told, the New York team has hasn’t been very good for a while now. How long ago was it? Well, the last time they won more games than they lost, Meg Ryan was still considered a sex symbol.

Now, were you to join our team, I can say with a good degree of certainty that you would greatly improve our chances of winning on a day-to-day basis and possibly even elevate the squad to the status of, “championship contender”. Many of my fellow fanatics would very much like this to happen. I’m here to formally ask that you please do not join our team.

It’s not anything personal. You seem like a very nice, charming fellow. And it’s certainly not in any way a condemnation/criticism of your skills on the court. You are, without a doubt, great. You are the greatest since his royal merchandizing/Nike-ness. Were you to disregard this letter, I would assuredly join the maddening crowd in utter adoration/awe of your overall sprezzatura.

But here’s the thing. It wouldn’t be right. I know it. David Stern knows it and I think you know it too even if it runs contrary your (and Mr. Stern’s) ultimate dreams of worldwide financial/iconographic domination and the fact that situating yourself at the epicenter of this media maelstrom would go a great length towards helping you achieve said goal(s).

Now don’t get me wrong. I would love to have an athlete of your caliber on our side. If we had a smart GM who really tanked a season or two in order to get a top 3 draft pick to snag someone as good as you or who discovered someone as good as you in the middle of the first round when the experts had said individual pegged as a mere role player or plucked someone as good as you out of obscurity via trade before his abilities grew to full flower, then hell’s yeah. I’d be tickled pink for [As-yet Nonexistent Savior] to wear the blue and orange. But not like this. We’d be buying you, nay stealing you from the good burghers of Cleveland because goddamnit, we’re the richest most powerful mofos around. It’d be the equivalent of cheering as the Soviet tanks rolled over and through Montenegro.

And if you did sign here, then what? The Lebrons/Knicks go about obliterating other teams? Winning handily? Winning with ease? No sirree. I’m sorry, that’s not me. It just doesn’t mesh with my Weltanschauung. That’s not the team I grew up loving and grew to love. I know my guys are going to lose — lose in heartbreaking fashion, lose via pound-your-nails-into-the-floor-with-your-forehead, repetitive stupidity. And although the actors in this particular melodrama (tragedy?) may have been recast many times over, I still know how it’s going to end, because it’s the same effing play. The script hasn’t changed, just the players. Take our last game v. Indiana f’rinstance. One Clyde said, towards the end of the 4th Quarter (Quarto?), down by 4, after Granger fouled out, “Granger’s out. Now Indiana won’t be able to score and the Knicks can come back.” I should have turned the set off right then and there. That’s it. Toast. Done. We’re boned. Why? Because once the “star’s” out of the game, the other players start moving the ball and playing unselfishly and somehow, quelle surprise, manage to overcome the absence of their, “star.” What happened on Wednesday? The Knicks didn’t score a point in the game. Hibbert, Ford n’ Dantae Jones killed ‘em. I know when the Knicks are trying to mount a comeback that a normally reliable free throw shooter’s gonna brick the first one. (Esp. if he gets the double whammy by Breen mentioning how nifty Player X is from the charity stripe before he’s about to shoot.) In the Indiana game I called both of Harrington’s misses and the Hughes miss at the beginning of the 4th. It’s not b/c I have psychic powers, it’s just that I’ve been watching the same game, over and over again for the past 30 years.

You may be thinking, Lebron, that the above paragraph might suggest that I would like you to join the Knicks, just so I could watch a different story unfold, if only for variety’s sake. A valid point, indeed. But I see, (and indubitably always will see) the failures of this team as an utterly apt paradigm for the way that the rest of the real world functions. The Democrats are going to pass an utterly useless watered down Health Care Bill, Obama’s going to send more troops into Afghanistan because he’s scared of looking ‘weak,’ Bloomberg’s going to flat-out BUY a third term, Glenn Beck’s going to use the remake of the TV show “V” to justify his inane conspiracy theories about Marxists in gov’t, and the Knicks are gonna blow it. Incorrigible, maddening blunders, every man jack of them and there’s absolutely nothing you or I or anyone can do to stop them from happening. If my team started kickin’ ass and taking names, well, I’d have to totally rethink my understanding of the world and start rooting for the Yankees and Dick Cheney and Paris Hilton the E! Network and people who feel that $76 is a reasonable price for an entrée at a restaurant and support the activities of a whole lot of other hateful non-persons who WIN all the time and who don’t. Goddamn. Deserve it. I just can’t be that guy.

(Just to be clear, the 90’s teams are totally valid w/in this construct. We all knew that Patrick would miss the finger roll, Starks would shoot 2-18 in game 7, and that the Spurs would demolish the Camby/Sprewell squad, didn’t we?)

Moral victories. Loveable losers. Tragic Defeat. That’s my stock in trade. So, I’m sorry LeBron. I’d rather you stay in Cleveland. We’ll lose and lose again, but at least I’ll remain true to my principles, to myself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, Lebron. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Robert Silverman

Knicks 117 Hornets 111

The fourth’s times the charm, as the Knicks finally win their first game this season. New York never fell behind by 20+, as they did in each of their first three games, and pulled away in the fourth quarter outscoring New Orleans 40-30 in the final frame. The team was led by David Lee (28 points on 17 shots, with 8 rebs & 3 ast) and Larry Hughes (20 points on 13 shots). This was Hughes’ second strong game in a row, after it was thought that he might not even make the rotation.

Although his stats weren’t impressive, Danilo Gallinari contributed as well. Gallo had 9 points on 9 shots, but added 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 rebounds and a blocked shot. I’ve been trying to keep notes during the game of notable plays, and my sheet is filled with the words “Gallo”. He had the ball in his hands a lot, and was able to create for his teammates.

Boxscore: http://www.nba.com/games/20091102/NOHNYK/boxscore.html

2010 Poll: Who Will Win the West?

Los Angeles Lakers (Vegas odds to win title: 5:2)
Unlike the East, the West has one clear favorite. Since trading for Pau Gasol, the Lakers have appeared in two straight Finals winning it all last year. Not content to let it ride, Los Angeles upgraded from Trevor Ariza to Ron Artest. This would be a gamble for most teams considering the Queensbridge native’s history, but Phil Jackson has always been able to keep individual personalities from ruining a team.

San Antonio Spurs (6:1)
In an attempt to keep up with the Lakers, the Spurs bolstered their roster in the off season. San Antonio added Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess which should give them a stronger rotation. But ultimately the Spurs will only go as far as their top 3. Last year the team suffered injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and if they lose either of them (or Tony Parker) they’ll fall short of any title hopes.

Denver Nuggets (8:1)
The conventional wisdom is that teams that finish strong are likely to have a momentum that continues to the next season. This seems logical since many great teams go through phases of success before winning a title. However there’s little evidence to support that claim, and many teams just get lucky in a playoff series. The 2009 Denver Nuggets will probably avoid the fate of the 2007 Warriors or the 2008 Hornets, as they are likely to see the second round in 2010. However I think Vegas is way too kind to their odds, and I would bet against them to make the Western Conference Finals, nevertheless win a championship.

Last year per-minute stud Chris Andersen had a monstrous playoffs, however over the last 3 years each of the Denver bigs (Andersen, Nene, and Martin) has missed nearly the whole year due to injury. And while the other teams in the conference improved this summer Denver merely tread water, losing Kleiza and adding Ty Lawson. Unless they get another playoff boost from a great per-minute shot blocking/rebounder buried on the bench, they’re not likely going to be able to compete against the Lakers for Western supremacy.

The Field (starting at 10:1)
According to Vegas, the Trailblazers rank 6th in the West, however Portland deserves a higher ranking. They had the West’s second highest expected winning percentage last year (68.4%), which correlates well with winning percentage the year after. Portland also had the NBA’s best offense powered by their fantastic rebounding. The Blazers return with their rotation in tact plus Andre Miller. Although not the ideal fit for the team, Miller provides an upgrade over Bayless & Blake. They’re much better than their 12:1 odds would indicate.

Ahead of Portland are Dallas and Utah at 10:1. The Mavericks added Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, and Tim Thomas. Marion’s production slipped in Miami and Toronto, and Dallas is hoping that their offensive scheme will better fit his talents. Meanwhile the Jazz matched the offer sheet for Paul Millsap, and are hoping that they can collectively stay healthy. Finally the New Orleans Hornets swapped Chandler for Emeka Okafor, which could make them relevant in the West again.

{democracy:36}

Knicks 115 Nets 107, Preseason

The Knicks won their first preseason game against new jersey 115-107, although the score hardly matters considering the importance of the game. Some interesting tidbits from the boxscore:

  • New York was powered by +10 turnovers. The Nets coughed up the ball 24 times, but oddly no player had more than 3.
  • The Knicks also held the edge in eFG 50.6 to 48.5. New York hit 13 of 31 from downtown for a robust 41.9%. And they also had the offensive rebounding edge, 20.4% to 18.6%.
  • New Jersey had a field day at the line, scoring 41 singles.
  • Wilson Chandler had the best line for the Knicks. Ill Will had 21 points (7-13, 3-6 3pt, 4-7 ft) with 7 rebounds, 3 ast, 2 stl, and 1 blk. Chandler also led the team in minutes with 28.
  • I had a chuckle when Alan Hahn wrote positively about Jared Jeffries jumpshot. But Jeffries hit 3 of 4 from downtown. Still, I’m holding off from drinking the Kool-Aid until he starts doing this in the season. Or maybe another preseason game.
  • Toney Douglas is still having problems finding the bottom of the net. He went 2-9 including 0-4 from downtown. And Jordan Hill shot an even worse 1-8.
  • Gallo only had 9 points, but did chip in 4 ast, 5 reb, and a blocked shot.
  • David Lee was 9-15 for 20 pts with 9 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, and 1 blk.
  • I Want To Draft Like It’s 1999

    An NBA draft where the #1 overall consensus is a power forward, and a ton of guards are to be had including an intriguing foreign guard? No I’m not talking about this Thursday’s NBA draft where Blake Griffin is likely to go #1, there is a lot of depth at guard, and everyone is wondering where Rickey Rubio will land. I’m talking about the 1999 draft where Elton Brand went first, guards were taken in 7 of the next 10 picks, and Manu Ginobili quietly landed to the Spurs in the second round.

    Of the top 10 picks, 9 of them had solid to spectacular careers, but only one of those stayed long enough to be seen as a success for the team that drafted him: Shawn Marion. A lot of these players were traded to other teams before they could really help the team that drafted them like Brand, Francis (a draft day holdout), Odom, Hamilton, Andre Miller, and Jason Terry. Number 5 pick Jonathan Bender never lived up to his potential due to injury. Wally Szczerbiak stayed with Minnesota, but was taken too high at #6. Baron Davis stayed with the Hornets for 5 and a half seasons, but was traded midyear to Golden State where he engineered one of the biggest first round upsets in history.

    Although there was plenty of value at the top 10, the next 10 was filled with busts. Only Ron Artest (#16), Corey Maggette (#13) and James Posey (#18) were worth noting. As for the rest of the draft, there were two European superstars taken late in Kirilenko (#24) and Manu Ginobili (#57), and a few fillers (Jeff Foster #21, Kenny Thomas #22, Devean George #23, and Gordon Giricek #40).

    Knick fans remember this draft for grabbing Frederic Weis one pick before Ron Artest, but that may not have been the biggest bust of the draft. As I previously mentioned the top 10 all netted solid players except for Bender. If you want to excuse him for injury, then nearly every pick 11-14 (except for Maggette) could be seen as failures as well. Trajan Langdon at #11 is a candidate, although he’s had a good career overseas. Aleksandar Radojevic (from the powerhouse Barton County Community College) was taken 3 picks prior to Weis. And the Timberwolves struck out the pick before New York’s with Duke’s William Avery.

    So how might this draft have turned out? Here’s my re-draft, not necessarily in order of how they should have been taken. But rather in how one alternate earth might have been for the first 16 picks.

    #1 Chicago – Elton Brand
    The Bulls made the right pick. Actually in our reality they made 2 right picks with Artest at #15. The problem was that they gave up on that team too early. Chicago could have been a mid-west powerhouse with Brand, Artest, and Brad Miller with a supporting cast of Jamal Crawford, Fred Hoiberg and Jake Voskuhl. The problem was the team was still young & surrounded with little else. Marcus Fizer? Khalid El-Amin? Corey Benjamin? Bryce Drew? Michael Ruffin? Dragan Tarlac? Dalibor Bagaric? No wonder they won 15 games in 2001.

    #2 Vancouver – Lamar Odom
    Vancouver didn’t deserve Steve Francis, but they didn’t really need him either. They had grabbed Mike Bibby in the draft before, and as New Yorkers learned Francis didn’t play well with other point guards. Instead they should have grabbed Odom. The Grizzlies had an awful team, but Bibby, Odom, and Shareef Abdur-Rahem would have been a respectable threesome. Looking at their history, they were doomed to failure by their poor drafts Reeves #6, Abdur Rahim #3, and Antonio Daniels #4 is hardly the core you want to build a franchise on.

    #3 Charlotte – Baron Davis
    Davis was the right pick here.

    #4 Los Angeles Clippers – Steve Francis
    Now these two deserved each other.

    #5 Toronto – Ron Artest (traded to Indiana)
    The Raptors originally drafted Bender and traded him for Antonio Davis. Why would Toronto do such a thing? They have Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Doug Christie. So there goes the shooting guards and small forwards. They could use a point guard, but that isn’t a priority with Carter & McGrady taking up a big share of the offense. They need a big man, but there really aren’t any in this draft (Jeff Foster?). I see why they traded this pick, they had two dynamic scorers and needed some front court depth (past Charles Oakley). So I have the Raptors trading this pick still, and Indiana selecting Ron Artest instead. The Pacers would end up with Ron after a few seasons later anyway. The Pacers would have Artest to defend Allan Houston in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals (which Indana won) but they could also use him to shut down Kobe Bryant in the Finals (which they lost in 6).

    #6 Minnesota – Manu Ginobili
    I’m going to go out on a limb here. Before Garnett went to Boston and won a title, people argued how the league would have been if he had swapped teams with Tim Duncan. That the two were equally good, and Duncan won those championships because of his supporting cast. So let’s see how Garnett would have done with the Argentine at his side. Also in this Bizzaro universe Kevin McHale would be a genius.

    #7 Washington – Rip Hamilton
    Washington really sucked. It doesn’t matter who they draft here. The guy is going to be gone by the time Jordan arrives. Might as well be Rip so that the Pistons improbable championship still occurs.

    #8 Cleveland – Shawn Marion
    Cleveland took who they thought was the best guy on the board, Andre Miller. And normally I agree with such a signing, except the Cavs had two young (but undersized) guards on their roster already: Brevin Knight and Earl Boykins. Miller’s arrival meant that both would be gone within a year. Cleveland let Boykins go, but traded Brevin Knight for Jimmy Jackson, Anthony Johnson and Larry Robinson. All three would be off Cleveland’s roster by the next season. I hate it when a team overloads at one position and fails to net anything substantial from trades. If we’re not taking Andre Miller here, then you can have an up-tempo team with Knight/Boykins. So I think Shawn Marion is the right fit here.

    #9 Phoenix – Corey Maggette
    The Suns are probably crushed that they didn’t get Marion. They have Jason Kidd, and are about to offer Anfernee Hardaway to a huge contract. Maggette’s scoring and rebounding would be adequate in lieu of Marion’s energy game.

    #10 Atlanta – Trajan Langdon
    The Hawks have Mutombo and Rider and are in dire need of a point guard. So with Andre Miller on the board, they’re going to draft Trajan Langdon. This way by 2005 they’ll have learned their lesson and take Deron Williams or Chris Paul with the #2 pick instead of Marvin Williams.

    #11 Cleveland – Jason Terry
    With the Cavs comitting to an up-tempo offense with their #8 pick, they should take Terry here. Knight, Terry, Marion, and Donyell Marshall are undersized, but should make for a laser fast offense. With Zydrunas healthy in 2011, that’s not such a bad team.

    #12 Toronto – Aleksandar Radojevic
    As I said earlier, the Raptors really need front court depth, so this is why they reached for the 7-3 Euro. And this is why you don’t draft for need.

    #13 Seattle – Wally Szczerbiak (traded to Orlando)
    The Magic who acquire this pick in a trade have Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and Ben Wallace. They need someone who can score, and don’t care about defense. Wally fits the bill here.

    #14 Minnesota – James Posey
    In this world, McHale is a genius, and the best player on the board is Andrei Kirilenko. But taking Kirilenko after reaching for an unknown in Ginobili would get him fired. Also having Kirilenko and Garnett on the court at the same time would be too weird. That’s like 60 combined feet of skinny arms & legs. Terrell Brandon, Manu Ginobili, James Posey, Kevin Garnett, and Rasho Nesterovic – that’s a nice team for 2000.

    #15 New York – Andrei Kirilenko
    Ahhh to dream. The Knicks dared to take a European, but clearly the wrong one. In 2000, Kirilenko would have fit in well with that Knicks team giving them so much depth. The starters would have been Ward, Houston, Sprewell, LJ and Ewing with Camby, Kurt Thomas, Childs and Kirilenko off the bench. That’s one scary team defensively. Additionally AK-47’s arrival might have prevented the team from trading Ewing for Glenn Rice, keeping the franchise from self destruction via salary cap. Perhaps the 2001 Knicks with Camby starting, Ewing coming off the bench, the addition of Mark Jackson, and Kirlenko instead of Rice could have given the team another title run.

    #16 Chicago – Andre Miller
    Here are your early aughts Bulls: Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, Toni Kukoc, Elton Brand, and Brad Miller. Not a bad rebuild post-Jordan. Try not to break that team up this time.

    Mock Three

    Since last we talked mock draft the Lakers dispatched with the Orlando Magic and the off-season has kicked into full gear. I was out of town on business and have thus pretty much missed basketball from the past week or so. I suppose that’s fortunate in some ways.

    I hope the third version of this mock is less impacted by the rumors, smokescreens, subterfuges, and misinformation that normally clouds my mocks this time of year. My gut tells me that this draft will be the 2006 draft (Bargnani, Aldridge, Morrison were the top 3) of 2009. There will be tons of busts, but a smart front office will be able to find good players late.

    Onto the picks…
    2009 Mock Draft, 3.0

    1. Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
    Nothing to see here. Moving right along.

    2. Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain
    Poor Grizz. This isn’t the draft to have the #2 pick. I still say they’re looking to move this pick to someone who wants Rubio.

    3. Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
    I don’t think Thabeet is a top three talent but this draft couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He’ll be an excellent defender and he can run the floor a bit. The Thunder don’t need another guy who needs the ball to be effective.

    4. Kings – James Harden, G, Arizona State
    I’m guessing the Kings just go best player available regardless of position. I think they wouldn’t mind getting out from under this pick.

    5. Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
    Hill will provide some rebounding and a big that runs the floor.

    6. Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis
    It’s hard to know what Minny will do with a new management team and a lot of picks. Nothing they do would surprise. The 6-10 area just seems about when Evans should go off the board.

    7. Warriors – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
    The Warriors want no part of Jamal Crawford and don’t think Ellis can run the point. Jennings seems like the right fit for this group.

    8. Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
    I just don’t know that there will be a big man available Walsh will like more than Curry. I suspect that a big man is probably the only real competition for Curry.

    9. Raptors – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
    Ultimately, defense, ball-handling, and floor vision will keep him in the league but Holiday is one of the biggest question marks in the draft.

    10. Bucks – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
    If Milwaukee takes Blair they’ll be putting together a nice little frontcourt.

    11. Nets – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
    Lottery pick least likely to live up to expectations. What does he do?

    12. Bobcats – Austin Daye, F/C, Gonzaga
    I love this kid’s game and maturity but he may not be a player until he’s on his second contract (after he’s filled out a bit). He’s thinner than Anthony Randolph. Just let that roll around in your head for a bit.

    13. Pacers – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC
    I won’t be surprised to see him go higher in this draft. The way people dismiss his production doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not like Carolina does anything particularly unorthodox. They just play a fast pace.

    14. Suns – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
    Flynn is a pure point guard, yet I’m not crazy about his decision making.

    15. Pistons – Earl Clark, F, Louisville
    I hate his offense but Clark’s a very capable defender.

    16. Bulls – Gerald Henderson, G, Duke
    The Bulls have claimed that their top off-season priority is to re-sign Gordon. Mmm. Yeah.

    17. 76ers – Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona
    Budinger is a nice fit for that roster, especially as a decision-maker should they lose Andre Miller.

    18. Timberwolves – B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
    Given Al Jefferson’s health, this would be a decent gamble on size and provide some depth.

    19. Hawks – Sam Young, F, Pittsburgh
    Young would be a nice fit on Atlanta; a tough guy who can defend both forwards and hit an outside shot.

    20. Jazz – Tyler Hansborough, PF, UNC
    Hansborough is good value at this point in the draft. He’s going to rebound and run the floor and he’s developing a faceup jumper.

    21. Hornets – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest
    Teague would bring a bit of what Jannero Pargo did, for better or worse.

    22. Mavericks – Terrance Williams, G/F, Louisville
    Should Williams fall this far he’d be exactly what the doctor ordered Dallas: perimeter defense and depth.

    23. Kings – Eric Maynor, PG, VCU

    24. Trailblazers – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
    Portland could really use someone that can score in the post–at least a little bit.

    25. Thunder – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
    He’ll be a quality backup point in the league.

    26. Bulls – Nick Calathes, F, Florida (Greece)
    Somebody is going to select Calathes and hold onto his rights. Presumably it will be a team with multiple first rounders that has difficulty moving a late pick. Any number of these late picks may be guys already overseas who can be stashed away.

    27. Grizzlies – Wayne Ellington, G, UNC
    Right now he’s a one dimensional shooter with a long windup, but worth a late first round gamble.

    28. Timberwolves – Omri Casspi, F, Tel Aviv
    I’d be stunned if Minny keeps all its picks, but if it does I figure they’ll select Calathes or a player they can stash overseas.

    29. Lakers – Marcus Thornton, G, LSU
    Thornton is a potent offensive player and a solid rebounding guard who is better in short spurts because of his questionable shot selection.

    30. Cavaliers – DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri
    I’m going out on a limb and saying that Mizzou’s version of the “Junk Yard Dog” works his way into the late first round. Carroll has Anderson Varajao’s energy as a combo forward. He’s really improved his jump shot. He has a high basketball IQ, and is a very good passer as well.

    First Round Thoughts

    Just opening this up for people to talk about the first round. I haven’t seen a lot of games, but I did catch a few good ones. I saw the Celtics lose in overtime, the Lakers crush the Jazz, and a bit of the Nuggets/Hornets. Of the few games I saw, it was interesting how many ex-Knicks (and potential ex-Knicks) were involved on winning teams: Trevor Ariza, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Nene. It’s hard not to be a little bitter about it, at least for another year…

    As for the upsets, the East looks like a one man race at this point. The Celtics clearly aren’t the same without Garnett. Orlando lost to the Sixers? OK so that’s more likely to be a fluke than not, but it does raise questions at this point about the Magic. And if you thought the Heat were a Wade explosion from potentially beating the Cavs…