BOSTON - "New York Knicks! New York Knicks!"
Earlier this season, the Celtics gave the Knicks a talented young player in Bill Walker. Now they've done all they can to deliver LeBron James.
The chants resonated down from this Garden crowd, showering LeBron James with chants as if this were Madison Square, not the one here in Boston.
Sports history undoubtedly was made in this epic win by the Celtics, who stunned James and the top-seeded Cavaliers, 94-85, last night in Game 6 to win this Eastern Conference semifinal series, 4-2.
While James might have started to feel his seven-year itch in Cleveland, those words - "New York Knicks!" - resonated in his ears.
Understand that this was happening in Boston.
July 1 has never felt closer for the desperate Knicks franchise, which essentially spent the last two seasons clearing the salary-cap space to make a run at James - and another max contract player - in this summer's loaded free-agency class.
And James, flanked by agent Leon Rose and an entourage of advisers and friends, made it clear he plans to explore his options with free agency.
"We have a game plan that we're going to execute,'' James said, "and we'll see where we're at.''
All the Knicks want is to get him to the negotiating table for a chance to convince him that he should continue his chase for a championship in New York. They won't be alone. The Nets and Chicago Bulls also plan to make an appeal to King James, and the Cavaliers will make every attempt - likely including firing Mike Brown, who had philosophical issues with James that have emerged in this series - to convince him to stay.
The greatest fear for owner Dan Gilbert, who has lost more than $20 million per season with the Cavs, is that a James exodus would crumble the franchise.
"First of all, I want to win; that's my only concern,'' James said. "It's all about winning for me. The Cavs are committed to doing that, but at the same time, I've given myself options at this point.''
James did not go quietly, as he did in Games 4 and 5. Hardly. Facing the harshest criticism of his seven-year career, James put forth a triple-double (27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists) in what could be his Cleveland swan song. He wouldn't use his injured right elbow as an excuse for his performance in this series, but admitted "it limited me some.''
Unlike last season, when he stormed off the court in Orlando after the Cavs were eliminated by the Magic in the conference finals, James offered congratulations to numerous Celtics players, including Kevin Garnett.
But James' supporting cast failed him once again. Mo Williams had a strong first half with 20 points, but he had only two points in the second half and also had five turnovers. Antawn Jamison, who was supposed to be the final piece acquired from the Wizards at the trade deadline, shot 2-for-10 from the field. Shaquille O'Neal, who was brought in to help "get the King a ring," as he said, looked old and slow, and the Celtics exploited that often.
Speaking of old and slow, the Celtics looked none of it. Kevin Garnett had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Rajon Rondo completed his dominance of this series with 21 points and 12 assists.
The Celtics, who won the title in 2008, will face the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals - which begin Sunday in Orlando - with the winner facing the Lakers-Suns winner for the NBA championship.