There's a blood red circle
On the cold, dark ground
and the rain is falling down
The church doors blown open
I can hear the organ's song
But the congregation's gone.
-- My City of Ruins, Bruce Springsteen
I was walking through a hotel pavillion in Minnesota a few months ago when I heard a familiar tune playing through the ambiance speakers. It was Alicia Keys' version of Empire State of Mind, but in Muzak form.
These people are gonna absolutely hate us in no time, I thought.
What's most appalling about all of the anti-New York sentiments over the last few days is that popular opinion is now that Chicago is the most likely destination point for LeBron James. And yet no one in Cleveland is making a music video cracking on the Windy City (Coincidentally, Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst's nickname is "Windy"...suspicious...).
I'll refrain from the mud-slinging and engaging in the inane debate about what LeBron really wants or thinks. I don't even care about the sophomoric disses about New York. That ammunition is like marshmallow bullets. It tickles.
But let's analyze the criticisms of the Knicks as a franchise, because, as you all know Fixers, we've pretty much hit on every issue right here at the Fix over the last four years.
Chris Broussard's piece for ESPN.com was surprisingly loaded with agenda and I say that with respect because I personally like Chris as an NBA guy and a talented basketball player in his own right. But Chris didn't do enough thinking with his Bulls angle because, first and foremost, the idea of Derrick Rose and LeBron James working as a tandem is highly questionable. Both are ball-dominant players and in this scenario you are asking one of them to play off the ball.
The Bulls would be much better served to use their cap space to sign Joe Johnson, who would be a perfect fit next to Rose because, as he proved with the Hawks, he is not at his best when the ball is always in his hands. He would be better served playing off the ball, with Rose finding him on drive-and-kicks, dribble-drags and even in the Triangle offense.
But I know the same things Chris knows so I don't blame him for the story. Chris knows William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley is spinning a masterful web right now that is trying to connect Rose, John Calipari and LeBron to Chicago. Wes has influence with each entity. So yes, Broussard is 100 percent correct, the Bulls are a very real and concerning threat to the Knicks' hopes to land LeBron.
Perhaps it's even more of a threat if Calipari winds up back with the Nets. There you have billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, you have the promise of Brooklyn (hey, that's in New York!) and, of course, you have LeBron's buddy, Jay-Z.
But the arguement is the Knicks roster is so empty that it might take too long to build a championship team in New York. Remember the Knicks have the space for TWO max contracts or one plus a few median contracts or at least the ability to TRADE for players already under contract. They also have Eddy Curry's expiring in 2011, which either opens up more flexibility to add a high end free agent in '11 or make more moves via trade.
Granted, the recent history of the franchise doesn't promote confidence that the right personnel decisions will be made, but the biggest mistakes were made in previous eras by other people.
That brings us to another torpedo being fired about the Knicks that you won't read in print. This is an example of how dirty it is getting. There are now whispers that Donnie Walsh's health is failing him and that he probably won't remain in charge of the franchise for much longer, so whomever signs has no idea who will take over and what direction the team will go in after Walsh retires.
First of all, Walsh's main health issue is his hip, which has caused a noticable limp and everyone who has been around the team since he came to New York in April 2008 knows about it. Walsh needs hip replacement but he's putting it off until after his work is done this summer because the rehabilitation period is extensive.
As for Walsh retiring and franchise changing direction with a new leader, we already have heard about Chris Mullin possibly joining the front office to assist Walsh and, perhaps the franchise would transition to him. There are also plenty of other very fine candidates to consider who would love to have this job, from Portland's Kevin Pritchard to Denver's Mark Warkentien and others. Those who fear a return to the Isiah Thomas era need to put away their John Grisham novels.
Oh and yes, the Garden is old. Most venerable buildings are. Yankee Stadium was old. No one seemed to complain. They did a pretty good job with the new one and, if you haven't heard, they're about to begin a $500 million renovation of old MSG. With private funding.
As far as the roster goes, yes, the cupboard is somewhat bare. Danilo Gallinari is the best talent the franchise can boast and the 6-10 swingman certainly showed he has potential to be a very good NBA player. How good remains to be seen. Same goes for Wilson Chandler.
But when you get LeBron James to the table -- or if -- one selling point is you can show him a blank canvas. How many other franchises can offer a star and empty roster and include him in the process of building the kind of team he wants around him? LeBron isn't a primary scorer, like Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade. He clearly doesn't want to take a high volume of shots every night. He loves having the ball in his hand and he loves being the focal point of the offense, but LeBron is a facilitator. He needs to surround himself with finishers. The Knicks have two already in Gallinari and Chandler and have the cap space and roster space to get more, rather than try to make it fit with players who are already there.
They also already have a coach and a system tailor made for LeBron's versatile talents.
In Chicago (and Cleveland), James can choose his coach. But he did that when the Cavs fired Paul Silas and hired Mike Brown and how did that work out? Yes, Calipari would be the obvious choice. His system, by the way, is the same philosophy that D'Antoni has employed at the NBA level.
With the Knicks James (and, of course, Worldwide Wes) can be involved in putting this team together. He is young enough to believe that the right moves could create a dynasty, with him as the centerpiece.
But then again, as the insiders and experts keep trying to suggest, LeBron really doesn't want New York. He doesn't want the challenge of winning on the greatest stage for winning in the entire world. His performance in the Celtics series has people wondering if he's even good enough to lead a team to a championship.
This should only push LeBron closer to New York. The great ones aren't motivated by the countless pats on the back and effervescent displays of admiration and idolization. They great ones respond when they're told they can't.
Hey LeBron, you can't do it in New York.
Hey New York, you can't get LeBron.
Prove me wrong.