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Banner outside Madison Square Garden dares LeBron James to sign with Knicks

A sign is displayed outside Madison Square Garden

A sign is displayed outside Madison Square Garden on Friday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Knicks won’t be raising any banners inside Madison Square Garden anytime soon, but one has gone up outside the building, challenging LeBron James to join the team.

Dwyane Wade, one of James’ closest friends and his former teammate, saw the billboard on his way to Friday night’s game. He doesn’t think the Knicks or their fans should get their hopes up, though. “Good luck,” Wade said.

Then the Knicks buried the Heat, 122-98, in what proved to be a costly victory in more ways than one.

They’re now in ninth place in the NBA Draft Lottery standings with three to play. The Knicks (28-51) are one game better than the eighth-place Bulls (27-52), who lost in Boston.

Tim Hardaway Jr. left the game in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his left ankle. Hardaway, who missed 20 games with a stress fracture in his lower left leg, rolled on the floor in pain before walking off on his own. The Knicks said he suffered a sprained left ankle.

Emmanuel Mudiay was diagnosed with a concussion after hitting the back of his head on a cameraman’s knee. He will not play Saturday against the Bucks.

Rookie Damyean Dotson scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Knicks. He became the first Knick rookie to have a 30-point, 10-rebound game since Patrick Ewing in the 1985-86 season.

The Knicks are long shots for James, and that’s probably an understatement. They don’t have the cap room and won’t have a playoff-ready roster next season, especially with Kristaps Porzingis out indefinitely after tearing his ACL. But James seems to love to toy with the emotions of the Knicks and their fans.

James always raves about how much he loves playing at the Garden. After beating the Knicks in November, he posted a picture of himself on the Garden floor, called it “#myfavoriteplayground” and referred to himself as the King of New York.

So the company NYC Ads Co. put up the billboard on 7th Avenue between 31st and 32nd Streets that reads “King of NY? Prove it.” The ad has the hashtag “#KINGJAMESNYC18” on it.

There have been billboards in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Cleveland directed at James, who can become a free agent this summer.

The Knicks’ plan is to position themselves to be spenders in the summer of 2019, when Kyrie Irving will lead a free-agent class that includes Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker.

That could mean another long year for them next season, particularly if they decide not to add much in terms of salary. The Knicks will have a high first-round pick and an early second-rounder belonging to Chicago, and they will continue to try to develop their young players.

“That’s part of it,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s on us as coaches to try and improve the guys that are on the team now and try to take them in summer and give them things to work on and send guys around all summer to work with these guys.”

Whether Hornacek will return for the final year of his contract remains a question mark. Speculation is he won’t, and a number of candidates have been rumored as possible replacements, including former Heat assistant David Fizdale. An assistant when James and Wade won two titles together in Miami, Fizdale was fired as the Grizzlies’ coach earlier this season. Wade believes Fizdale would be a good hire for any team.

“He’s a phenomenal coach,” Wade said. “One thing he’s going to bring to a team is his work ethic. He has a great offensive mind, but he has defensive principles with the Miami Heat that Pat Riley has instilled in every coach that’s come here. He’s a good manager of personalities as well. The sky’s the limit for whatever organization is going to get him and give him an opportunity to really put his fingerprints on an opportunity for a long time.”

Wade, who started the season with Cleveland, is happy to be in Miami and excited that he will be in the playoffs with the Heat. Wade could face his old friend in the first round. The Heat currently is set to play James and the Cavaliers.

“If we end up matching up with them, we got a big task in front of us,” Wade said. “He’s not the game’s best player for no reason. He doesn’t go out in the first round. We’re going to have to come up with an amazing, amazing game plan. We’re going to have to play phenomenal to beat those guys.”

Notes & quotes: The Knicks were without Enes Kanter (lower back) and Lance Thomas (illness). They lost Michael Beasley in the first half to a bruised left knee.

New York Sports