Something that was buried -- by me -- in my story from Friday's free agency meetings in Chicago needs to be reviewed again today in light of the latest developments, which have the Knicks sitting down with LeBron's agent for a secret second meeting on Saturday morning.
When Dwyane Wade met with the Knicks on Friday, a source with direct knowledge of the meeting said the Knicks presented to Wade their plans on how they could build around him with with their nearly $35M in salary cap space and Wade offered this remark:
"Just get me one player," he said, "and I'll get you a ring."
It was exactly the kind of response the Knicks were hoping to get.
The Knicks knew going into the free agency season that they couldn't land LeBron without having a second star join him. It was the ultimate chicken-and-egg dilemma: do you get the second star to get LeBron, or do you have to first get LeBron to get the second star?
But with Wade's interest piqued, the Knicks went to work on Chris Bosh, who also was sending signals that playing in New York might be too overwhelming for him being a self-proclaimed "country boy." But Bosh is said to have given off a positive vibe as well, he just didn't verbalize it the way Wade did.
And then came word from Amar'e Stoudemire: he was in and wanted to come to New York for a visit. That makes three options.
Joe Johnson had the max offer from the Hawks in hand, but paused a moment when he took calls from Knicks representatives trying to talk him out of it. The opportunity to play with LeBron James in New York will make a man think twice about a $27 million pay cut. But because LeBron wasn't committed, and there were so many rumors that said the Knicks were well out of the race, Johnson made the sure bet and locked in.
Still, after the meeting with Bosh on Friday in Chicago, the Knicks contingent remained holed up in at their downtown hotel for over an hour before the group emerged. It is believed that in this conference, Donnie Walsh sent Senior VP Glen Grunwald and MSG Sports president Scott O'Neil back to Cleveland to meet with Leon Rose for a follow-up consultation.
Walsh says the meeting was to further explain how the Knicks could build a team around LeBron with their nearly $35M in salary cap space like no other team in the sweepstakes. Grunwald is Walsh's cap expert and his value to the staff is extremely underrated from the outside. O'Neil, the marketing and promotion expert who has dramatic plans to turn whomever signs with the Knicks into New York City icons, is a dynamic front man who can deliver a message.
And it is believed that part of the message was to say this: after meeting with both Wade and Bosh and hearing from Amar'e, you can take your pick. And here's how each player could be acquired to allow for extra money leftover to add other pieces to the roster.
The Knicks dreamed about a LeBron-Wade scenario way back in the process, when talk of getting two-maxes deep in cap space first emerged. There's little about that it would be a dynamic duo unlike anything the NBA has seen in the modern era, but there remains great skepticism in the idea of these two alpha dogs being willing to defer for an 82-game season. Still, the two could play off each other, perhaps similarly to a much larger version of Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas, and shred defenses with drives and kick-outs. And tons of transition.
Stoudemire would give James a perfect compliment in a pick-and-roll that would be nearly unstoppable. Surround them with shooters and watch the fireworks. The Knicks can still try to work a sign-and-trade for him because the Suns haven't officially renounced his Bird Rights. They have until Thursday, when their agreements with other players, become official.
Bosh could also work pick-and-roll and would provide a perfect inside-out tandem. His low-post scoring is invaluable in the playoffs, when defenses slow down the game and you need someone who can score and draw fouls. The Knicks can try to work a sign-and-trade with the Raptors, as well. And Toronto is very open to this option as long as David Lee is included. But perhaps Bryan Colangelo may try to pry Danilo Gallinari from the Knicks. If it means getting LeBron, anything is in play.
All of these options, though most in the national media maintain the Knicks are a longshot, are still very much on the table.
The Knicks will continue to emphasize the point that have the most money to spend and also have the willingness to finance a league-high payroll (along with luxury tax) for years to come. They won't need to trade any players to make other additions (Nets, Devin Harris) or coax a young star into giving up the ball and stepping aside (Bulls, Derrick Rose). And with LeBron and another star already on board, the Knicks strongly believe they can attract a few additions at the vets min (or by using a young player such as Wilson Chandler in a trade) to build around him. They'll also have cap flexibility next summer when Eddy Curry's contract expires and opens up $11.2M in space. If they hold onto Wilson, they could renounce him next summer and make it almost $14M.
And, despite the rumors, the Knicks believe they are more attractive than the "hometown" Cavaliers, who, like the Hawks with Johnson, can offer $27M more than any other team on a full max deal. But the Cavs are capped out and only have LeBron favorites such as Mo Williams, Andy Varejao and J.J. Hickson as players with any trade value. Bosh won't go there to play center (he prefers the four spot and doesn't want to have to pound against big bodies every night) and the Cavs are stuck with power forward Antawn Jamison, with two more years and about $28M left on his contract, for at least until the trade deadline.
Sure, the emotional ties are there, but what of Cleveland's message on Saturday involved how they could take their current roster (they still need a center) and still be the best team in the East, especially if, say, Wade and Bosh go to New York or Miami? Remember, the Celtics are still the Celtics and the Orlando Magic are still an elite team.
The East is sure to see a dramatic makeover by the fall.